Imagine starting a website after finishing University, and within a few months you have thousands
of site visits a week, a team of 150 reporters across UK and Ireland, and the chance to meet and interview some of the most current Rock, Pop, Indie and Punk artists as they tour and gig… sounds tough hey
Meet Simon (Simondo) Robinson, the Founder and Creative Director of Gigs and Festivals Ltd, who with a love of music, the looks of a rock star and the heart of a entrepreneur, is making noise with online site http://www.gigsandfestivals.co.uk/
I got chatting briefly with Simon last week as we both were following the BBC3, Richard Bacon led ‘graduate social experiment’ Up For Hire. To be fair the programme had good intentions but seemed to care
more about promoting some big businesses making token employment offers (3 month contracts?) than addressing the actual issues of UK unemployment and the creative entrepreneurial spirit that could and does exist.
Getting Graduates to pretend to be ‘Managers’ in a fruitless role play exercise, both belittled the graduates and also the achievements of those who learned their trades to eventually become Managers. Getting a degree is not a benchmark for being a ‘Manager’ of anything, and it’s hard work, determination, passion and talent that means you progress. But the highlight for me was finding out about http://www.gigsandfestivals.co.uk/ , and that here was a Graduate, who through hard work, passion, networking and a love for his subject had gone from Graduation to Business owner in a very short time. So it’s with pleasure that I asked Simon some questions about his Business, its’ success and his opinions on the current situation with Youth Unemployment.
I would have imagined that music and festival websites are ten a penny, how did you mange to build such a strong audience base so quickly?
I have to agree there are many music websites that do pop up every now and again on the Internet and soon
disappear, I believe we gained a strong readership as i researched the live music industry and other publications for a year before we went live. We don’t just cover the live music scene with written reviews and
interviews but we also interview major bands and artists in video format. We also ask our readers to submit their own questions that we ask the acts on their behalf. We also have strong contacts with industry managers, PR companies and the acts themselves. As we have these strong connections all the news content we publish is always up to date and from reliable sources.
And you have 150 reporters across the UK and Ireland covering gigs and festivals, how did you manage to build up such a pool of writers?
I started recruiting writers and photographers a year before the website went live. I posted adverts online in every town and city for people with a passion for live music and asked for them to send me a CV and links to articles or to write an article of a recent gig they had attended if they had not already written for a publication. I received a great response and over 600 people sent in an application and I filtered it down to the 150 reporters I have today. I’m really grateful that so many people were so passionate about the idea of gigs and festivals as that’s exactly what gigs and festivals was at the time just an idea and a dodgy splash page on the internet I’d designed in Photoshop
When did you start to think up http://www.gigsandfestivals.co.uk?
While I was at university I’d always had the idea of a live music publication but studying fulltime and working
part time I didn’t have the time to act on my idea. When I finished university I decided to continue to work part time while I figured out what I wanted to do next. I spent most of the summer working at festivals all around the UK.
During a break at a music festival sipping warm cider and checking out bands I thought about my idea more and how the major music publications don’t write fairly about live acts and write to suit their sponsors or cover all genes of live music. The idea of the site was born, now I just needed a name. Then I asked myself what are my passions in music and suddenly it hit me ‘’Gigs and Festivals. The moment I got home from the festival I registered the name www.gigsandfestivals.co.uk
Did you set up the business own your own, or have you had to look at funding and investors?
I set up the business by myself with a very small budget. I also got interest from an investor but I decided to run the business myself. I have also looked at funding as there are many options for new business but rather then spending months working on securing investment I decided to get the business live and turning over rather than spending months working on securing investment. I may look into funding for the future development of the business although I don’t think I will personally take this route.
What’s the best advice you can give to a young Entrepreneur just starting out with an idea?
Research is key don’t jump in all guns blazing. Research the industry you want to set up the business in. Then when you have concluded your research set up surveys or questionnaires and ask people who you ’don’t’ know for feedback on the business idea. It’s pointless asking friends and family as they will always tell you it’s a brilliant idea, as they won’t want to offend you.
I would also recommend contacting your local university as many of them offer business programmes that can offer you ‘FREE’ advice, business workshops and office space and you don’t have to be a university student or graduate to use the service. I’m currently on the Northern Lights programmer if your based in the North West of England I would recommend you take a look at the services they can offer you via: http://www.uclan.ac.uk/information/services/northern_lights/index.php
My best advice is that if you’re a young entrepreneur you are going to make mistakes in business. It’s inevitable and that’s absolutely fine as no one is perfect. When you do make a mistake, reflect on the mistake and put it down to experience. Making a mistake and dealing with it correctly will help you become better business minded in the future and avoid more costly mistakes.
TheEmployable are looking to help empower a generation of innovation and idea creation within the young and currently disillusioned redundant and unemployed. What is your experience of the jobs market where you live and the support that is currently available?
Before I went to university I myself was made redundant and this inspired myself to become university educated. As a result of the redundancy I believe I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now. Many of my friends
that graduated university at the same time as me are still unemployed and are seeking employment. I don’t believe that enough support is available for individuals. I asked for advice from my local Job Centre when I was made redundant and all they wanted to do was to get me on benefits rather than help me find a job.
They asked to look at my C.V. and I was told it was good enough to submit to an employer. That’s where the help stopped. They never suggested further education, training or self-employment. I believe many people do have good business ideas but are never offered the right support and see it as nothing but a dream.
Do you feel that the coalition government is doing enough to support new business startups?
No not at all. The government is soon to be closing or reducing the services of the government supported and funded business help services like Business Link. This country needs entrepreneurs as without them who is going to employ the expanding population of the UK in the future?
What has been the biggest ‘business’ lesson you have learned so far?
Don’t deal with personal friends in your business as if something goes wrong with a deal or arrangement it can become very awkward, as any true entrepreneur will want to do what is best for the business and you could lose a great friend in the process if the deal or arrangement falls though.
What’s next for you and gigsandfestivals?
For myself I plan to work on Gigs and Festivals full time although I do have other music industry related ventures in the pipeline. At Gigs and Festivals HQ we are working hard behind the scenes to expand the website and business. We are currently working with a creative design company who will completely redesign the website and the way it operates. The new website will be built with many new features, an
event ticket brokers service, complete music video channel and an event listing service that will literally cover every live music event in the UK and we will cover more live events in more depth. We expect to launch the new site and services in February – March 2012.
We have also just partnered with Muzu as a result of this our content is now available with major brands including NME, Channel 4 Music, Metal Hammer and Heat so our content is available via their publications as well as ours. We also have other partnerships and ideas that we are currently discussing and working on.
We are looking to the future and believe 2012 is going to be a great year for the business and music fans.
Thank you Simon, we wish you all the best and keep in touch….
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