Chris Carey is the one to watch in the music industry. Included in Music Week’s 30 under 30 in 2014, Chris was the Global Insight Director and EMI and Universal Music. In the most recent two years, Chris has made his mark on London’s start-up scene after noticing an opportunity and grabbing it with both hands. Chris is now a serial entrepreneur working with movers and shakers across the globe and is the Founder and CEO of two music start-ups: Media Insight Consulting (a boutique music research company) and FastFoward Events (a conference connecting future leaders in the music industry). We caught up with Chris who shared his views on the music industry as it stands, where it is going and what artists and start-ups need to be doing in order to succeed…

© Photographer: Amanda Rose

Getting to Know Chris

What did your role as Global Insight Director at Universal Music involve?

Leading the big data team and overseeing market research across 30 different countries and seventeen different languages, covering the US, UK and EU. I analysed how consumer’s engaged with music through digital partners, Spotify and iTunes, in addition to advising on how to make the best use of this data. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, The Beatles, U2 and emerging stars such as John Newman are a small example of the artists I worked with.

What have you most enjoyed about setting up your own company?

The freedom to make decisions. It’s been great having the autonomy to sign things off and avoid the multiple approval stages ingrained into corporate processes. The story of how I launched FastForward was a great example of this. I had 3 short conversations with my team members about whether we should launch an international networking conference. We asked ourselves ‘are we serious about this?’, ‘do we want to do it?’, ‘is everyone on board?’ and when the answer was yes to it all, we went ahead. We held the event, completely sold out of tickets and generated follow up press from the likes of Forbes within 3 months. This would not have happened in a corporate setting.

“I had 3 short conversations with my team members about whether we should launch an international networking conference. We asked ourselves ‘are we serious about this?’, ‘do we want to do it?’, ‘is everyone on board?’ and when the answer was yes to it all, we went ahead.”

Critical Decisions

What spurred the decision to leave major labels and set up your own company?

Data analytics is becoming a larger part of the conversation for music labels in terms of its potential to grow the artist’s fan base. It can have a powerful influence but I could see labels failing to draw upon the relevant data and use it effectively to inform their marketing strategies. By leaving Universal and setting up Media Insight Consulting I was able to fill this gap. Media Insight Consulting works with publishers, streaming services and start-ups to help them understand and make effective use of data and in turn build viable business models.

“I could see labels failing to draw upon the relevant data and use it effectively to inform their marketing strategies. By leaving Universal and setting up Media Insight Consulting I was able to fill this gap.”

What are you doing now for the music industry that you couldn’t have done at universal?

In terms of my daily activity I have a lot more time to work on a variety of projects I’m also working a lot more on live music which is a fascinating area, but wouldn’t have been within my remit at Universal.

Have you self-funded your companies or sought investment?

My companies are entirely self-funded. Using my own money means I’m able to take bigger risks; risks that I wouldn’t have taken with anyone else’s money and to do so on my own terms. It’s terrifying, but I have enough belief in myself to make the risks work and in turn, the rewards are my own.

“My companies are entirely self-funded. Using my own money means I’m able to take bigger risks; risks that I wouldn’t have taken with anyone else’s money”

© Photographer: Amanda Rose

Critical Challenges

What’s the one change that needs to happen in the music industry as a whole?

There is a problem with the average consumer’s perceived value of music. The problem is that consumers don’t value music in the same way they value other media forms such as film and television. It’s extraordinary when you consider the amount Sky can charge for their TV content and compared to what consumers are willing to pay for music.

How good is the music industry at keeping up with advances in technology?

In the past it has been fairly slow as major labels tiptoe around new scenarios that have arisen with the digital revolution. However, I would say this is changing. Different players in the music industry are now working more closely together thanks to conferences like FastForward 2016. We are now seeing more conversation around topics such as blockchain, (public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions) which has been presented as a solution for industry problems. It won’t be long until the industry makes solutions such as this happen.

“consumers don’t value music in the same way they value other media forms such as film and television.”

Success Secrets

Who do you have to thank for being able to set up your own company?

I’ve had a number of mentors over the years, with Will Page (now Director of Economics at Spotfiy) being a key influence on my career. In terms of founding my companies, it’s been a matter of incredible hard work and perseverance. I now have a fantastic team behind me. My two most recent full time hires, Felix Canetty-Clarke and Michael Deacon, have been outstanding. I’ve also had invaluable encouragement from my network who offered their support when my companies were unproven.

“I’ve had a number of mentors over the years, with Will Page (now Director of Economics at Spotfiy) being a key influence on my career.”

Rebel Wrap Up

What is your biggest inspiration?

Musicians. I’m endlessly amazed by their ability to make something from nothing; it’s an invaluable trait to have and helping artists take a fair reward for their creations is something that truly motivates me. I enjoy helping people who deserve to do well in their career. Having the opportunity to work with those who I regard highly is not something I’d ever take for granted.

“helping artists take a fair reward for their creations is something that truly motivates me.”

What’s your ultimate vision for your companies?

For Media Insight Consulting, our mission is to help everyone who wants to use data effectively. We’re able to help these people understand the market better and maximise the power of data for them. With FastForward Events, our mission is to bring new voices together – act as a catalyst for collaboration between dynamic people who are on their own mission to shape the music industry.

What advice would you give to artists?

Know your worth. If you’re going to give something away for free, make sure you’re getting something back. This could be free PR, marketing or a useful connection.

“Know your worth. If you’re going to give something away for free, make sure you’re getting something back.”

What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own company?

Create a strong vision and know your direction. It’s nowhere near as easy as it looks. You don’t always need a plan but you most definitely need to be prepared to innovate, work hard and network like crazy.

“Create a strong vision and know your direction. It’s nowhere near as easy as it looks… be prepared to innovate, work hard and network like crazy.”

© Photographer: Amanda Rose

About The Author

Megan Hanney
Contributor

Megan Co-Founded Rebelhead Entrepreneurs and held the position of Editor in Chief until June 2016. Continuing with contributions, Megan's mission is to show that anyone with grit and determination has limitless potential to get to where they want to be, regardless of circumstance. Megan thrives in the start-up ecosystem and embraced her entrepreneurial streak after launching WeWork's first two co-working spaces in London's tech city. She broke the company into the UK market and launched their second location at 100% capacity before opening; the first time this had ever happened in WeWork's global history.

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