Telling the truth about SME life today

Music entrepreneur learns his trade through trial and error

Fresh out of university, Martin and his business partner Charles Baybutt decided to start a music promotions business. They had no experience in the industry, no contacts; they’d never even put on a student night at the union. But here they were, with zero cash, determined to break into the market.

“I got a bar job at the Marquis club in Leicester square as a way in,” says Martin. “I had a day job, and worked the bar in the evenings. I got to know the manager and after a few months asked if I could put on a night. His terms were pretty unfavourable, but I accepted and pretty soon I had a successful monthly residency.”

This was back in 2005. Martin was 22 and brimming with enthusiasm. One residency turned into three–a-month. By the end of that first year, Curious Generation was turning over £30,000.

“We didn’t even have a business plan,” says Martin. “We did everything backwards. Read any business book and it will tell you to have an idea, write a business plan and draw up a budget. I don’t read business books, so I did none of these things. The budgets were worked out after the money had been spent.”

But Martin is quick to point out he wouldn’t have done it any other way, “We learnt the real value of money from our mistakes, “ he says. “We ran the business through hard graft.”

That’s not to say there weren’t some real low points. One of Curious Generation’s first ever gigs was a charity function. “Literally nobody turned up,” laughs Martin. “There was no one there. It was extraordinary! We lost about £2,000.”

The business bounced back and three years on, Curious Generation is putting on 35 events every month, and will turn over £250,000 this year.

“We did get round to writing a business plan a year and a half in, “ admits Martin. “”It’s not nearly as much fun running events now that each gig is budgeted and planned down to the last detail. We used to just hope people would turn up!”

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