At ALT-MU we feel it is important to share stories from a wide range of music professionals that demonstrate the potential job opportunities available to you and many ways in which you can achieve your goals. In this issue we speak to Kai Harris, the man responsible for TakeDown Festival and Southampton Music Magazine (UK). He is Director and Senior Promoter for Advance Music Promotions Ltd (UK) and Co Director of pH Music Media Ltd. Let’s find out how he got to where he is today…
Booking shows for my own band because everyone else was too lazy! After a couple of successes I decided to give it a proper go whilst working full time in financial services which was a bit of a grind. Eventually an opportunity came up at The Joiners (Southampton UK gig venue) and after some deliberation (and a whopping drop in salary) I decided to take the plunge with a full blown career change.
What were the biggest hurdles you faced?
Initially, not having the faintest idea what I was doing. There’s no training for this, at least there wasn’t back in the late 90’s. That and simply being a new guy in the industry when there are established promoters already on your patch.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I think I may have gone freelance sooner but cutting your teeth in the industry whilst on someone else’s payroll is a good way to gain experience without gambling your house away.
When did Southampton Music Magazine first kick off?
In 2008 when I was working my notice period at The Joiners and just prior to going freelance. Well, I wasn’t going to book them any more shows was I 😉 It was born out of a crazy idea that it would be nice to be a friend to all of the venues, promoters and players in the city’s music scene rather than in constant competition. It started small, simply to offset the cost of our own advertising. People liked the idea and it launched a whole new business.
What made you decide to start TakeDown Festival?
My best early shows were the ‘Manifest’ all day events in Winchester (1997 – 2002). The idea grew from that simply due to the fact that there wasn’t anything else like it in the area.
How has the magazine evolved since it started?
It didn’t used to have content, it was just a book of ads like you’d get at a London show. We realised the value of content once we had the staff to be able to produce something more comprehensive. Being concert promoters we also had great access to artists for interviews. We now have Dorset and Devon publications and our coverage now almost matches our promotional reach.
What has been the key to success for TakeDown?
A great team of staff, incredible volunteers, a decent indoor site and a good eye for the right acts to play.
What advice would you give to anyone else hoping to start their own magazine or run a festival?
Don’t! But seriously, get good trustworthy and ambi- tious staff behind you and don’t be a martyr. Work hard but hire well, always be moving both yourself and your staff forwards. Oh, and remember to enjoy yourself!
Find out more online at:
Interview by Jennifer Le Roux
This article was original published in Issue 5 of ALT-MU Magazine – Nov 2014.