Recently announced as joint list leaders for ‘Global cultural Capital’ in the Growth Platform #AmbitiousLCRList, leading local music industry company ‘Sound City’ are supporting artists with their international reach, thanks to investment from the High Growth Innovation Fund.
During the pandemic, like many businesses centred around live music, Sound City needed to pivot to survive and so they created ‘Guesthouse’, an online platform to help artists reach their fans and make money. While coming out of lock down drew people back out to the atmosphere of live performances, the learning from creating the platform got Sound City thinking about the potential for developing Guesthouse further to support artists to reach places their physical gigs weren’t yet taking them.
Managing Director of Sound City, Becky Ayres, told us how the High Growth Innovation Fund has allowed them to take their blue sky thinking and turn it into business expansion.
“The High Growth Innovation Fund has enabled us to expand our platform globally to create a seamless transfer of U.K. and international content into China, the world’s fastest growing market for music, as well as other countries. Our online streaming platform was initially set up to help artists reach their fans and make money during covid and it was really popular during that period when no one could get to gigs. We had loads of artists like Mike Skinner from ‘The Streets’, Jamie Webster and others release things on there. It was really well used. When we got back into the normal world people were sick of live streaming so we looked at how to repurpose our platform to benefit artists.”
While Sound City had already developed strong industry relationships in the UK and globally, they needed to bring in additional expertise to scope out the project and develop the blueprint, which is where the investment came in.
“We have an equity deal with a company in China called Modern Sky who have a platform called ‘M Now’. So we worked with them to explore the potential for our platform and solve the problem of how to stream and introduce artists into China, creating a blueprint so we can produce the next phase of the platform. Accessing the funding gave us access to expertise and the knowledge to implement our plans. We are now seeking further funding to develop a prototype to realise the development of this platform.”
And Sound City are already seeing the impact of the investment:
“Before we had the blueprint we had a lot of interest from investors about the idea of streaming into China, so we have a couple of companies we are talking to at the moment about potential investment, and we’ve been looking at Innovate UK Funding. All of these discussions we are able to pursue through developing the plans with support from the high growth innovation fund. The next stage prototype for the platform will be around £100,000 to develop, and once we have that we will be testing it to acquire users and further develop the platform.”
And looking at the wider impact Becky commented :
“This will help loads of artists and music companies to take their music into China which is a huge market packed with fans who are appreciative of music from the global market. To date around 300 artists have used the guesthouse platform, and we’ve raised quite a lot of money for artists to share their music, so we know the potential economic impact is huge.”
Discussing how funding has changed their growth journey, Becky reflected:
“We were really delighted because having that backing and confidence in what we were testing was great. Any funding like this can be risky because you are testing ideas that need to go through different iterations, but having that confidence in us to go to that next phase was fantastic. Paul and Jane from Growth Platform were really really helpful. Without the funding it would have taken us much longer to get to this point. It’s helped us get into the next phase position perhaps 6 months earlier than we would have been.”
And in terms of their ambitions Becky said:
“We knew that if we were able to develop the platform we would be able to take on up to 10 more staff in up to 3 years. I think it is really integral when you’ve got really good people with really good ideas who are commercial and trying to build investment that they are given investment opportunity. It can help develop match funding and fast track innovation. The results are trackable as well, and so it is really worthwhile. You aren’t going to get the next facebook or twitter from every investment, but if you give a spread of funding to lots of companies with ideas and a solid track record, you will find something brilliant in there. You’ve got to back a few horses to get a winner.”
The LCR High Growth Programme was specifically designed to support high growth (or high growth potential) businesses in the Liverpool City Region to adapt, innovate, and grow.
The High Growth Innovation Fund is part of the LCR High Growth Programme that was part funded by ERDF and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and delivered by Growth Platform – Liverpool City Region Growth Company.