Trailblazers, a series of Q&As with some of the industry's most inspirational figures, continues with WME partner and equality campaigner Sam Kirby Yoh
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Nick Griffiths on the founding of his own creative agency, why the industry needs real diversity, and the Beat Hotel’s journey from Glastonbury stage to Moroccan festival
By IQ on 30 Jan 2019
Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.
From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Kyō’s Godwin Pereira, here.)
This week, IQ talks to the multifaceted Nick Griffiths, founder of creative agency Kingdom Collective and director of the Beat Hotel Marrakech, a four-day cultural residency taking place near Marrakesh, Morocco.
Beat Hotel, perhaps best known from its stage at Glastonbury festival, will this year hold its inaugural festival from 28 to 31 March at a boutique hotel in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Performers include Young Fathers, Maribou State, Gilles Peterson, Hunee and Palms Trax, while an accompanying literary programme and celebrations of Moroccan cuisine will complete the cultural experience.
Launched in 2011, Kingdom Collective is a culture and communications agency based in London. The agency works with clients such as Red Bull Music Academy and Red Bull Studios, Glastonbury Festival, Pioneer DJ and Gala Festival for PR, talent booking and event management.
Here, Griffiths speaks about both elements of his professional life, the lessons he’s learnt working in the music industry and his love for live experiences.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I moved to London in 2004 with an English degree and a cheap suit in search of employment – hopefully in music. My first proper job was as an assistant at music PR company-turned-experiential agency Slice.
There are so many agencies in this space now, but back then there were only a handful, and Slice was probably among the first wave, so it was a great place to start. I learned the basics of live events, from a promotions and programming and production point of view, working for clients like Heineken, Southern Comfort, Diesel, Yahoo! and Beck’s.
Tell us about your current role.
I wear two hats, really: one as founder of creative agency Kingdom Collective, and one as a director of the Beat Hotel, both of which came into being in 2011. It was the same time I was doing Land of Kings – a multi-venue music and art festival in Dalston – and realised I loved the buzz of putting on independent events as well as the big-brand stuff. In fact, sometimes, I still get more from producing a 200-cap. club night in a basement than some of the big budget brand events.
Setting up Kingdom Collective was a way of being able to pursue both interests, in a way where one would feed the other. So, in 2011 we first did the Beat Hotel at Glastonbury, which we’ve done each year since, and has led to the four-day festival in Marrakesh this March.
Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
My time at Slice had a big influence on my younger self, in terms of the people I met and the work, but also seeing that it was possible, and perfectly valid, to have a variety of interests.
I also still get influenced and inspired by going to events that I’m not working at, whether it’s gigs, festivals or brand shows. It’s important to keep an eye on what everyone is up to, but I also love being at shows so I try to go out as much as I can.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Being able to work in those moments where people are having the best part of their day, week or year. Music events in particular are a release for people and, at their best, can create an energy that can be life-affirming. If that ever stops, I think I’ll know it’s time for a career change.
“Music events are a release for people and can create an energy that can be life-affirming. If that ever stops, I’ll know it’s time for a career change”
And the most challenging?
For me the challenge is around balancing the creative and the commercial. We always want to keep the excitement and passion for what we do, but there are commercial realities to consider; keeping your integrity and staying true to what you stand for across all of your work, is really important. Sometimes that means knowing when to let things go.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Taking the Beat Hotel from being a small cocktail bar at Glastonbury to doing our own festival in Morocco has been lots of fun, and we never really had any expectations about what it might become.
I’m also proud of the work Kingdom Collective has done for Red Bull. The takeover of the London Eye for Revolutions in Sound for Red Bull Music Academy’s 15th birthday will take some beating. A celebration of UK club culture, we put 30 legendary clubs into the Eye’s 30 pods and live streamed the whole event.
What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
We’ve started to see a shift towards more women and diversity across the industry, but I think a lot of it has been PR rather than real change. Most labels, agents and managers are still overwhelmingly male, in my experience, as well as the line-ups of festivals. Committing to 50/50 line-ups, as some events have, is bold and commendable, but I’d like to see more change behind the scenes in the industry, which will take more than a few magazine headlines.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in live music/entertainment?
We did a campaign around regional music scenes with WeGotTickets and asked 50 promoters, venue owners and industry insiders that same question. The near unanimous answer was “Don’t be a dick”.
I can’t think of a better answer.
If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on firstname.lastname@example.org.