Howard Nash & Live Lounge Music
A childhood as a classically trained violinist, almost 20 years as one of the UK’s top destination managers and over 10 years assessing and driving improvement in public sec tor services has provided an unlikely combination for a late career in the music business. But that is the new venture for Howard Nash, who was made redundant from a senior position in the Audit Commission last November.
Howard comments “as soon as the coalition were in power, I knew the Audit Commission was to be abolished and that my job was going to come to an end after 10 years. I was an improvement specialist with the Commission, working with Councils and other public sector partners to help improve public services and achieve better value for money. I had particular responsibility for culture in the Northern region and inspected Liverpool 18 months before their year as European Capital of Culture.”
For almost 20 years before that, Howard led the marketing and development of many UK destinations, culminating in 5 years as Head of Tourism for Leeds – winning a national marketing award for Leeds Clubbing Breaks (weekend breaks based on nightclubbing).
Howard continues, “like many people facing redundancy, I revisited my professional skills but also started to play violin informally down the local pub at open mic sessions. It was more for relaxation and enjoyment at that stage than having any thought about music as a significant source of income. But I soon met Chris (guitarist) and Michaela (Vocalist), we played the occasional pub gig as ‘Live Lounge acoustic trio’ from about mid 2011 and then things started to happen”
As Howard applied for full time jobs towards the end of last year, securing occasional interviews and positive feedback but no offers of employment, he realised things were even harder in the job market than he had anticipated. Around this time, Live Lounge auditoned in a Leeds Working Men’s Club to be placed on the books of a ‘club agency’. The answer was basically “you’re a great act with a fantastic vocalist, but you’re not for us”. This ‘setback’ provided the spur to find the right market for Live Lounge, and the move towards upmarket clients who recognise musicianship and ‘difference’ has proven to be the correct choice. Live Lounge finished 2011 with 3 gigs in three days in pubs across West Yorkshire.
Some reflection over Xmas and New Year convinced Howard it was worth putting some of his business experience, marketing acumen and contacts in tourism, conferencing and hospitality to work for the trio. Some six weeks later, Live Lounge had a website www.liveloungemusic.co.uk , Facebook page www.facebook.com/liveloungewestyorkshire and Twitter, the trio had recorded 5 tracks in a backstreet studio in Bradford and had produced some rudimentary business cards and promotional materials. Family skills also came into play with Howard’s nephew producing the website and his son working wonders with photoshop. The strapline “Live Lounge – Dare to be Different” was created. The trio did not play any live gigs in January, but the studio tracks had done their job – the trio’s forward diary was transformed!
At the time of writing (mid June), Live Lounge have already played the following engagements:
- Leeds Corporate and Hospitalty Show – Leeds Utd (sole entertainment)
- Bradford Business Forum at Morrisons HQ (over 300 business leaders)
- Blues Cafe Bar Harrogate
- Weddings at venues such as The Swan Hotel, Newby Bridge and Rogerthorpe Manor
- Regular upmarket bar gigs in Ilkley, Guiseley, Baildon and across West Yorkshire
Forthcoming engagements include:
- Cavern Club Liverpool – Soundtracks: International Music, Travel and Tourism Conference
- Wedding at Hazlewood Castle
- Residency for Xmas/New Year 2012 at New Ellington Boutique Hotel – Leeds
- Dentdale Music and Beer Festival
- Saltaire Festival
Howard adds, “of course we are still growing as a business and many of these early engagements are being done for free or well below our market value for the sake of profile and reputation. But by any measure, our progress in barely 6 months has been exponential. The capital investment has been modest for a start-up business. We already owned excellent instruments, so we have invested mainly in sound and image. Most equipment has been bought second-hand, such as mixing desk, loopers and stage lights. We now have exhibition back-drops and have recently made our biggest purchase of a pair of Italian RCF speakers – £1200 for the pair. We have done some interesting deals with other local businesses under the name of ‘Art Barter’ – for example a professional photoshoot in Leeds’ prestigious Victoria Quarter shopping arcades in exchange for publicity and profile for the photographer and we’ve even swapped one of our gigs for some original artwork by a bar manager who’s also an artist”
Howard registered as a sole trader at the beginning of March. He has taken up part-time lecturing in Leadership and Management to provide some regular and predictable income while the music develops and is also receiving assistance under the Enterprise Allowance Scheme.
So, what about the future?
Howard concludes “we know exactly where we want to be, and how to get there. The high value work is in weddings, conferences, corporate and functions. We need to develop ‘preferred supplier’ relationships with venues that attract high numbers of these type of events and we need to keep developing the act, so it remains fresh and exciting. By this time next year, we want to have a more even and predictable pattern of business than we have at the moment. We are in discussion with a major industry figure who wants to record with us and we have had considerable interest from music agencies. At the moment, we are happy to have control over our own business and destiny, so the agency route doesn’t feel that attractive at the moment. We never had any expectation or plan to be successful recording artists, so anything that happened in that direction would be a bonus”
Facebook page www.facebook.com/liveloungewestyorkshire