Words by Aimee Phillips
The music industries are driven by connection. Even in an autonomous era of self-made social media success, the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, still holds an element of truth to it.
Although skill, experience and passion are important, being part of a supportive network or community of fellow creatives can take an artist’s career to the next level. As well as providing learning and performance opportunities, networks and communities can help creatives to increase their public profile and visibility through collaborations and amplification.
In an industry that can sometimes feel lonely and overwhelming, finding like-minding individuals can provide emotional and mental support too.
Despite this, Youth Music’s NextGen Survey (2022) found that 66% of young people see their lack of industry connections as a barrier to pursuing a career in the music industries. Not to be deterred, many dynamic young creatives are taking matters into their own hands and building their own communities to help themselves – and those around them - thrive.
Connection and support
LOUD LDN, a female and non-binary collective based in London, was created by Youth Music NextGen Fund artist, Coupdekat, and fellow musician, Maisi, last year. Brought together by a mutual feeling of loneliness and experiences of discrimination in the music industry, the pair set out to break down the obstacles they were facing by creating their own community. Now, there are over 100 LOUD LDN members, including Piri (of Piri & Tommy), Venbee, Lucy Tun, Charlotte Plank, and Ivor Novello Rising Star Award winner, Willow Kayne. Congregating in an online group chat, LOUD LDN aim to make the drum ‘n’ bass scene safer and more inclusive than before.
“We support our artists via our group chat in which we have various servers for members, to talk about experiences, give advice, collaborate etc or just chat,” Coupdekat explains. “We also do a biweekly release radar to promote our artists’ new tracks”.
“Having online communities, especially for women, is a chance to form meaningful connections with people in music who want to support each other,” Youth Music NextGen Fund artist, Szou, tells us. “It's a great chance to encourage each other and remind each other that being in music is a valid career path. It's helpful that many of these communities are also online - some people may feel shy meeting new people in real life so there's always the option to network virtually”.
As well as online support, LOUD LDN hosts regular parties and gigs, and perform as a collective at festivals such as Wireless and Meltdown. “We wanted to ensure that it could leave the online space”, Coupdekat continues. “[The parties are] not only for networking, but also making friends and having fun in a safe space and our members seem to love them!”
Szou agrees. “I've been to other networking events before but going to [LOUD LDN’s] social made me feel less alone and made me feel like I am worthy of a creative career in music”.
UK Music’s recent ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ report (2023) points to local music scenes as crucial building blocks for the UK’s success story as the third biggest music market in the world (IFPI Global Music Report, 2023). It’s within grassroots music projects and programmes that artists often develop their own musical identity and grow a loyal following within their community.
“Community has been a vital part of my journey as a DJ”, says Youth Music NextGen creative, Jasmine Rowland. “Being involved in community radio allowed me to connect with like-minded individuals, especially during the lockdown, which could have been such an isolating time otherwise”.
Based in Manchester, Jasmine has engaged with a number of the city’s community radio stations, including Pie Radio and the Youth Music-backed Reform Radio. Manchester has a “real community feel in the music scene”, she tells us.
Thanks to her start on community radio, Jasmine has gone on to DJ on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, BBC Music Introducing and 6Music, as well as presenting her own biweekly show on Unity Radio and performing at The Great Escape Festival.
In Wales, Youth Music NextGen Fund creative, Owain Williams, created Klust magazine to showcase new and emerging Welsh artists. “Building a sense of community and pulling like-minded people together was always at the heart of what I wanted to do with Klust”, Owain comments. “People often perceive something’s value if they feel connected…I’d like to think that Klust is not only ‘another platform’ but also a facilitator in bringing people together to discover new music”.
“When I think back to my younger, overly excited superfan of Welsh music self, I would have loved there to be another platform championing new music in different forms”, Owain continues. “Unfortunately, in Wales, those platforms are few and far between so hopefully Klust fills that void somewhat”.
Finding communities can be daunting, so Youth Music has launched a series of free in-person networking and live music events for young creatives to meet in their local area. So far, we’ve headed to Cardiff and Manchester, and in September, we will be hosting another event London. Our NextGen Community also provides information about Youth Music funding for young creatives, as well as freelance work and job and training opportunities.
Education, inspiration, and collaboration
Supported through Youth Music’s Incubator Fund, Cloud X is a South London-based record label and entertainment company with a big community focus. Started by two friends, David Dabieh and Ben Cross, the duo wanted to “create a space that we felt was a vibe - open, inclusive and progressive”.
At the core of these community values is a special focus on long-term collaborations and partnerships, such as with the musician Kwaku Asante, whom Cloud X has worked with since Asante’s very first release. “Growing horizontally - by that I mean alongside your peers - allows you to grow an ecosystem and develop a language of communication that is rooted in trust, collaboration and a shared vision,” David Dabieh shares. “This brings together a sort of existential peace as well as professional longevity. Grow the community, not just yourself. It’s just more fun that way too!”
Jasmine Rowland echoes this attitude towards collaboration. “Being able to bond with other fellow creatives has enabled me to stay driven, keep creating and keep doing what I'm doing”, she says.
“Though it’s important to stick to your initial vision, it’s important to be open and to work with different people on different projects”, Owain Williams contributes. “It’s easy to get caught up on ‘perfectionism’… but surrounding yourself with different people who can offer advice, support or perspective is just as important”.
Building your own community
“There are countless different ways, a million smaller steps to building your own ‘community’. The beauty of it all is that there’s no magic formula, no one-way approach”, Owain Williams says.
“Build a world where you can see others. Keep an open mind and an open heart. Be prepared to be let down and to make mistakes, but don't let that define you or your world view. Be clear on what your values are. Consciously surround yourself with people that share your values. Proactively seek out spaces where you might find those people, online, offline, etc”, David Dabieh adds.
From creative opportunities to forming new friendships, there are online and in-person networks and communities across the UK for everyone.