Youth Music NextGen Fund recipient, Rianne Lewis, is the founder of RUN IT, a music and networking events series.
London-based entrepreneur Rianne Lewis is the definition of a self-starter. Launching RUN IT six years ago to create more opportunities for emerging artists and creatives like herself, RUN IT now holds a monthly spot at BOXPARK in London, and has held events in Manchester and Birmingham too. This May, RUN IT made its European debut, with an event in Parma, Italy.
We sat down with Rianne to learn more about her role at RUN IT, landing big partnerships, and working with grassroots artists and venues.
What inspired you to create RUN IT?
It was really out of frustration of not seeing enough people have opportunities. I studied music production and music business at university. I thought maybe if I had a bit more encouragement in these kinds of spaces, maybe I would have pushed myself or had someone to mentor me or guide me. So, I thought, I'll just create my own thing rather than complaining about the problem, trying to do something to actively solve it. That was in 2017. The first event was in Shoreditch. And since then, I've worked with Red Bull, AGK, and currently hold monthly partnership events with BOXPARK. It's growing and getting a bit more consistent.
What are the events like?
People say it feels like a community, they feel very welcome, and that they can just be themselves, there's no judgement. Everyone is there on the same sort of level. And they come in with a mindset of, ‘I'm a creative, I would like to network and meet likeminded people’. There's never anything bad to say about someone's performance, there's never been any fights or conflicts. People find it a safe and fun place to be in. Sometimes we might have like a little freestyle, icebreaker kind of thing. And then we'll have about five to seven acts in one night, with small breaks in between to keep the crowd engaged. We've had dancers before as well. Spoken word. And towards the end, we have an hour of DJs, so people have that time to properly network.
What does your role at RUN IT involve exactly?
I need a team because my capacity for doing everything is spread thinly. I do the graphics, I do social media, the artist liaison; I'm the stage manager, I'm the host. I'm doing a lot of things. Wearing a lot of different hats. So, it's good because I'm very much involved. I know what I would be looking for, should I hire someone in the future. Being able to deliver that quality constantly is something that I'm looking at now, just trying to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and then just see, how can I keep the cogs turning?
How many people attend RUN IT events?
Capacity is about 100. That's what I'm about, helping grassroots artists, working with grassroots venues, until I guess things grow a bit more.
What has RUN IT achieved so far?
I would say the Youth Music NextGen funding was a big one. I've tried to apply for funding before but not been successful. I feel like the Youth Music application process breaks it down a little bit more compared to some of the other ones which are quite hefty; you've got a lot of questions, and a lot to think about.
Another achievement would be working with Red Bull, who provided complimentary drinks and a sound system for RUN IT to use.
Last year, I delivered about 23 events. That was quite a consistent year. I worked with Soho House, which was interesting as well.
What challenges have you faced with RUN IT? How have you overcome them?
I think just being a woman trying to deliver stuff that's behind the scenes is quite tough. You've got people thinking, ‘Oh, can you do it? Why should you do it? We've got another guy that's more experienced’, or just because they're a guy, they feel that they're more entitled to the opportunity. So, there's always that barrier of trying to sell myself even more than somebody else.
Getting people to constantly be involved in terms of building a team. Trying to do everything all at once; remembering to send emails - I've got like 700 plus on my mailing system, but I can't always write the copy, design it, and send it out amongst everything else.
Sponsorships and fundings are the big challenges because that could help me to combat some of the other things. For example, I could potentially pay someone for a month just to do all those kinds of things and make it run a bit more smoothly.
Is there any advice you would give to other young entrepreneurs in the music industries?
Definitely do research before you jump into anything. Try and speak to people. Go to similar events or try and speak to similar people and have your questions ready. What are you looking to do? Just do your homework on the person that you're trying to connect with as well. Because people want you to be open to learning about them.
When I approach venues, I just go in with the mindset of if you don't ask, you don't get. I think having a really resilient mindset as well, because there are going to be a lot of missed opportunities or things might happen in your own life that can't be avoided. So just being able to hit the ground running.
Where do you want to take RUN IT next?
I've got an event in Italy [on 13 May]. So, the next big thing is to deliver that successfully, and just trying to stabilise RUN IT within the UK, and then building relationships further afield.