Chloe Lewis

ILUVLIVE: The Hotlist Tour 2017

We caught up with Rachael Bee, owner of ILUVLIVE, to find out more about her live music night that showcases the newest urban talent!

So Rachael, what is ILUVLIVE all about?

ILUVLIVE launched 15 years ago next summer, and it was originally started by one of my best mates (Jade Richardson), who’s now in A&R. She was working in A&R at Polydor at the time, and interested in signing emerging MCs. At that time it was the first sort of round of MCs coming out of the UK who were getting mainstream interest, and there wasn’t anywhere where she and her A&R compatriots could go and see MCs performing with a live band in a kind of conducive environment. Really, if you wanted to see an MC you had to traipse out to the sticks to see them do a PA at a club night. She got some Arts Council funding and set up ILUVLIVE, and it was really about allowing MCs and other artists to perform with a live band in an environment where A&R would come and see them and kind of understand what they were about, because they’re used to signing artists after seeing them perform with a live band, rather than seeing them do a PA. It started as a really small thing. I got involved a couple of years later because I’ve got an events background- I used to do things like the MTV Lick Parties with Trevor NelsonBass On The Beach in Aiya Napa, the first MOBO tour, and did a lot of club-based events for big brands. [Jade] was like ‘oh, I don’t really know what to do with it’, so I took over from her and from there applied for further funding and we did our first tour of the UK. We’ve had so many incarnations, we’ve had weeklies, monthlies, fortnightlies in London, but for the last five years we’ve been resident in London fortnightly and various cities, and at the moment Manchester and Bristol monthly. Leicester and Leeds we do about four times a year. A lot of very big people have been through our doors- we were kind of seen as one of those tick boxes you have to do if you’re an emerging artist in the UK, so people like Ed Sheeran did our night, I think he did it three times and he did his final showcase for Atlantic at our night just before he got signed. Tinie Tempah did our night on a number of occasions, in fact I remember the first time he came down and did it was when his first single was dropping, and he wasn’t even scheduled to perform, and he came down on his own and kind of begged us to have a go, if he could at least get up and do that song, and then he came back on a number of occasions, and he did a Disturbing London showcase night for his manager just before he got signed to EMI. Emeli Sande met Naughty Boy at one of our nights, and obviously, the rest is history, and Chip has performed for us on loads of occasions. Lots of those artists come down on a regular basis and are just seen milling around. Emeli came down to see an artist last year, she still pops in if she’s around. Katy B did a night, Wretch 32 did it on a number of occasions, Jessie J did the open mic, and won, and has done the night on a number of occasions. She actually said that she performed her own music for the first time at ILUVLIVE, she’d only ever done singers’ nights where you do covers, and that was the first time she’d ever preformed her own songs to an audience. She did it on a number of occasions, Professor Green did our open mic, and then more recently people like Nadia Rose, Yxng Bane, Izzy Bizu won our open mic, Ray BLK has been on, N-Dubz did it, Kano… And it’ll be a while before we see the next draft of superstars come out of ILUVLIVE, because it takes so long to establish yourself in the music industry now. It’s been quite an important platform for a lot of young, very loosely urban-influenced artists. Some of those artists are definitely urban, and then others, like Ed Sheeran, and Emeli, and Katy are less urban. When Izzy Bizu won the open mic she didn’t have management at the time, and we had been thinking about doing management but had been waiting for the right artist to come along, so we started working with Izzy with a view to manage her if everything progressed well, and it did, and so we actually set up our record label to put out her first EP. Izzy’s first EP came out on ILUVLIVE Records, and it did really well in the iTunes R n B chart, and we had every major label in the States and over here calling us. At that time we didn’t think she was really ready to sign, so we went away and actually made most of the album before we did the deal with Sony. Since then we’ve set up an artist development programme, we then went to the Arts Council and asked if we could get some additional funding to run an artist development programme. We now take around three acts a year and we have them on the programme for 12 months, and it’s really about getting them on the next rung of the industry ladder. If they’re an artist who hasn’t really worked out their sound, we’ll put them in with producers to really help them try and figure out what their sound’s going to be. If they’re somebody a bit further along, like Laura White- we found her a manager, we introduced her to her current publishers, we set up them coming to see her, and put out an EP for Laura. She’s now got a single coming out with Example, we will see an album from Laura coming out in the next six months. At the moment our record label is primarily a vehicle for the artists on the artist development programme, but as time goes on we might develop it into other releases. We’re a very small team, and we work across five cities, on about 50 events a year, as well as managing Izzy and running the artist development programme, so we’re quite busy! We have promoters on the ground in each city, so we’ve got people to liase with the venue, and find local talent, so if you’re working with a good promoter on the ground it makes your job very easy.

Tell me more about the Hotlist Tour…

Hotlist is an initiative that we launched a couple of years ago. The idea was that obviously everybody does their list of ones to watch every year, but I was asked to be a pundit on the BBC Sound Poll, and also on the BRITs and the MOBOs, and I’m looking at the options of people put forward for the Sound Poll and I’m thinking all the artists that come out of our nights are too early for the Sound Poll- they’re not going to be big for like three years. Even if you have the best luck in the world, from being nobody to being a name that maybe somebody vaguely in the mainstream might have heard of, that’s a three-year journey, at the very best. The artists that we’re looking at and we think are going to be big are not going to be big for three or four years. So we felt that there was room for another list, to add to the millions that are out there, of artists that we think the tippers will be tipping in the years to come. That’s why we created the Hotlist, obviously we’re a publicly funded company, we’re now what they call a National Portfolio Organisation, which means that we apply for funding three or four years from the Arts Council, and once we’ve secured that bid, we get funding for four years. We still have to generate half of our income, from our own initiatives, but it means that we get our basic costs covered. We feel that we’re a public service company, so everything that we do is very much about supporting new talent, so when we’re sitting down and planning out our years to come, we’re thinking ‘Okay, what can we do to do more to support new talent, other than just running the nights?’ The idea for the Hotlist was born out of one of those conversations, because we felt that if we create a list of people that we think the tippers will be tipping in the years to come, and run that across our socials, and do a couple of nights where we put those acts on then we should be able to get a big industry turnout to come and see them, and hopefully facilitate them getting a publishing deal, getting a live agent, getting a manager if they haven’t got a manager, just basically make their journey a little bit quicker. We created the Hotlist a couple of years ago and we do a show in January and in April every year. Then we decided that it would be great to do an actual Hotlist Tour, taking some of the artists on the list on tour round the country. We applied for funding specifically to do that, secured the funding, and hence the Hotlist Tour in September!

Who’s on the line up for the Hotlist Tour?

Geko’s on the line up, he’s our headliner. Because we’re taking relatively unknown artists on the tour, we needed a headliner who was going to be able to sell tickets for us. If we take artists from London to Manchester, and they’re not very well-known, we might get a few people in the room but we’re not going to get a full venue. You normally only get a full venue with not very well-known artists if they invite all their friends and family, and that’s not going to happen if they’re not resident in that city. So we booked Geko to headline the tour, he’s an MC from Manchester, and we’ve added Autumn Sharif, who was originally in The Voice three years ago, and I think her confidence was knocked when she came out of that, even though she got quite far in it. She’s done ILUVLIVE a couple of times, and really impressed us, and it’s early days for her but we think she’s got a really bright future. She’s got amazing stage presence and an amazing voice. A guy called SNE who’s an emerging MC from East London is on the tour, and again, he’s done the night, really impressed us, he’s a big hit with the ladies, he’s very smooth on stage… Matt Wills is a singer-songwriter, he’s a bit less urban, and he’s in a deal already with Virgin Records, he’s got great songs, a great stage presence, he’s really really good live, and a girl called Miraa May was on the tour but she’s not able to make it now for personal reasons, so we’ve added somebody called Jords, who is an MC from the UK who’s got an EP coming out. He’s actually on our artist development programme, and he’s got an EP coming out on October 6th. He’s been added to the tour, and then Laura White is our special guest in Manchester, which is her home town, because she really wanted to do the tour but wasn’t able to. She’s just a phenomenal vocalist, she wrote New York Raining for Rita Ora, she’s an incredible songwriter as well, and she was actually on X Factor in 2008, and got very far down the line but then didn’t really want to do what they wanted her to do after the competition. She’s very much the real deal in terms of wanting to write her own songs and do her own music. She’s the lady who was on our artist development programme last year, and she’s got quite a heavyweight manager, and she’s got a track coming out with Example in October.

ILUVLIVE’s Hotlist Tour comes to the Zombie Shack in Manchester on the 17th October, and tickets are £7 here.

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