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Being an artist manager in the UK bass scene – an interview with Southpoint’s Josh Gunston

Posted 18/9/18 in

In a crowded bass scene that is being constantly refined in its way to pop stability, more and more industry titles are becoming important factors. With a tonne of advancement, the scene now has regular media roles such as designers, videographers, photographers and writers making standalone names for themselves, which can only ever be a good thing.

However no title is more relevant now than an artist manager. With the UK bass scene’s rapid expansion, there are now so many hurdles artists can find themselves tangled underneath on the route to success, be it unfortunate situations with promoters, overlooked budgeting, release planning or even a voice in the ear to keep you off the naughties.

In the days of old a manager would be an entirely behind the scenes party, but we live in an internet age where everything has the potential for branding and online branding, something I myself thoroughly enjoy perusing. This change in the tide has seen a number of bass artist managers step up into the limelight, providing a tonne of mass of inspiring insight and advice for those new to the position.

We were lucky enough to grab a slice of such insight from none other than Southpoint co-founder Josh Gunston, who has recently gone on to form his own management company whilst looking after some of the bass and grime scene’s hottest prospects. Alongside managing the Southpoint brand, Josh holds down the fort for a number of exciting artist, including Bushbaby, Freddie Martin, Razor and Inkline, whilst providing regular managerial like support for the rest of the Southpoint collective and other artists within the scene.

Q: When did you first realise that music was going to be the future for you? 

It happened during the end of college in Brighton when I was finishing my A2s (all non-music related) and I realised that everyone was going to uni apart from me. I wasn’t actually bothered by this prospect as I had quite a “fuck uni” approach back then, but I knew I had to do something. That day, my sister had gone to an open day at a music college in Worthing – when she returned home, she left a sheet of paper on my desk about a ‘Live Sound Engineering and Event Management’ course. I had a look through the criteria but at this point in my life, I did NOT want to do a third year of college as I was so eager to leave education so I disregarded the idea completely as I was much more inclined to just getting a job and experimenting with what I wanted to do (which wasn’t a lot at this point). As the summer went on, I kept looking at that course criteria again and again – I couldn’t take my eyes off it. One day, I decided that I would go to an open day and see what it was like: the day I went there was the day I knew that I wanted to never leave the music industry.

I remember talking to my m8s about the course and saying “I literally love every second I’m at college, I can’t believe I get to do this every day”.

Q: Did you initially set out to be a manager or were you looking to be an artist before? 

Originally I wanted to MC. I used to be a good MC, not going to lie. I also wanted to be a producer and DJ but I guess the music business just turned me on more.

I also blame Bushbaby for asking me to be his manager, as this was never planned, but more of a “yeah, I can help you out for a bit bro” kinda plan.

Q: How did being at Uni in Bristol prior to Brighton shape your outlook on underground music professionalism?

Being at uni in Bristol is the reason why Southpoint exists today. I was surrounded by young, inspiring music business professionals who really helped shape me as a person. Even though I had an unhappy time in Bristol, I was able to take so many positive experiences from it.

Here are some other reasons why Bristol helped shape my outlook on the underground music scene:

– The Bristol scene was fucking strong

– The Bristol scene was professional

– The Bristol scene had so much more variety compared with Brighton (at the time)

All the above made me realise that something was seriously missing back in Brighton, and that is literally where the Southpoint concept came from.

Q: How did Southpoint’s management arm originally come about? 

This all started with Bushbaby as I said I would temporarily help him out with a few bits. At this point, I had no idea that I could ever be an ‘manager’ as I was just sold on the “label life” alone. As myself and Bushbaby’s relationship grew and developed, I realise that I was actually quite sick at managing artists. This led to me taking on more artists, and at the time, they were all Southpoint artists so it made sense for me to keep everything running through Southpoint, hence the in-house management arm.

This obviously became problematic down the line as I wanted to take on artists outside of the “Southpoint sound” so starting my own management company separate to Southpoint was a wise decision IMO. In essence, both companies are very ‘sister-like’ so it’s still a healthy relationship.

Q: How long have you been working with your current management roster? 

I’ve been working with the guys for about two years now, but it’s weird cos it feels longer. Family vibes.

Q: What has been the toughest moment for you manager wise? 

Being the guy that has to deal with the higher, more intimidating figures of the music industry – honestly, this is fucking terrifying. Us lot are out here grafting and grinding, as no one in the wider industry really gives a shit about us. We have to forge these relationships on our own, we have to make these deals become a reality, we have to tell a promoter than we DO need a full rider, not just a couple beers. Being the guy that has to enter a room full of 15 plus people all over the age of 40 is fucking scary – but I love it.

Q: When did management become such a powerful part of your musical preference?

Ah, I was waiting for this. I love brands, and yes, an artist’s brand does affect the way I listen to his/her music. It’s a curse that I unfortunately will never be able to shake – well, unless I find an artist with no brand BUT I can see a story unfold from them. 

To answer your question, an artist’s management makes me see the artist(s) in a completely different light, depending on if the management they have is good or bad. 

Q: What is the most important thing when establishing yourself as a UK bass artist? 

Build. Your. Brand.

I’m not even going to say anything else.

Q: How do you manage to keep on top of everything, do you structure your weeks? 

I’m very organised, but so should everyone. I use a calendar and I break my days into sections for me to dedicate time to each part of my professional life. I also write down everything in a notebook. I have different notebooks for different parts of my professional life, i.e. book 1) Southpoint/management, book 2) my freelance work.

Writing things down and then ticking them off is what has helped me stay off Tinder, I swear.

Q: What is the proudest moment you have had with each of your artists? 

Bushbaby:

Being on stage and realising that we were suddenly a big deal (you may have noticed that I said “we” but this is true as we are a team).

Freddie Martin:

Securing a huge deal for 2019 and realising that things are literally about to explode.

Inkline:

Realising that me and Inkline are actually like brothers.

Razor:

Watching Razor’s ‘Homegrown’ EP unfold into a dark, gritty storytelling mechanic that establishes itself firmly in the modern-day.


 

Q: How do you feel about branding management, IE becoming a brand as an artist manager? 

A person is very much their own brand, hence, being an artist manager is essentially yourself but amplified.

As Josh Gunston, I play bare PC games, go on dates with girls, work my arse off with my artists, commission deals bigger than anything I’ve ever seen before, work in London, and go to the gym – but I’m also an artist manager.

As an artist manager, I play bare PC games, go on dates girls, work my arse off with my artists, commission deals bigger than anything I’ve ever seen before, work in London, and go to the gym – but I’m also Josh Gunston.

Am I making sense?

Q: What are your feeling towards towards the current UK bass scene? 

It’s about to explode – but no one is really sure when that’ll be.

There’s lots of saturation in this scene, but with the rise of ‘Southern Bassline’, I’m now hearing some of the coolest music ever.

The UK bass scene is about to enter the wider world of music, but only time will tell as to how the rest of the world will react.

Q: Are you ever looking to expand your roster? 

Possibly, it depends. 

I may not always have four artists – I may have more, I may have less. It’s all situational, and it’s also never personal as sometimes an artist may feel as though they’re better off with someone else.

Q: If you had to give any advice to up and coming artist managers, what would it be?

This music game is a marathon, not a sprint. Start with an artist you actually give a shit about, not just because they might “blow up”.

Follow Josh:

Twitter

Instagram

Words: KXVU

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