Creating value for other people is the fastest way to create value for yourself: The quickest way to build a network or an audience is by helping other people. Give away as much value as you can for free, it will come back to you.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Benn. Matt is the founder of Soundplate, a record label and music technology company. Soundplate builds easy-to-use tech to help artists market their music more effectively. Their in-house record label has released music for several high profile artists from all over the world, resulting in millions of streams and global attention.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Matt! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Streatham, South London. It’s a really diverse area, I consider myself very lucky to have been brought up in an area with so many different cultures and communities.
The local music scene and people I met in the area really started my interest in electronic music (UK Garage, House etc). When I went to University to study a completely unrelated Sports course, I quickly realized I was better at throwing parties than I was at being a student. I spent most of my time curating a music blog and started to organize large scale student club nights and events. I spent the next three years scraping through a degree course and putting on events across the country.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
While I was promoting events and parties, I got really into a niche music genre called UK Funky. It was a London-centric scene and at the time I was living in the midlands so keeping up with the music was pretty difficult. My friends would be going out every weekend and telling me about which DJ’s were hot, what songs had got the big crowd reactions etc. I wanted to be part of the scene so badly that I created a blog where I would find the latest music, interview some of the scenes prominent DJ’s, post videos from events etc. Over time that blog grew to become quite popular and it allowed me to get to know a lot of the artists I admired. The support from these artists is something that has always stuck with me and I have always been grateful for as it helped me find what I wanted to do with my career.
The UK Funky scene eventually started to die down and I got busy with other work projects, rather than give up on the blog completely I rebranded it as ‘Soundplate’, the generic name allowed me to write and release music in any genre I was into at the time. Ever since then I’ve been working to build the Soundplate brand in different ways.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve had the privilege of meeting and even working with many of my musical heros. It’s hard to pick one story but actually I guess the most interesting thing is how we become a tech company.
As the blog I started gradually morphed into a record label, like any business I started to run into problems. Rather than looking for off-the-shelf solutions or paying expensive consultants to help, we started to build tech tools which would help us work more efficiently.
Some of these tools have now become their own stand-alone products used by thousands of independent artists and labels. I think one of the things that makes Soundplate unique is that we are our own target customer and really understand the market we build technology for.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, most are industry/company specific so probably won’t be very interesting to anyone reading this but I think it’s important for anyone starting a business to realise that mistakes are part of the journey.
You learn so much by making mistakes and experimenting. It’s better to try and get it wrong than not try at all.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Music artists often struggle with marketing. We build tools and technology to make it easy so artists can spend more time on making music and less time on promotion.
I’m especially excited about the developments we are making on our Soundplate Clicks product.
Soundplate Clicks is a tool for artists to create music smart links and pages that make it easy to promote music to all of their fans, no matter where they choose to listen. We are building some innovative and exciting new features which help artists grow their fanbase, increase streams & sales, and better understand their audience.
On the music side we are releasing more music than ever before and have a busy release schedule moving into 2021.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think diversity is vital in the music and entertainment industry.
A lot of the music we work on stems from house music. House music is black music, it’s origins are in warehouses, safe spaces for Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities. As dance/electronic music has exploded in popularity it can feel like some of this has been forgotten.
I believe we need more diversity at all levels of music and entertainment, but especially, in the boardrooms at the executive level. Music is universal and is for everyone, it should not be controlled by any one group/race/company.
More diversity is a good thing for everyone, it does not harm the industry (or any industry) to have more diverse voices, thinking and influences. The world is a big place, everyone should feel represented and valuable.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Creating value for other people is the fastest way to create value for yourself: The quickest way to build a network or an audience is by helping other people. Give away as much value as you can for free, it will come back to you.
- Stop thinking about it, and do it. The best way to test an idea is to try it. The fastest way to fail is not to try anything new.
- Being an imposter is a good thing. When I first started working in music I, like most people getting started, felt like an imposter. I didn’t have the right to work in music, I had not earned my stripes, I didn’t have the experience. Everyone feels like this sometimes but what not everyone realizes is that it’s an advantage not a disadvantage. Imposters take risks, do things differently and disrupt the status quo!
- Focus on the long-term and be patient.
Nothing good comes quickly, you have to put the work in.It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you are working on and judge yourself based on a day’s work or the past week’s results. Zoom out from time to time and look at how you are performing compared with last year, or compared to 5 years ago.
- Your social life is important, don’t neglect it.
It’s easy to get wrapped up with work and forget the important things in life. Spend time with your family and friends!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Honestly, I’m not the best person to answer this question. I love what I do, my passion for music and for the company means that I never really feel like I’m ‘working’ and therefore don’t often feel tired of it or burnt out.
Don’t get me wrong, I have bad days / weeks just like everyone else but I just need to remind myself of how lucky I am to be working in music and on projects I really love.
I guess one thing I would suggest is spending time with friends from other industries who don’t particularly like/care about the music you work on, it’s good to get some perspective and realize that what seems important to you, isn’t important to everyone!
Also, run! Exercise is an amazing way to de-stress and clear your head.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to help many artists and small labels make a full time living from their art. The music industry is changing but is still dominated by a small handful of companies. I like the idea of helping artists win without them needing to sign their life away to a major label!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people that have given me a hand along the way. It almost feels rude to single anyone out!
The most important people for me are always the artists that trust us to look after the music they make. I’m grateful to every artist that has let us release their music on our label or trusted our technology to help them move forward in their career.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Legendary music & entertainment manager, Shep Gordon, said in an interview:
“The willingness to fail is more important than the drive to succeed”
I think this is one of the most important lessons anyone can learn, in business and in life. Failing is part of the process when trying to find out what works. Nothing happens when you do nothing.
All of our tech products have started as experiments where we have tried to solve our own problems. Some of these experiments work and end up turning into products, others fail and I’ve learnt you have to be ok with that. The lessons you learn from falling are incredibly valuable.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d love to meet with Sean Parker, the founder of Napster which changed the music industry forever.
I’d also love to spend some time with Shep Gordon, who I mentioned earlier in this interview just to hear some of his stories and to learn from his experience.
How can our readers follow you online?
Our website — https://Soundplate.com
@SoundplateRecords on Instagram and @Soundplate on all other social media platforms.
Artists should also check out our music marketing tool, Soundplate Clicks!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!