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Is Music your Remedy?

York alumni Katie Barrett and Penny Longstaff speak to Connie Shaw about how they co-founded Music Remedy

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Images: Music Remedy

It started off as a club night in York. We created it two years ago when I was in second year as a one-off event for charity. We just thought we'd bring some good music to York.'

These are the words of Katie Barrett, a York Sociology and Criminology graduate who, alongside Penny Longstaff (PPE graduate), co-founded Music Remedy in 2012. The company now hosts club nights in York and London in order to showcase brand new, up-and-coming DJs primarily of the House and Electronic genre. Penny summarises: "The core of it is that we love music, we want to put on a good night and have fun while also bringing in artists who people won't have seen before." Driven from an initial desire to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, Music Remedy has now grown exponentially as an entertainment business, hence motivating the decision to move from the student dominated area of York, to England's capital city.

Katie explains how the rapid growth in popularity of their business took both students by surprise. "After we did a couple of nights the concept got bigger and bigger, more peo- ple started coming and we started booking DJs from all over England, not just in York. It started off quite small and now it's taken on a world of its own."

Indeed, as well as raising money for over four different charities through ticket sales, Music Remedy has now, as Katie delineates "become a sort of platform for DJs to promote their music."

"As well as doing club nights we also have a YouTube channel and SoundCloud. We get constant emails from DJs asking us to showcase their music. So as well as running club nights for people to enjoy it's also a good way to help artists get their music out there."

Music Remedy's promoting potential is encapsulated by the success of one of their early featuring DJs, Wayward. Since performing at Music Remedy's second event, the duo from Leeds' intoxicating Balearic and soulful rhythms have stirred up a storm with Black Butter Records to whom they have been recently signed.

Black Butter Records are one of the biggest electronic music record labels in London, home to other well-known artists such as Bipolar Sunshine, Jess Glynne, and Rudimental.

As Music Remedy went from strength to strength, the realisation of its potential as a business struck both girls. Penny Longstaff elaborates how at the beginning of the enterprise, "we gave 100% of our profits to charity and at the same time we got to showcase some great DJs that we really liked." However, this reality began to change over time.

"It became something which we could see ourselves doing in the future, and therefore we had to limit the percentage that was given to charity. It just wasn't feasible to give all our profits away considering the growing costs."

Despite this shift in focus, Music Remedy continued to conquer charitable causes, conducting club nights in aid of Save The Children and subsequently St Catherine's Hospice.

"The fourth charity we acted in aid of was Professor David Cunningham's research fund which we chose because a very close friend of ours' father had recently passed away." Professor Cunningham is a Consultant Medical Oncologist, Head of the Gastrointestinal Unit at The Royal Marsden, and is also Co-Director of The Institute of Cancer Research.

"The charities became a lot more niche because we weren't able to give them as much as we did at the start, but because they were smaller the money that we did provide made a huge difference, so it was quite rewarding."

Although Music Remedy's London launch seems to define, for Katie and Penny, a shift in priorities concerning the sustainability of the business, both girls remain adamant that York will always retain its charitable aspect. The potential for the business to thrive in a larger city undoubtedly became evident from the success of Music Remedy in York in the summer of this year.

As Katie describes, "The last York night this year in June went really well. It was held in Fibbers. We managed to get over 500 people through the door."

Of the six club nights Music Remedy has conducted, five have sold out at presale, while half have gone on to reach maximum capacity on the night.

Transferring the business to London was an irrevocably daunting preposition; Katie explains how she approached the prospect with mixed feelings. "In London it is a completely different kettle of fish, it's so saturated, there's so many club nights, but at the same time you're targeting an audience that want that kind of club night. In York it was a lot harder because there wasn't much of a music scene so getting people to come along was more of a task."

Penny also voices some of the pair's initial financial concerns: "Moving down to London we didn't know exactly how much it would cost, it's far more expensive putting a night on in London that it is in York".

In the entrepreneurial world, finances are often central to a business's failure - however this threat has not yet curbed the determination of Music Remedy's co-founders. When asked how they were able to support the business financially at the beginning, Katie explains how it was tough, but manageable.

"Whenever you're starting a business, finances are often going to be a problem but to be honest we just scraped together what we could from our student loans, and prayed to God we got it back." The resolve and business drive of both Katie and Penny has rewarded them with well-deserved success.

"We've never made a loss, we've always done really well and managed to get our money back, but at the end of the day even if we didn't, we still enjoy what we do and still hope that everyone had a good night."

In spite of higher financial demands, the wider audience of the Capital proved advantageous for Music Remedy whose recent London club night sold out. "The London night went really well, we worked incredibly hard."

As Katie goes on to explain, running your own business can be extremely difficult and requires constant commitment. "We were in London most nights handing out flyers; we put a lot of effort into it. Only Penny and I actually run the company, we do all the promotion ourselves, we design all the posters ourselves, it's a lot of work and for it to go so well was really rewarding."

Despite the individual sacrifice, Katie and Penny stress how much they are indebted to friends and family who supported their venture in its early stages, and who continue to remain a part of Music Remedy.

"At the start we had a lot of support from our friends, there's no way we could have done it without them. They were the ones that turned up to the first few nights after us nagging them and trying desperately to show them that they would have a good time."

The real success however, as Katie expresses, came after the first two nights. "Suddenly people took it upon themselves to come along and everyone started really enjoying it."

Moreover, what was particularly exciting for Katie in coming south was to attract "a huge pull of people from London who we didn't know. This was really nice to see because we were very intrigued to find out how they knew about us."

As well as celebrating the successes of London, Penny stresses the importance of learning from each event. "Every single night there's been an unforeseen glitch and it definitely helps for the next time to know what we can improve and address in the future. The more experience you get, the more you start to figure out what works and what doesn't.'" However it seems the girls have hit the club night scene at exactly the right time. As Katie explains, "I can definitely see the progression of the industry from when we first started Music Remedy when there was probably only two or three nights including Itchy Feet, Freakin and Bangers and Mash.

"Then when the electronic music scene slowly started to kick off again, especially at York where it wasn't that prevalent, a lot of club nights have emerged and it does get a little bit competitive."

However, Katie insists that it's just "friendly competition" because "we're all interested in the same thing, everyone that runs club nights is into music and it's quite nice to see other club nights do well."

Indeed Katie explains how the nature of the business encourages a communicative environment, which has led to Music Remedy collaborating with other successful promoters including record label Mohobelo and York based promoters Shoko.

"When you run a club night at a University you become a group and you communicate a lot with each other to make sure your nights don't clash, so you do get to know other club promoters quite well and the manager of Shoko got in contact with Penny and I and said he'd really like to get us on board."

These partnerships not only help reinforce Music Remedy's exposure but also allow for a wider variety of featured artists.

"The DJs that we book are DJs that we really like, and listen to. But it's not just about playing music that we want to play; it's about reacting to the response of people attending the nights. When we first started, Music Remedy showcased quite a mix of music, including Techno, House, and Disco, but it's become a lot more niche from the feedback we've had. Our last night in York we centred around disco because at the moment that is something that people really want to listen to."

Although both girls are into "all types of music" Katie suggests that "the best way to [create something along these lines] is to stick to what people are enjoying and mould your night around that because then you can't really fail." Indeed, the surge in Electronic music across the UK in recent months coupled with the increased popularity of House stands Music Remedy in good stead for a promising future.

Music Remedy returned to York on the 21st November, where they hosted Room 2 at Fibbers in collaboration with Shoko. They aim to host a second night in London before Christmas, while also looking into running some more nights in York in the New Year.

When reflecting on the achievements of Music Remedy both girls attribute their success to the simple fact that they enjoy the work that they are doing. "It's combining what we love into something profitable," explains Penny. "Running your own business is a lot of time and effort, but we don't see it as work because we really love doing it."

For Katie, "the company has evolved into a really strong passion for what we do, we absolutely love Music Remedy and we've got so much determination with it... its nice to be able to show people that."

When coming to university, Katie professes that she had never even considered becoming an entrepreneur: "Running a club night was the last thing on my mind, it was nothing I ever imagined. It kind of came about without me even noticing and now I'm just doing what I love doing."

Penny has been similarly taken aback by the longevity of her entrepreneurial journey which began when Music Remedy was founded, however strongly advices other young people to do the same: "If you believe in something, just go for it."

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