McFly and Kanye West aren’t the kind of names you’d expect to crop up on a client list that begins with Shell and UBS – but it’s this combination of corporate efficiency and artistic flair that’s seen brothers Dominic and Alex Lyon establish music management company Young Guns as a £1m business.
A music management company which pools existing acts as well as creating new groups, Young Guns packages them up, then promotes them to record companies as well as for corporate events. But the pair were kicking around the idea for the best part of a decade before it actually got off the ground. Having both graduated from prestigious music colleges the brothers were frustrated at the lack of options for musicians once they’d finished their education.
“We spent 10-years developing the business plan, thinking, researching and obsessively chatting about it,” explains Dominic, who was at that time working as an account manager in the advertising industry.
Eventually, they felt confident enough. So in 2005, starting out with a £1,500 overdraft – no investment, not even a loan – the brothers finally took the plunge.
The first invoice sent out was for a 60-piece orchestra to back up McFly on Top of the Pops. A chance meeting with the band’s management gave Alex the opportunity to test his blagging skills.
Having reassured the management team the company could deliver the orchestra (which at this point didn’t even exist), the two brothers set about holding frantic auditions in music colleges. Ten days later, and with the help of a conductor friend, the brothers produced the orchestra in time for an appearance on national television.
“The McFly gig gave us so much confidence,” says Dominic. “After that, we went to a corporate events trade fair and cleaned up. We’ve been building up a solid client base ever since.”
Up until now, all profits have been reinvested into finding and developing new acts and growing the team to its current size, which consists of eight people looking after over 1000 musicians. Most will only be used once a year, but the team manages about ten groups on a day-to-day basis. It’s a combined effort that caught the eye of the Startups Awards judges who gave Young Guns the Team of the Year accolade this year.
“I’m the oldest on the team and I’m 31,” says Dominic. “We have a very distinct young and funky brand image, and in the corporate events industry a lot of the brands we’re up against are quite dated and passé.”
Dominic says another major selling point is that they’re not restricted to jobs like finding a jazz trio to play at top of the Gherkin building, or organising an orchestra for a Chambers of Commerce gala.
“Because we cater for the record industry too, the quality of our acts has to be extremely high just to get a look in. This gives us a massive competitive edge in the corporate events market where the standard of entertainment is much lower.”
Revenue split is currently 70:30 in favour of the corporate side, but Dominic is keen to shift that balance more towards the record industry, hoping that some of the acts created by Young Guns will eventually get signed.
“Our aim is to create some bands that have worldwide success. We didn’t enter into this with an exit strategy. Maybe that’s the wrong approach, but for us it’s about creating a hugely exciting brand, stretching our creative ideas and making some money at the same time.”