Welcome to the Charmfactory
Leslie Gilotti has over 10 years experience working in the music industry whilst co-founder Sarah Thompson has over 15. During this time both women have adopted pretty much every role imaginable and after coming together from different directions of the same playing field, they formed Charmfactory.
“Looking at us both, you might not immediately assume we are suited for a business relationship,” Leslie begins, as we meet at their offices in Camden. “Sarah is more experienced and generally wiser and certainly the sales person out of the two of us. I tend to focus more on the creative and A&R (Artists and Repertoire) side.”
“We are both technically-savvy when it comes to our core digital audience,” Sarah adds.
Between them, they have created one of the most respected Digital Marketing Agencies in the industry since they first set up 3 years ago.
“I’m giving away my age a little by saying this but my background was in the early days of MTV Europe in the mid-90s, having gotten involved straight from university,” says Leslie. “It is interesting to see how the industry as a whole has changed. Back then there was no online marketing and even as little as 5 years ago, the major labels always dealt with the subject of internet promotion last. It was a bit of an afterthought to be honest.”
“How things have changed,” Sarah continues. “These days, the first thing on the list is digital promotion. Young people spend more time on Facebook and YouTube than they do listening to the radio so if you want to capture your core audience then you need to start fishing where they congregate.
“The music business was a little slow to realise this but now whenever you go into a high level meeting around promotions, it’s the top-liner on every agenda.”
Prior to CharmFactory Leslie was the co-founder and director of Ampunited, a division of PlayLouder, where she worked on campaigns for the White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Badly Drawn Boy.
Sarah on the other hand worked as a freelancer in the music industry during which time she set up web design company DC Creative in 1994, quickly amassing an impressive client base of major labels and indie labels.
Both have one thing in common and that is a love for what they do.
With everything from the Mercury Music Prize to the Eden Sessions, with some of the biggest artists in the world nestled in-between, CharmFactory includes an expansive roster of events and acts under its banner.
But has the fact that they are two women had any negative impact for them.
“Not really,” Sarah answers. “I can’t say that gender comes into it at the back-end of the business. There might be a different attitude from the performance side of matters, with the public tending to accept different things from their male and female artists but on the whole I would say no.”
“It isn’t just a case of the industry changing; we have to accept that the market we are addressing has also evolved and I don’t just mean in a digital sense,” Leslie continues.
“We are much more of a disposable society and that attitude has extended out to our musical tastes as well. Longevity is not something you can apply to the music business any more. If you last longer than your first album you are doing well. Part of the blame can be laid down at the feet of shows like X-Factor and Big Brother. People rise and fall faster than the tides and the charts as we know them simply don’t have any validity anymore.”
I asked both women what they thought of the current crop of female artists currently breaking into the music scene and whether they saw this as a rising trend.
“Firstly I would say there have always been strong, female singer/songwriters out there. Just look at the likes of Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell to see that,” Sarah responds. “I think the new wave of rising stars have a potentially better set of tools at their disposal to promote themselves and as a consequence, it is probably more about accessibility than rising numbers. You just hear about things sooner and in more detail because of the social nature of the internet.”
“In the past, it was down to a radio show or music television to really get a sound noticed and established. These days, if you have a Facebook account and an understanding of the web you can promote yourself to such a degree that a fan base can be established before you ever get close to a record deal,” Leslie adds. “Visibility is key.”
Well versed and committed to their roles, there is little time for pleasure outside of work although Leslie does reveal that in her spare time she still DJs, runs a monthly club night and plays guitar in an all-girl rock band (another article for another time I think).
If you would like more information on Charmfactory then visit their website at www.charmfactory.co.uk
George R Vaughan