Advantage Creative Fund – Interview With Chris Thompson

January 17, 2007 at 9:13 am | Posted in digital downloads, emusu, music | Leave a comment

What was the initial inspiration for starting the company?
Chris Thompson began his musical career as producer with Hardcore Uproar releasing material through All Around the World Records in the early 90’s. Subsequently studying on Britain’s first degree in Commercial Music, Chris graduated continuing to work as a producer in Birmingham and formed ‘Digital Animal Recordings’. Ann-Marie Taggart has a background in Business & Finance and has worked within the Internet Service Provider sector delivering connectivity and strategic management solutions for British Telecommunications PLC.  When Chris wanted to add ecommerce to his Digital Animal website the pair hatched the idea for www.emusu.com – a music hosting and ecommerce solution that could easily be integrated with artist and record company websites, empowering rights holders to retail directly to music fans.

When and how did the company first get started?
Though D A Recordings was founded in 2001 it barely traded until 2005 after developing its emusu.com software. Establishing the service provider aspect of the business was far from a smooth process says Chris…

“After consulting the Birmingham based start-up signposting centre, Creative Launchpad, we applied for a Feasibility grant form Birmingham City Council. This was granted and gave us the resource to focus on our business plan. I’d already researched and written a plan for distributing music over mobile networks but we wanted to focus on a more tangible and achievable business model.

During this period we received an email form the Chamber of Commerce inviting budding entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas to a panel of millionaire investors. Taking the bate we applied and Richard, then co-writer in Digital Animal, and I attended an interview at Pebble Mill for a new BBC2 programme called Dragons Den. We were duly accepted and headed to London in October 2004 where we sweated our way through 10 minutes of reasonable questioning and 90 minutes manufactured reality TV pressure. Needless to say we didn’t get the £250k we’d felt so sure of. ‘Shaken but undeterred’ as I said on the show, we come back to Birmingham in the knowledge the whole charade would be broadcast to millions 3 months later!”

D A, recognising it required a technical partner to develop its proposition then set about pitching software companies and to partner in the business. Within 3 weeks of the Dragons Den pitch the online music start-up secured seed capital from business angles and went on to secure further development investment from ACF.

What have been your major projects to date?

  • Winning contracts with over 160 record companies
  • Building our own music portal to feature our clients, www.emusu.com
  • Integrating our software with the Official UK Chart Company
  • Winning major contracts to provide digital stores for major labels/artists

What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of growing the business D A has experienced is implementing the processes and structure necessary to support its growth. “I believe that the key skill I’m developing as a director is to balance investment in human and technical resource with investment in our client acquisition strategy” says Thompson.

“It would be easy to overtrade and let clients down. Instead, by focusing on what know we can deliver, we have been able to build a solid foundation for a much bigger long term international new media entertainment business.”

What is next for the company?
“Diversification. We accidentally created our trading niche in the heart of the music industry. We did not anticipate the extent of the demand for ecommerce from established record companies” explains Chris. “Initially our model was focused on unsigned acts. By integrating with the established music industry royalty collection societies and involving them in our solution we have been able to meet the demands of the sector. We provide a unique service – we have become more like an online music marketing consultancy then a technology provider.

In 2007 D A intends to capitalise on its position by making its services available to independent artists and consumers. The idea is that there should be nothing to prevent anybody who creates new music or video from setting up a website and selling it online. The emusu ecommerce platform will facilitate that activity making it easier and simpler so that people have more time to create.

Where do you hope the company will be in 2 years time?
The D A operation is planned to expand to include satellite offices in major international cities. “Whilst the Internet has global reach it is important to become involved with local creative’s and local business in order to understand their potential and maximise the value of their output. We have experienced this regionally between Birmingham, Manchester and London” Chris observes. In two years I’d like to be employing a Managing Director and take a more focused role in one area of the business, perhaps repeating the start-up business development model in another territory.”

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