Profile: A loud voice for little labels

Russell Smith profiles a small business with a big challenge
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The Independent Online

Steve Betts started Radio promotions Ltd in order to provide "big company" promotion services to independent record labels

Steve Betts started Radiopromotions Ltd in order to provide "big company" promotion services to independent record labels

Simply Red, Phil Collins, Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne, UB40; the list of musicians on Steve Betts' business card reads like a Who's Who of the industry. And they are all musicians that Steve has promoted during his 25-year career. The 54-year-old admits, though, that the industry has changed enormously since he first began - there are now more than 900 independent labels in the UK alone.

A high chart placing for a single helps to promote an album. But with upwards of 100 singles released every week, real effort is needed to make it a hit. That effort involves promotion to the press, major radio stations, regional radio and TV, and distributing to stores. "Big record labels have well-oiled machines that swing into action when a record is released", explains Steve, "but the independents don't have that resource."

Steve's business model is to offer regional radio promotion coupled with regional distribution in co-ordinated campaigns. The impact of what a big company would do, but offered as a cost-effective package for the independents. But can success really be achieved without big company resources? Well, yes. Simply Red showed it is possible: when Home was released, their own team handled promotion and distribution without a big label behind them. And very successful it was too.

But few musicians have the financial resources of Simply Red and so still need to rely on a record label. "The real problem is not the comparative lack of funding available to independents", says Steve, "but that they often lack the in-house expertise to manage the overall process. Sub-contracting activities to a number of individual promoters rarely works without experienced project management. Amazingly, there doesn't seem to be anyone out there offering this co-ordinated approach."

With all of his experience and track record, Steve was amazed when his bank considered him "too risky" for a business loan when he started. But fortunately his clients don't share that lack of faith. And if his latest project, "Sorry Suitor" from Diablo Music's Dive Dive, cracks the Top 40 when it's released next month then Steve's bank manager will be receiving a free copy...; 01295 814 995