Single Minded Promotions
Single Minded Promotions Limited is the leading and longest established Independent National Radio and Television Promotions Company in the United Kingdom. Established by Tony Byrne in 1984 Single Minded have a history of Number 1 and Top 10 successes across the single, album and Airplay Charts.
We work with a diverse range of artists, from specialist artists who we look to cross over into the mainstream to established producers and songwriters, to superstar DJ’s and producers.
All our promotion campaigns are tailored specifically to our individual clients and we have consulted to some of the biggest record and publishing companies in the world.
About Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne was born and grew up in Liverpool moving to London in 1982 and helping establish the Independent Record Labels Association. He soon had a grasp of the workings of Radio and Television in the Music Industry; working with labels such as Stiff Records, 2 Tone and Rough Trade as well as helping a young Mick Hucknall promote his first single to National and Regional Radio.
By 1984 Tony decided it was time to set up his own company and established Single Minded Promotions working initially in the indie scene with the likes of Pulp, Dance Society, The Cult, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, as well as consulting to Carlin and Chappell Music publishers.
By 1988 Single Minded Promotions had put themselves on the map as one of the foremost promotions companies for cutting edge indie music and with the evolution of House Music and the new dance music culture Tony and Single Minded Promotions were situated ideally to take advantage of promoting this new underground music to radio and cross it over to the mainstream. Having immediate success with Adamski’s ‘N-R-G’ and the Number 1 single ‘Killer’ aswell as Baby D’s epic Number 1 ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’. Also, Single Minded were instrumental in establishing mainstream crossover success for labels like Cowboy Records, Suburban Base, Kickin’, Champion, Media Records and many more. At this time Tony was approached to head up a National and Regional Radio and TV Promotions Team for the Compilation company Stylus Music. Still overseeing and running Single Minded Promotions he set up and ran Pyramid Promotions and went on to have even more mainstream success with D:Ream, A Guy called Gerald ‘Voodoo Ray’, Stakker ‘Humanoid’ and many more.
By the early 90’s Single Minded were the only radio and TV promotions company at the forefront of the Jungle and Drum n Bass scene – having successes with M Beat and General Levy’s Number 1 ‘Incredible’ and in the same week a Top 10 with UK Apache and Shy FX’s ‘Original Nuttah’ steering the scene at National Radio and TV and having hits with Aphrodite and Micky Finn, Adam F, Roni Size, Shy FX, T Power,amongst others and helping create and establish the first National Drum n Bass and Jungle show on Radio 1 with ‘One in The Jungle’.
By the time the drum n Bass scene had gone more underground Single Minded were starting to have success in the House and UK Garage scene with a Number 1 single by Shanks and Bigfoot with ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’. Tony was also responsible for producing and coming up with the ‘Chocomation’ idea for the MTV Award Nominated video. Other hits in the garage scene followed with Doolally, Dreem Team, Ramsey and Fen and Scott Garcia.
By 2000 Single Minded started working with Ruff Driverz who had 4 top 20 hits with ‘La Musica’, ‘Deeper Love’, ‘Don’t Stop’ and an UK Radio Airplay Number 1 with ‘Dreaming’ and having hits for D’menace, Flickman and The Three Amigo’s on Inferno Records. Another Number Onefollowed from Chicane and Bryan Adams with ‘Don’t Give Up’. Other big dance crossover hits followed throughout 2000 and 2001 from Energy 52, Greece 2000, on Hooj Tunes, Binary Finary on Positiva, Mauro Picotto and CRW on Nukleus; Paul Oakenfold, Planet Perfecto and PPKon Perfecto Records. This was also a great time for Mis-Teeq having a Number 8 in UK with their first single ‘Why’. Following that 4 more top ten singles plus the album ‘Lickin On Both Sides’, which charted at number 3 and went on to sell 500,000 copies in the UK.
Also in 2001 Single Minded consulted for BMG Records and promoted Radio 1 DJ Dave Pearce’s label Nu Life immediately having massive hits with Ian Van Dahl ‘Castles In the Sky’,‘ Try’ and ‘Reason’, Talisman P, Dirt Devils and Love Inc ‘You’re a Superstar’.
Through 2002 Single Minded were having hits for Nu Life and BMG, Sony as well as a Number 1 with Tomcraft’s ‘Loneliness’ for Ministry of Sound and DATA Records.
2003 and 2004 saw hits for All Around the World including Ultrabeat and the Number 1 ‘Take Me to the Clouds Above’ and continued success with Sony dance imprint Direction and the first dance Chart hit for Jurgen Vries and Charlotte Church with ‘Opera Song’.
2005 saw the rise of the Freemasons with ‘Love on My Mind’ and highlights in 2006 and 2007 for Single Minded have been the Number 1 single ‘Thunder in My Heart’ by Meck and his follow up ‘Feels Like Home’ as well as continued hits by Freemasons including ‘Watchin’ and ‘Rain Down Love’ and their massive Top 10 single and Airplay hit ‘Uninvited’ and the continued success of their debut album ‘Un-mixed’.
Article about Tony Byrne from a book charting the history of Drum n Bass and Breakbeat
Apart from Grooverider, Fabio and Frost, there’s been few other people who’ve been working in Dance music before the mid-80s. Tony Byrne of Single Minded Promotions is one of them. His promotion credits include: A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funky Dred; Adamski; early work with DJ Hype; the first Top Forty Breakbeat success with ‘Far Out’ on Suburban Base; Number 1 with ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’ Baby D; UK Apache & Shy FX; T Power; M Beat ‘Incredible’ M Beat and Nazlyn’s ‘Sweet Love’; Elizabeth Troy: Adam F; Moving Shadow, right through to a semi-management role with Hype and Zinc at True Playaz; as well as the chart topping V Classics album. Back in 1990 he took a group of journalists and DJs on a coach trip to Raindance so they could experience some of what the scene was about for themselves first hand.
In essence he’s a media-wise operator, who’s been a marketing consultant to independent artists and small labels, feeding into the media. During meetings with producers at Top of the Pops. Radio One. Kiss 100 FM, MTV Europe and a range of press, Tony’s been a lynchpin between the Underground and the Mainstream attracting as much attention for each act as possible, raising the profile of JDB. Tony’s a persuasive orator extraordinaire. After the ’95 Berlin Love Parade, wearing only the clothes I stood up in, not a pfennig or passport in my pocket and just a BBC ID card to my name, I watched him work at close hand — blagging me onto a Lufthansa flight all the way back to London.
Though he’s helped JDB from the margins onto A List at Kiss and Radio 1, even up to 1993 – 94, producers found it difficult to accept Breakbeat or Jungle I Drum as commercially viable music. Part of the process of selling tunes to radio producers involved the use of radio edits. These are three and a half minute snippets of the full tune which combine all the best elements of the track, in a form more digestible to disc jockeys on legal radio. He advises artists and labels, joining them in the studio to produce these edits specifically for radio. The radio edit is now an accepted marketing tool.
Tony Byrne generally represents tracks, artists and labels on the independent scene that need an extra push towards national chart success. Promoting some of the best music, he’s able to back JOB with a sense of real commitment. He doesn’t guarantee an ‘A’ play listing for every track he promotes but he has done well to secure a succession of chart hits for artists across the Jungle spectrum.
Brian Belle-Fortune 2004-5
Other articles featuring Tony Byrne:
|This article first appeared on the 2002 BBC Radio 1 WMC site – all copyrights respected
The Hardest Working Plugger Award
Below is an extract from an interview with BBC Radio 1’s website where he discusses some of the issues of being a plugger from 1984 to recent times and gives a potted history of his company.
|this article appears on the BBC OneMusic Industry Jobs Page – all copyrights respected
01 Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne of Single Minded Promotions was born and brought up in Liverpool and moved to Chester in his teens playing in a number of punk bands from 1978 he then went to university where he gained a degree in computer science and business and moved to London in 1982. He got a job with the Independent Record Labels Association, which represented indie labels like Two Tone and Stiff. He says “Mick Hucknall came in to have a meeting one morning and brought his first ever record, The Frantic Elevators’ ‘Searching For The Only One’, on his own label. I was actually a fan because I’d recently seen them playing at the Futurama Festival in Leeds only a few months before and had really liked them. The single on his own label which I promoted was very successful at radio. However, the Frantic Elevators soon went their own way and Mick formed Simply Red and the rest is history!” Tony soon left the Independent Record Labels Association and went freelance and set up Single Minded Promotions in 1984.
What sort of music were you promoting when you began your company?
From 1984 through to about 1987−88 the main thing I loved and was into was the whole post-punk indie scene. London was really buzzing and I was promoting new bands like Southern Death Cult (who later became Death Cult/the Cult), Sex Gang Children, Sisters of Mercy, as well as band like the Men They Couldn’t Hang and Pulp (getting them their first Peel sessions on Radio 1!) as unsigned bands and working on the early releases of labels like Illuminated which represented much of the early Manchester and London electronic scene like 23 Skidoo and 400 Blows. I was also promoting the first releases on Creation and with bands like the Blue Aeroplanes. I think by the late ’80s I got disillusioned by that whole ‘shambling sound’ and it all started becoming a bit one-dimensional to me.
Luckily, at about that point I started getting involved with the whole computer side of things. As my main ambition had been to try to combine music with computers when I had been at Uni, but never succeeded.
Cubase and the Atari and sequencing started making it possible for people to create music easily. As with the punk ethos which maintained that you only needed to know three chords and pick up a guitar, now people were using a keyboard and a MIDI sequencer to create music in much the same way.
White label culture started happening and there were loads of cool labels starting up again everywhere much like the punk scene of ten years earlier. The dance music scene was starting to happen. I just jumped on that because it was younger people with lots more creative ideas − for me it was the most exciting thing since punk rock. I felt I had a lot of experience to offer small labels, and there were a lot of labels that were just starting up − F2 Records, Champion Records, Rhythm King, Kickin’ Records, Suburban Base Records, Production House Records plus hundreds of others almost being spawned weekly. As well as the one-off singles there were new artists coming through which I had started to work closely with like Baby D, D:ream,
Acen, Messiah and Adamski and Guy Called Gerald. All these new artists and labels were starting up and wanting to put out records.
How hard was it to promote this new sound to radio?
We had a lot of success with these records because not many people were even aware of the market at the time. Radio 1 would phone me on a Friday afternoon and they’d say ‘Tony, there’s this record − Shut Up And Dance or Baby D − we can’t get it, it’s not in HMV, we don’t know who the label is, it’s just a white label and it’s gone in at number 22 in the charts. Can you tell us who they are?’ And it’s quite funny because I’d phone up and speak to the label, be it Production House or Shut Up And Dance and they’d say ‘Tell Radio 1 they have to go out and buy a copy’ or probably more colourful language from some of them, and I’d say ‘Come on guys, why don’t you just send them a free copy?’ And they’d say ‘no way let them go out and buy it’. They had a real anarchic attitude which at the time was really refreshing but seemed a bit of an uphill struggle nonetheless.
What are you promoting at the moment?
The last couple of years have been great. We had a lot of success with the whole Drum and Bass
scene with lots of artists from Adam F, Roni Size, UK Apache, Shy FX, T-Power, Aphrodite, M Beat, Guy Called Gerald a lot of the underground acts, and crossing them over to the mainstream. Then what tended to happen was a lot of those artists were getting signed on to majors and we stayed involved with some but not all of them. Then, although I still really loved drum & bass, the market slowed because radio, for its own reasons at that time, stopped playing drum n bass. There were fewer and fewer shows at Radio 1 and [London dance station] Kiss FM able to programme it. It’s really difficult to take on a record or a label if you know that Radio 1 isn’t going to playlist those records on daytime radio.
So I decided at that time to move slightly away from the drum and bass scene and more to the uplifting house, trance and garage scene. This was quite fortuitous in that the Ibiza scene at that time was starting to become more commercial and I was finding myself out there ‘rinsing it’ with lots of the artists and international dj’s many of whom were running their own successful labels and I was working alongside them. Looking back on that particular time in dance music the genre had become very commercial and I was working with some fantastic labels in that scene and promoting some milestone moments in dance.
Classics like ‘Café Del Mar’ by Energy 52 and Greece 2000 on dj Red Gerry’s Hooj Tunes Records and ‘Bullet in the Gun’ by Planet Perfecto and ‘Resurrection’ by PPK on Paul Oakenfolds’ Perfecto label as well as ‘Castles in the Sky’ by Ian Van Dahl and ‘You’re a Superstar’ by Love Inc. on Radio 1 Dave Pearce’s Nu Life label. Ibiza in itself was also a great way of finding the hottest new tunes; even this year we have had big successes in the charts and at radio and TV with Freemasons ‘Love on My Mind’ and Gadjo’s ‘So Many Times’ which started life in Ibiza clubs. Also, a great example was last years number 1 ‘Take me to the Clouds Above’ by LMC V U2 which originally started life in Ibiza as a moody cut up bootleg which I heard and snatched up as a white label making sure I was going to be the guy that plugged it to radio and TV when it finally got cleared by the publishers and record companies.
Do you think your plugging was instrumental in these people getting signed to major labels?
Undoubtedly, yes! I think so. Back in the drum and bass scene shows like ‘One in the Jungle’ on Radio 1 were very important. Underground music is a sort of barometer and has a big effect on how radio looks towards programming certain shows. For example, with the drum & bass scene there were no shows on national radio and I remember talking to Trevor Dann, who was the head of Radio 1 at the time, at a meeting of all the record companies and pluggers. At the end of the meeting he was saying Radio 1 was looking for new ways to appeal to youth and keep Radio 1 as a cutting-edge station. He asked if anyone had any new ideas to appeal to people and people were putting their hands up and saying ‘Well, maybe we should have another reggae show’ or maybe it should be this or it should be that and at the end I went up to Trevor and said ‘There should definitely be a jungle show, a drum & bass show, because that’s the show that’s really missing on Radio 1.’ Next I started getting phone calls from Radio 1 saying they were like my advice in starting their own drum & bass show which became ‘One in the Jungle’. I put them in touch with all the labels I was looking after and ended up getting all of them as guest mixers on the show and even put an album together with Radio 1 to promote the show and the genre at that time.
You then moved on to promote trance and garage. Why?
Many other styles of dance were crossing over from the underground into the charts − house, trance, garage, uplifting stuff. So I moved on from drum & bass for the reasons I mentioned before; I didn’t want to take money from people and not be able to get their records on the radio. At the time I worked on records like the ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ and ‘Doolally’ singles by Shanks and Bigfoot on the independent dance label Chocolate Boy. ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ started off as a white label which nobody was interested in. I remember initially playing it to people and even though it was a big record on the streets and sold a fair quantity on white label, there wasn’t such a demand that it looked like it would cross over. I really felt strongly about it and I went out on a limb in promoting it. At the time I was also looking after the dance producers Ruff Driverz as remixers and we got them to do a house remix of ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ and DJ started playing their mix on radio. Then I asked the then Kiss head of music Simon Sadler to listen to the original again because I thought it was the strongest mix. He did and warmed to it. Then Dave Pearce (Radio 1) picked up on it about the same time − I played it to him in the car − and he really liked it and started playing it and Pete Tong started playing it also on Radio 1 and suddenly there was a real buzz about the record.
We planned a video (I had started producing videos for record companies) and offered to produce it and bring in the right directors for Simon, who ran the Chocolate Boy record label. He said ‘OK, I’ve got a thirty grand budget, can you make that work? We’re not sure what we want to do.’ I told him I had an idea of using the [television soap opera] Coronation Street chocolate animated trailer and said ‘Why don’t we do something like that, like a Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory meets Coronation Street ‘ and he said he thought it was a great idea. A year later, when the song had got to number 1, it was nominated for MTV Video of the Year and MOBO Best Music Video.
Has Radio 1 always been key to your promotions strategy?
What used to happen was that Radio 1 would put together the Top 40 on a Friday and they would look for four or five copies of a record and they would generally phone up the pluggers who are representing those labels and singles and say ‘Oh, if we haven’t got copies, make sure we have four copies of the next Take That single’ or whoever it might be. Obviously, with the new dance records coming out on white labels they didn’t know who to ask, so the producer on the show would phone me up and say ‘We’ve got another one of your records, Tony’ and ask for more information and I’d say ‘It’s so and so on Suburban Base or Production House’ or one of the labels that was making that kind of music at the time.
If they hadn’t phoned me I wouldn’t have known the chart positions until the Monday, so in a way they were kind of doing me a favour as well. It was ‘Well, you should get some copies over to Radio 1 otherwise you might not get your record played in the chart on Sunday.’ So that was very helpful to me in a way at that time.
Which other stations do you think are key radio outlets?
Because radio and dance always have had to work hand in hand if that style of music is to crossover, the next landmark for dance was when Kiss FM started in 1991 in London. Between doing my rounds seeing producers at Radio 1 and Capital I spent about four years hanging out, more or less living at Kiss, on a day-to-day basis.
Five years on, most of the people who had worked at Kiss FM had moved on to Radio 1. Luckily for me, I’d done a lot of promotion on the early dance music scene and became good friends with all the people there. These people moved on to key positions within the industry as dance music acts became household names.
Looking back now it was strange because Alex Jones Donelly who at one time was the Music Librarian at Kiss FM went on to have one of the most powerful positions in the music industry as Head of Music at BBC Radio 1.
Since the early days of Kiss FM the radio environment has transformed in that many UK radio stations have centralised or joined forces with major publishing groups. For example Capital now has a major share of the radio market in its takeover and merger of the GWR Group becoming the GCap One Network. Kiss FM also is now part of the EMAP radio Network. Other key networks now include Galaxy and the Scottish Radio Network amongst others. This in a way has put greater emphasis on these networks in shaping future hits. So Radio 1 and all of these networks monitor each other when deciding which new artists and records they will playlist on their stations.
When, how and why should you use a plugger?
It depends on the style of music. You’ve got to decide where your market is. Whenever I listen to a record to decide whether I want to plug it, I’ve got to decide first and foremost do I like and feel the record, and secondly, do I think that radio is going to understand it? How hard a job is it going to be to get radio to understand it? Is it very, very niche − like I was saying about drum & bass in the late 90’s, where there were very few shows I could go to on radio to make a record work. If there’s only say three shows on radio for this style of music, I’m not going to turn to the record company and say ‘Give me your money’ to some guy who’s just spent a grand and a half on a white label. If I thought I could only go and play it to three people and that he had no chance of crossing over to daytime radio there’s no way I’d want to promote it and take his money.
On the other hand, if you just stick a record in an envelope and send it to a radio station and just hope for the best, you may end up getting somebody like John Peel or Judge Jules or Tall Paul, one of these DJs picking up on it and thinking the record’s fantastic. But whether it’s MP3s on the Internet or white labels crossing over to radio, I still think you need promotion and marketing and somebody who feels strongly enough to take it into radio and convince somebody who’s got a thousand records on their desk or five hundred things to do in a day to listen to it.
If you didn’t want to plug it, what would you tell the label or artist?
I might give him or her some good advice on what to do with it − the club route first of all, or give it to some record shops. See if it sells through some HMVs or go to their local HMV and see if they can sell five or ten copies and then come back to me if they sell a thousand in a week. If there’s no demand for a record out in the street then it’s not really worth taking it to radio. Sometimes radio fuels the demand at shop level, but it’s like if you’re playing in a band and you’re out there doing gigs and nobody’s coming: it’s no good starting to get someone bigging you up at radio if you haven’t got a fan base. In my opinion, if I hear a record and I think it’s got potential at radio I’d want to get involved at whatever level.
I get sent lots of tapes, CD-Rs, CDs and DATs and I do listen to everything. I’ve got a CD player in the car with twelve CDs in and I listen to CDs constantly just in case I might spot something that stands out from the crowd. But some guy who’s not a major label or who’s not got big money behind him might come in off the street and say ‘I’ve got this little single’, and I’m as interested in doing deals like that as I am with the big major record labels.
So would you work on the record before it’s released, then?
Definitely. I started working the ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ record in the July and it didn’t get released until the following year. Things like that do take on a life of their own. The Ruff Driverz’ ‘Dreaming’ started life as a white label and was around for seven or eight months just building and building. Some records just are like that, they just build and build and then the right time comes for them to be released.
What is the reason for radio edits?
As well as just plugging, I started putting together compilations and tried to learn a lot more about the industry. I also got involved in trying to do remixes and radio edits for a lot of record companies. We’ve done radio edits for hits by Moby and loads and loads of different dance artists.
When the whole dance thing was just starting up, there was not really such a thing as a radio edit. I heard a 12-inch single on Suburban Base called ‘Back Again’ by Run Tings which was two and a half minutes of break beats and then at the end there was this amazing riff with a vocal and a great hook at the end of the track. The record label obviously thought that if I took it to radio I would be able to get it on the playlist but it would never have got on.
I told Suburban Base that I’d like to do something with the record specifically geared up for radio. Danny Donnelly (owner of the label) told me to go into the studio and do my own version. I went in and did a 7-inch radio edit − and until that point nobody was doing radio edits of 12-inch singles. I remember at the time Mark Goodier of Radio 1 played it as his record of the week and I was thinking ‘God, it worked!’
I started thinking to myself about what radio wanted, mixed with what a record label wanted, and put them together to get the edit. Just changing or getting rid of a 16 bar intro − manic drums, for example − would make a single much more radio friendly. It seemed so simple and so strange that nobody had ever thought of it. A lot of people have started their own little companies out of ideas like that.
With Moby, his track ‘The Next Is An E’ had come in from the States and we changed the title and changed the format of it, and lo and behold it went in. I remember playing it to Alex Jones Donnelly, who was working at Kiss at the time, and I asked him what he thought of it; I said ‘Don’t you think having a title “The Next Is An E” is gonna kind of give us a problem at radio?’ and he agreed. I said ‘Well, I was thinking of doing one of my little radio edits and changing it and changing the emphasis and maybe moving the choruses if we can get Moby’s permission.’ He cleared it and it became a hit. It got to about the Top 20 and it was the first thing Moby had done chartwise since ‘Go’, and then we did more things with him on the next few singles.
When a DJ masters up, when someone like Dave Morales does a mix, they don’t think about radio first and foremost, they think about what’s going to work in the clubs. I only think about what’s going to work on radio. I listen to a record and I might hear it in the clubs but when you hear it in the cold light of day, you think ‘What’s a radio station going to think of it and how are they going to programme it into their format for the next six months on the station?’