MBA graduates seek investors for management buy-in to Sensible Music
Guy Gross, a London Business School (LBS) MBA graduate, is leading a management buy-in to the London studio, Sensible Music, where music legends such as Amy Winehouse, Ray Charles and The Beach Boys made hit records.
Gross (a doctor) is an expert in healthcare innovation delivery, but his background and passion are in music. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s he organised club nights featuring session musicians and upcoming talent. “The stars would pop in and out,” he said. “We had a lot of artists perform there for the year or two before they broke, such as Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Jessie J.”
He launched his own business, MyMusicMonday, alongside his healthcare consultancy work. “After a year-long build up, we had an amazing start hosting Prince, Daniel Bedingfield and Beverly Knight on our opening night. Three months on we had an irreconcilable falling-out with the guy who ran the club so had to make the tough decision not to carry on and and returned the investors their money. But the guy who sourced a lot of that talent was Jeff Allen, who runs Sensible. Our paths crossed again last year – he’s 73 now – and he said, ‘I want to be able to retire in the next few years, how do I get out of this company, what can we do?’”
Together with fellow LBS alumnus Barry Codrington, Gross aims to take Sensible Music into artist development. Having drummed up interest among their music-business contacts, the plan is now to raise an estimated £1 million to £1.5 million. Gross says the team is strong: “We’ve got Gary Wallis who played in Pink Floyd and with Tom Jones for years, Pete Ibsen who has written for and produced artists like Duffy and Lana del Ray, Emma Stakes who is a talent spotter for Simon Cowell, Nathan our social media guru, and two non-execs in Dennis Weinreich (who ran Pinewood studios for 10 years and founded Videosonics) and Phil McCauley (who built TTL music, the first company to curate playlists for shops and monetise them). We discussed, is this workable, do we like the idea of moving beyond the walls exploiting this brand into other areas? The answer was a very clear yes.”
Sensible Music’s location, in Camden, may also help it succeed. “Facebook, Google, YouTube, Universal Music and Tileyard Studios are all on the doorstep of this place and there is real buzz around the development,” said Gross. “We have an opportunity to bring an incredible group of people around the table, leveraging and rejuvenating that big brand.”
Gross is confident: “If we only bought the studio we’d be able to break even. On top of that we’ll be generating an IP from working with the artists that we’ll have under our banner. It becomes self-fulfilling in terms of growth. The artists will be using the facilities, they’ll be at the events, they’ll be generating demand for the events and promoting them while also creating material for those audiences. So we’ll quickly build an ecosystem.”