IMS is supporting the next generation of industry innovators and influencers, providing a platform for their ideas to be heard, industry mentoring and support plus opportunities to network and develop their career or business with the most creative and forward thinking figures in the electronic music industry. We caught up with Inder Phull who won the IMS x Mixmag Visionaries award in 2016 to learn more about his journey since winning the contest.
Born and raised in Kenya, you moved to the UK with your mother, older brother and younger sister, aged just 9 years old. Despite the challenge of adapting to life at such a defining time, you went-on to receive a degree in Economics at the University of Birmingham, whilst also establishing your company KRPT during your final year of study.
5 years-on, with a growing team of 6+, a global network of over 1,000 creators, an office in Central London, and an array of impressive clients including Lacoste, IMS, Bestival, Lee Jeans and TUI, there is no denying that KRPT are bringing something fresh and disruptive to the industry, with your innovative and ethical approach to connecting brands with music.
Can you tell us about the vision for the company?
KRPT started because we felt that underground culture (music, skate & art) was not being represented properly and brands were exploiting it instead of supporting it. Our mission was to build a movement of creators who could help brands support art instead of creating more ads that people would just want to skip. This doesn’t mean we ignore ROI or new methods of pushing consumers down the funnel & driving conversions. Our approach is to try to help our clients stay relevant by supporting talent and balancing their cultural and commercial objectives. We’re very interested in creating a journey for consumers and helping brands use their platform in a way that can actually support creators.
Given the perceived lack of accessibility and imbalanced equality in the industry, what advice would you give to someone that originates from similar humble beginnings as you, who is aspiring to break into the industry?
I think you need a few key things to align if you want to break into any industry.
First you need to build a good network. Find mentors to advise and support you. I remember my first ever client for KRPT started as mentor that I had connected with through through LinkedIn and he give me some tips on my business.
He loved the concept and a month later gave us a £20k project to work on one of the biggest fashion brands in the world. What a break!
I instantly decided to quit my job at Channel 4 and start working on KRPT full-time. Since then, I’ve been building my personal network on a weekly basis and trying to meet new people. But remember, it’s not just about knowing lots of contacts but being able to offer them value as well.
Second, I would say you need to find your unique approach, voice and message. I had a clear vision for KRPT that made it easy to explain and understand. I think it’s important to contemplate what legacy you want to leave behind, how you can change or shape the industry you want to enter and also have a mission that is very clear & easy to explain. This can change over time but it helps you stand out and start unique conversations with people where you can talk about your vision in a passionate way with consistency.
Finally it has to be research. I remember before I won the IMS Visionaries award I used to watch the panels on repeat almost every night and I still do. I love to hear the different challenges people are facing and as a result it has given me quite a broad understanding of the different elements of our industry. The industry is so convuluted with too many layers but it really helps to be aware of the challenges, opportunities and future solutions that are being discussed.
Having won the IMS Visionaries award in 2016, both you and KRPT have since been lauded by numerous industry pioneers, as ‘ones to watch’, whilst also partnering with My Love Affair, one of the most successful brand entertainment agencies in the business.
What would you attribute your continued success to?
The first has to be my support network of family and friends, especially my fiancé who has supported & inspired me for the past 10 years since we met in college, I can’t imagine where I would be without her. Deciding to start a business and work on it full-time isn’t an easy choice so it helped that people around me believed in the vision too, even when things were difficult.
Second has to be winning the IMS Visionaries Award and also being selected as the Top 10 Companies to Watch at ADE in the same year, this had a huge impact on our business and personal confidence. I was only 25 when this happened and it definitely spurred a mindset change.
When you’re young & starting out it takes a lot of work to build up credibility and to be accepted in any industry, especially music. These awards positioned me and the business on a new level and instantly brought attention towards KRPT from investors & clients.
Finally it has to be the impact a few people can make in your growth by believing in you and giving you a chance. Our first clients ranged from large-scale brands to new startups and all of those deals came to fruition because someone decided to take a risk and give us a chance.
You need a bit of luck and support when you’re building and those initial case studies helped us win more business. It’s a difficult cycle when you’re starting out because you’re only as good as your work, and if you don’t have any case studies you need someone to take a risk on you and believe in your vision & approach.
Judging by some of the projects you’ve curated, from the giant 303 campaign at Junction 2 and the augmented Complex experience, to your recent visual mapping campaign with GRM Daily and WaterAid, you’ve clearly got an eye and an ear for innovation. What are your predictions for the next major technological shifts and advancements in electronic music?
As you can probably tell we’re very excited by immersive technology and experiences that bring the audience into an interactive space.
There are numerous shifts that are taking place from Blockchain that has the potential to bring transparency to the music industry and ensure artists and rights-holders are paid their fair share all the way to simple digital platforms can streamline communication and drive efficiency.
I think one of the most exciting evolutions will be how live performances become more immersive. For example, Eric Prydz hologram is such a mind blowing concept and I think ideas like this will continue to grow and become more cost-effective.
I also think music production will become even more accessible as new technology makes it easier to learn and create. VR can play a big role here but I’ve also seen some interesting evolutions in mixed-reality, especially examples where multiple people can be in the same room learning together. You only need to look at Star Wars Secrets of The Empire as an example on how this could also work in other fields.
There is a huge trend towards immersive events and I also think that music, theatre and art is going to continue merging and it will result in new innovations that didn’t exist before.
The major social platforms like Facebook and YouTube are clearly very useful for the music industry but some artists have also realised they don’t own any of the data and are at the mercy of the platforms algorithm changes. As a result, some artists have already started building their own ecosystem and community for example Taylor Swift and Ryan Leslie are winning in this space.
Platforms like Skute (one of our partners) have been innovating in this space for the past few years and we’ve worked on some very interesting case studies that show how this could evolve.
I also believe that brands will continue to play a key role in the music industry and in some ways can become the new record labels by funding art and supporting talent. I love what Smirnoff are doing and i’ve listed numerous other examples on our blog.
As a young entrepreneur there must be a lot of pressure to build your business, manage a team and balance work & relationships. How do you escape from the pressure of business?
Fabric, Village Underground, LWE, Sunwaves, Ibiza haha …
I’m either spending time making music or end up going out quite a lot to different parties and just escaping through music. I find it always helps when i’m quite stressed to just go back to the dancefloor and remember why I got into this industry in the first place and I never want to lose that passion.
There is a very important conversation about balance and wellness in the industry and I respect what industry leaders like Ben Turner are doing with projects like Remedy State. It’s an important topic and I think more experienced influencers from the industry should be educating the next generation about taking care of themselves, mentally and physically. I’m definitely still trying to find the best way to balance my life, especially making time for friends and family. You can easily get lost in your vision and forget about other aspects of your life.
You will be on a panel at this years IMS in partnership with the Young Guns Network discussing how the next generation are disrupting the music industry. Tell us more about this panel and your thoughts on the topic
The panel was curated by Mich Mellard who won last years IMS Visionaries contest. There are some really cool people on the panel including one of my good friends Lauren Pavan who is the COO of GRM Daily. My perspective on it is that the industry needs to be mentoring and supporting more young people as they have some great ideas but need the guidance. I was lucky that I found some great people to help support my vision but there are many others that don’t have the same luck.
We live in an interesting time where many young people are growing up disillusioned by the state of the economy, capitalism and politics. This sparks an interesting debate in a fast-changing space where data-privacy, social media & teenage depression capture the headlines. I want to touch on a wide range of topics within this space and one of my key takeaways is that the next generation will be polymaths in that they have access to so much information and can learn numerous skills through the internet. I think this will have a huge impact on the rate of innovation and disruption in the future so big businesses need to be supporting and working with young people quicker and more effectively.
Last year I curated a panel at IMS which was discussing the role of brands in the music industry and how to land a brand deal and I’m also working at a few other events this year covering whether university is really worth it at Brighton Music Conference and also exploring the future role of a CEO at the Youth Marketing Summit. It’s exciting to discuss these topics with influential people and hopefully inspire people in some way.
Since being awarded as the IMS Visionaries Winner for 2016, you have played a pivotal role in developing the contest, to both broaden its reach and increase its appeal to the next generation of potential visionaries.
2018 will be its 4th edition, and with the closing date for entries fast approaching in April, what tips can you give to anyone who’s considering applying and aspiring to follow-in your footsteps?
IMS Visionaries is a really great programme that has supported a number of young people including myself and all of the winners are a success story in their own right so I can’t take too much credit for the work that the team has done to create the platform.
I have 2 key tips for anyone applying:
- Watch videos from IMS and all other major music conferences: this will give you a really good insight into the topics the industry is discussing and you will also see how the conversation has evolved over the past few years
- Define your vision: a little bit obvious but it’s really vital that you have a strong vision with a clear and understandable message. Spend time storyboarding your narrative and speaking with other people about what they think, inspiration can come from anywhere
Since my company started working with IMS last year I proposed to launch the IMS Accelerator which is a programme aimed at supporting the next generation of music startups. It’s only the first year but we’ve had dozens of applications from all over the world which is very exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing from all of the startups and working with IMS to support the next generation of industry influencers.
Finally, what panels are you looking forward to hearing at IMS this year and what defines your Ibizan experience?
Obviously the panel i’m on will be a lot of fun, hopefully we can get into an actual debate and challenge perceptions. There are so many great panels at IMS every year so it’s hard to pick one but I think the parenting discussion and sexual harassment will provide some actionable insights and push our industry to change.
Dc-10 opening and Dalt Vila are still the best moments i’ve ever experienced at Ibiza and i’m literally counting down for that. (Hierbas too…)
Learn more about both IMS x Mixmag Visionaries & Accelerator here
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Secure your place at IMS Ibiza
Interview conducted by Luke Farrugia