Luke Hood: UKF’s owner speaks for the very first time
When I was used to listen to dubstep a couple of years ago I remember using a YouTube channel called UKF a fair bit. As time went on and I drifted away from the genre UKF grew and grew. It is now considered to be one of the most important outlets for both dubstep and drum n bass, with head honcho Luke Hood becoming a very important part of the music world himself. Luke has never taken part in an interview up until now – here’s what he had to say about his meteoric rise and the various aspects of his life that have changed since he started UKF.
When did you first get into electronic music and what kind of stuff were you listening to in the beginning?
I was into a huge variety at a young age, my mum used to work at a record shop when she was younger so we always had a huge amount of vinyl, tapes and CDs. That was probably my first real influence and started my passion for listening to music as a whole. The ‘bass’ side of electronic music all started with my friends being into drum and bass and naturally starting to listen to more and more music of that style.
Who were some of the first producers/DJs that you listened to?
As someone who came into this scene fairly late, compared to most of the people working in the scene at the moment, the first act I considered ‘drum and bass’ (but not really getting much further into it at the time) was Pendulum. Hold Your Colour was and still is an incredible album.
So when did you first have the idea about posting videos on YouTube?
I can’t really take credit for having the idea to post music onto YouTube, there were other people doing it (record labels, other people with niche bits of drum and bass or dubstep, such as Liquicity). I had a much more varied taste and goal to post tracks that would appeal to a wider audience. People were listening to music on iPod docks, not huge speakers or club set ups (when you’re 16 you can’t really get in to said clubs, anyway).
How did you go start UKF? I heard it was mainly just an outlet to share music with friends at the start?
Exactly that – it was an outlet for music I liked and friends did too. There wasn’t a business concept behind it, just a way for me to share music I enjoyed.
When did things start to evolve and grow from those humble beginnings?
I think I have Facebook to thank for that. I’d show my friends tracks from the channel, they’d post it on their wall, who would in turn show their friends who’d live across the UK, it all grew naturally like that. Obviously, we had a YouTube following too but we got a lot more views virally than we did from any other source in the early days.
Did you ever imagine that it would grow to the size that it has?
I didn’t start the channel with a vision of creating something anywhere near what we’ve achieved to date. It was a passion that’s turned into a business I can now live off. Record labels and artists started to approach me relatively early on (one of the first record labels to work with me was Technique Recordings run by Bassline Smith), which meant we were never really in trouble for our ‘bootleg’ uploads. At the start it was closer to a pirate radio station than anything else, but record labels just let us get on with it. As we grew I started seeking permission for uploads and eventually, after joining up with AEI Media, everything was legitimate.
Has managing UKF now become a full-time career for you?
Totally. I dropped out of my Forensic Computing degree at UWE to pursue this full time in London, where I work out of the AEI Media office. At the office there are around 20 of us who work on UKF (among other brands) throughout the day.
What’s the most difficult aspect of maintaining UKF?
The amount of music we’re sent… we get an incredible amount of labels alone getting in touch with new music. When you add unsigned talent into the mix it becomes even more difficult. Also, keeping up with music as a whole, it evolves constantly and we need to make sure we stay at the forefront of that. Just like a radio DJ or any other brand has to.
What do you enjoy about it the most?
There isn’t one single thing I enjoy more than anything else, every day is different and I’m thankful for that. One day we’re building line-ups for a tour, another we’re working on the next compilation album and of course always listening to fresh new music (as bad as some of the imitations we’re sent can be!).
What important lessons have you learnt along the way?
Too much to list. There’s a lot to learn in the music industry, whether it’s record contracts, licensing, booking artists, how radio works (with our Kiss FM show), TV and online advertising, press, all the legal aspects of running your own business, the ability to manage a team of like-minded people to help achieve your end goal. And of course the ability to learn from your mistakes.
How has your approach to managing the channel changed since you first started it?
Since first starting it we’re a lot more label-led, we’re part of a lot of labels’ promotion plans when it comes to their release schedule, tying an upload in around a radio play, release date and so on. We aim to try and get a variety of styles of any genre to try and promote sounds that our users may not have previously heard before other than in a club.
You now run events tied in with the channel, when did you decide to expand into that area?
January last year. AEI already had experience in running shows, so when the idea came up it was really simple. We had a lot of fans on Facebook who lived in London, and as I already knew a lot of the producers from the uploads we’d run on the channel. We all made a few phone calls and were lucky enough to find that loads of people were happy to play the show at XOYO. After building our events portfolio by branching out to Bristol (where I was at uni) and going to larger venues in London (Cable), we finished the year at Alexandra Palace, selling out 2 months in advance.
What about the compilations too?
Compilations were another really sensible idea for us. We’d obviously had a clear indicator on the channel as to the tracks people liked, so to make an album at the end of every year with the biggest tracks made total sense, considering AEI’s experience in compilations albums with their Drum & Bass Arena and This Is Dubstep series. Two months later UKF Dubstep 2010 and UKF Drum & Bass 2010 were released. We’ve gone on to sell over 250,000 albums across everything we’ve released. With our most recent being UKF Bass Culture 2.
You get sent so much, what are you listening to at the moment?
I really love the ‘Skreamizm’ concept. Skream is touring the UK with at the moment, playing long sets with a huge variety of styles/genres through the night. Less about trends, more about quality. It’s a good ethos to go by. Other names that spring to mind, who I’m listening to a lot of at the moment, are KOAN Sound, Knife Party, Netsky, Sub Focus (the new single is incredible), Monstar, Rollz, Fred V & Grafix, Ayah Marar, Dimension – too many to name really. There’s an incredible amount of good music out there at the moment!
How do you feel about the way that electronic music, dubstep in particular, has flourished in recent years?
It’s great, the further good music spreads the better. I don’t think it matters that electronic music is getting bigger. Sure, there will be more money in it and the bigger companies, whether it’s tour promoters, festivals or major labels, will pay more attention to it but the independent labels are still going strong.
What does the future hold for UKF?
We’re doing our first run of international shows at the moment. We have recently started a show on Kiss FM every Monday at midnight. As long as we’re giving people amazing experiences at our events, showing them artists they’d never have heard of before and making people happy, then I’ll continue to be incredibly happy with what we’ve achieved!
UKF Bass Culture 2 is out now.drum'n'bass, Dubstep, Luke Hood, UKF
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