Behind the Scenes: Henry Village, Black Butter Records

He took on Rudimental and they got a number one with Feel the Love, sold 2m copies worldwide and are making hit tunes with Ed Sheeran – meet music manager and business owner Henry Village…

Henry Village is pictured above, left, with business partner Joe Gossa

What was your first ever job?
All the way through college and uni I ran my own club nights, called Deviate, until I was 24. After uni, between the ages of 22 and 24, I also worked at Everybody’s – an artist management company. I was an assistant to a manager.

I saved quite a lot of money from doing the events and decided I wanted to be a manager. So I signed Man Like Me and was managing them out of Everybody’s management. They were my first client.

Using my own money, I signed the rights and did a deal with them; invested in their debut album with the plan to sign them onto another label. I ended up releasing it myself under my own record label, which I had to set up, called Our Time Records.

When did you decide to set up shop?
We put out the Man Like Me album and a few records, then I signed RackNRuin [now Gorgon City] and started developing a roster. I sold the rights to Man Like Me and used that money to set up Black Butter Records.

Since then – it’s five years old – we’ve done 80 releases. Three releases in, we signed Rudimental. Five releases in we had Gorgon City. Alongside the record company, we grew the management company.

Because of my history with Man Like Me – not being able to get them signed – the label ended up becoming a business and a brand, as we were then able to sign more acts to management. Stack House Music Management existed before Black Butter.

Stack House ended up essentially using Black Butter as leverage to release music and get it out, so I was running two companies that complimented each other. Two years in, Rudimental made Feel the Love and sold 2 million copies worldwide.

I took on the role of just being their manager; from there it’s been a bit of a blur. I did my first label deal aged 27, with Polydor. That was three years ago. After Feel the Love went to number one, everyone wanted to work with us.

Rudimental, Glastonbury 2014
Rudimental get the crowd going at Glastonbury

How’s it all looking now?
We signed Will Heard and Dusky as part of a two year deal with Polydor. And in the last year, whilst we’ve been managing Rudimental, they’ve sold 5m singles and albums worldwide. Gorgon City have sold about 1m worldwide.

We’ve also started a publishing company and have 14 acts signed to us, including Jess Glynn, Everything Everything, Wiley, James Newman (who wrote Waiting All Night with Rudimental and had a number one single with Calvin Harris.)

The big deal I did last year was with Sony for Black Butter, which meant we had our own fully-funded centralised label – a £7m back deal. We’re about to merge with a company called Cobalt.

There are four directors sitting across the three companies: BB publishing, BB records and Stack House. Then there are different investments – ticketing companies, events, festivals.

We put on 25 events this year, stages at festivals. Next year we’re aiming to double that with worldwide tours in the US, Asia. We did a festival this summer called Wild Life, in Brighton City Airport, and sold 70,000 tickets in four days. We’re doing it again next year.

Management-wise, we’ve had Lily Allen, Friars, Sub Focus and more.

Henry Village, on school life

Now going back a bit, how did you find school?
School was difficult for me. I wasn’t interested in the things they wanted to teach me, I wanted to be having fun so I was getting into trouble from the age of 12, when I started secondary school.

If I could go back, I wouldn’t have been as naughty. I would have tried to get more out of my classes – tried to work harder at the things I did care about. And committed more time to inside school than out.

I mean, I was banned from school for three months – I had to sit in the head teacher’s office every day. I was on report for three or four years. But I managed to scrape an A and four Cs in my GCSEs so that I could get into college and then go on to university to study film and media.

During my degree, I realised that when you’re passionate about something, you need to go out and do it, not study it. You need hands-on experience. So that’s when I started putting on my nights.

Who encouraged you to work for yourself?
My dad has always been very supportive of me being entrepreneurial, as he’s self-employed. I have always really looked up to him and the way he does things – he had a bookshop, buying rare books and selling them, also buying and selling art. He loaned me some money when I was younger, which I paid back.

I worked on a building site two/three days a week just before my first signing – so I was 24/25 – but since then I’ve worked for myself. If the job was right and company right and allowed me to be creative and have flexibility then I’d still work for someone else now.

Was there a moment when you thought: I’ve made it?
It’s a very volatile business, so I’m never resting on my laurels, it’s not an option, but the fact I know what it feels like to not have money, I think it keeps the hunger alive. Winning a Brit was that moment. And I won entrepreneur of the year, which was cool, at the MMF awards.

What’s the dream, career-wise?
It’s being around really good new music and trying to keep happy with it all and remember the feeling of excitement. The feeling of signing a new band, a hit song, hearing a new demo, putting on a show and lots of people turning up – as long as that buzz is alive, I want that to continue.

In terms of goals, my next step is to make a move to America; to live in America for work.

How does running your own business affect your home life – relationships, family, friendships?
Being really busy and having lots of responsibility takes a toll on your family and friends and sometimes even your health. The key is to keep up a rhythm and make sure there’s a balance for the various aspects. I’m yet to master this.

Having a stable girlfriend for the last five years has allowed me to do better because there’s an off button before I get through the door at home. It’s all about the art of time management – make sure you keep those three things ok and you’ll end up being better at your job.

If you could go back and set up from scratch, what would you do differently?
Loads of things. But as soon as you start regretting things, it’s a bad way to carry on. I’m trying to enjoy the fact that I’m getting paid to do something that is fun. As long as no one dies it’s a good day. Keep it all in perspective, right?

Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
It’s about not being afraid to take risks and put yourself out there. People in this business are all blagging it and if you can learn on the job quickly and make sure you’re always part of the furniture and that you offer something different to the next guy, you’re on the right tracks.

The main thing is that you’ve got to make sure you leave just enough of a mark so that people remember you and want to invite you back. Taking work is never going to be bad – even if at the end you learn that you don’t want the job, you’ve narrowed your choices.