This week’s small business star started out working in a small London studio and now rubs shoulders with some of the world’s most popular music artists in Hollywood. Vikram Gudi, founder and owner of Elephant Music, started his relationship with the industry as a music publisher and after a string of successes decided build on his experiences to make a go of it alone.
Vikram explains how he’s developed Elephant Music from working on small independent projects to now providing music and video to the likes of Adidas and Netflix. Focussing on the film trailer market, Elephant Music place music on film and also provided tracks to accompany official music scores.
He might be living the LA lifestyle, but Vikram constantly looks back at the journey that took him to Hollywood – serious networking, learning from mistakes, finding positivity in hard times and keeping grounded.
1. The people I met in 2011 changed me – I quit my job that October and registered Elephant
It’s funny because I had no real reason to start Elephant Music. I was working in what I considered then to be my dream job. I was a sync manager for Imagem Music Publishing, working with the catalogues of Steve Reich, Daft Punk, MIA etc. My job was to place the music of the company on film, TV and advertising, and I was quite good at it.
But everything changed in the summer of 2011. I DJ’d and performed at Glastonbury and visited LA. The two experiences and the people I met would completely change the way I approached work. I quit my job in October 2011, and registered my company the next day.
2. We need to click with the people we work with
We are extremely picky about the people we work with. Whether that be artists and composers that we sign, or clients that we work with. If we don’t click in terms of personality and vision we tend keep our distance. However, If we make a connection with someone, we make ourselves available 24/7 no matter how big or small the job.
We provide a full service to our clients and have no fixed rate-cards, so can adopt to suit any budget. We also have people working in LA which means we can meet deadlines that seem impossible thanks to the time difference.
3. There’s doom and gloom surrounding the music industry but we remain very positive
The music industry in general is in decline, however we are lucky that our area of the industry has seen consistent growth. There is a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the industry but we remain very positive. For us, budgets may have dropped but the media / usage has increased massively.
Five years ago usage fees for online advertising were minimal, and now they are substantial. But business is doing well and we’ve worked with some big names: Saatchi & Saatchi, JWT, BBH, Grey, Leo Burnett, The Weinstein Company, Head & Shoulders, Samsung, Adidas, Vice, AT&T, Axe and Netflix.
4. I love seeing artists grow because of the opportunity we managed to provide
My very first big job [for ASDA/Saatchi&Saatchi] was a big deal to me because it made me realise I could actually do this as a full time job. I worked on If a Tree Falls which was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary in 2012. But my favourite jobs are when I manage to place my friends’ music, or seeing artists grow because of the opportunity we managed to provide.
5. Outsourcing my accounting has been a revelation for me
My biggest challenge is trying to understand accounting and tax. I have a book-keeper and an accountant now that make things easier. I’ve also shifted all my paperwork to an online platform called Quickbooks.
I realised that my brain is not wired for accounting and I was wasting way too much time getting confused and getting things wrong. Out-sourcing has been a revelation for me
6. Get out in the world and meet as many people as possible
Never give up – there will be times when you feel like you’ve made the worst decision of your life and you have no money. Try channelling that energy into doing something productive, get out in the world and meet as many people as possible when things are quiet and jobs and opportunities will come to you.
Also, always trust your instincts and surround yourself with positive people who have a similar vision. Take advice but also make the decisions yourself, and you will learn to deal with mistakes and learn the hard way, which is the best way.
Most of the good ideas I have normally stem from an interesting conversation I’ve had with a friend, normally completely non-related. Have faith and try and be the best business and not necessarily the biggest.
Find out more about Vikram and Elephant Music by visiting: www.elephantmusic.net
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