Working to live: how one PR exec built a business out of a love for music and travelling

Alex Jukes turned his passions of music and travel into a buisness

Creating a good work-life balance can be hard in the fast-paced world of communications but a good place to start is building a business entirely around the things that you love.

This is the case for Alex Jukes, music and travel enthusiast, who founded his agency eight years ago but has found himself travelling to 200 festivals in 50 countries in only the last five years.

As the end of the year looms and we start reflecting on our plans for 2018, The Drum decided to catch up with Jukes to find out what made him take the leap into setting up his own business and how people with a passion can build a career around it.

How did you start the business and how has it grown?

I started it about eight years ago after doing some freelancing for a few PR companies and realising I could do it better myself. I started to work for a few artists, and quickly found I had a knack for it. After about two years I realised that there was a huge gap in the events PR world in the UK, so we started working for a lot of clubs and smaller promoters, working on each of their shows and securing press nationally and locally.

Over the last four years we have really started to work on a global scale; travelling to farfetched places to attend events and festivals and meeting promoters and telling them about what we do. The relationships we have have built up with festival promoters around the world has been key to our success; we have an amazing team of people who live and die by music and love travelling. Over the last five years I have travelled to over 200 festivals in over 50 different countries. I’ve started documenting some of my life and the special places that we get to work on Instagram.

As a company, we now have a staff of 16 working across two departments, the music focused side and the events focused side. We are now at a stage where we work with such a wide global reach that at any one point I can have staff in Ibiza, New York or Bangkok — all working on completely unique events. The business has grown exponentially, and for a long time I’ve been very hands on, but now find myself delegating much more. As such it's been critical to build a team that is both extremely hard working and knowledgeable in their sector, as well as able to work harmoniously with each other, as we spend a lot of time on the road. At times it feels more like a dysfunctional family than employees. But if anything, I feel this helps us excel, and the fact that our team are highly thought of as well as friendly, approachable and fun is beneficial both with clients and the media we work with.

What does a typical job/project look like for you?

We predominantly work on electronic music festivals around the world, from Brazil to Vietnam to Bali to the Caribbean, plus several in Europe and the UK in the summer. We are carving out a niche within the industry for destination festivals.

Best looking stage in the world #traveltheworld #jamiejones #villalobos #musicfestival #caribbean #sxmfestival

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Who do you work for?

My clients range from techno festivals in Europe and boutique festivals in the Caribbean; to international artists such as Solomun and Matthias Tanzmann. We also run campaigns for music apps, music travel websites and work with over 40+ record labels promoting their music worldwide. Some of our international festival clients include SXM Festival, Awakenings, Kappa FuturFestival, Electric Zoo, Epizode, 808 Festival, and Brazil Music Conference. In the to UK we work with the likes of Mint Festival, Chapter Festival and Alfresco; and international venue clients include BCM Planet Dance in Mallorca, Privilege in Ibiza, and Warung, Laroc and D-Edge in Brazil.

How much has social media shaped this growth?

Massively. Ten years ago it would have been nigh on impossible for a festival around the world to attract a UK or European audience. Thanks to social media, you can connect with your audience directly; watch streams live on platforms like Be.AT-TV; see what it looks like on Instagram. When a festival is launched now, it’s launched globally within an instant, instead of taking forever to filter out to the masses.

Many people would love to turn passions like travel and music into a career, how did you do that?

My mum was an airline hostess so I think travelling was always in my blood. I just wanted to have a job or run a business where I could travel to some of the best places in the world and get paid for it. I would pick a festival or a country I wanted to travel to, and try to find promoters and set up meetings with them over Skype, or fly to the place to meet them. Having that direct relationship has been key. We have grown so quickly as the press coverage we get is second to none. We are able to translate the idea of a festival in a way which is engaging for media and their readership.

And because of both our reputation and longstanding media relations, press are open to hearing about a festival halfway up a mountain in Switzerland, a beach in the Caribbean or a 12th-century Andalusian monastery in Spain. We work very closely with the lifestyle and travel press as it’s not all about the festival - people want to know what goes on in the cities around it. What trips you can do, what places you can see, where to eat, where to go snorkelling, where to see wildlife. I have travelled to some amazing places and try to spend a few days either side of the festival to try and check out the area and we can then feed that back to the media.

What advice do you have for people wanting to do that?

Don’t listen to anyone that says you can’t do it. If you believe in something, go and do it and work your arse off, harder than anyone else, until you achieve it. Secondly, PR is all about relationships, so making friends all around the world and nurturing those relationships is key.

Has it always been trips to cool places or are there low points?

My job looks pretty glamorous on paper (or Instagram), but I'm forever on flights; always on email, calls, WhatsApp. It’s a lifestyle as much as a job. You don’t get to switch off often, but then it’s the passion and love for the industry and music which really drives you on. If you're not spending your spare time engaging with media, checking out new events and artists then you won’t be ahead of the curve. I also don't get to see my friends and even girlfriend that much, but when they come to festivals around the world with me, and see what I do and the places I get the travel to; the people I meet and the experience — the buzz I get seeing them smiling from ear to ear, getting a little insight into my job, is second to none.

What’s next for the business?

We are now opening up into different markets including Asia and South America where we're working on a couple of new festivals, and helping to push the underground festival scene in that region and letting the world know about them. We have also opened up a lifestyle department to work with more hotels, travel and technology projects.

The ability to create more global events from festival brands that were originally quite local has been echoed by UK DJ Rob Da Bank, who recently told The Drum of how Bestival accidentally became a global brand, also spurred on by social media.

Jukes also isn’t the only one setting a path for himself that combines a love of travel, creative duo Faris and Rosie have been living a nomadic life for a couple of years now and haven't made plans to stop travelling quite yet.

With the proliferation of technology making it easier to be remote, this trend is likely to continue.

Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte