Hope Through Music & Friends: Sunny Stuart Winter

You may have already heard of Sunny Stuart Winter if you work in the music industry. He has been part of the Music & Entertainment Industry since 2005, starting out as concert promoter and worked his way up to hosting dates of National tours of established artists such as Bombay Bicycle Club, Wild Beasts, Ugly Duckling (USA) and many more.

We were able to ask him some questions for our Hope Through Music & Friends series and we can’t wait any longer for you to read his helpful advice and view of the music industry!

Hi Sunny, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Before we jump into the questions, how are you today?
You’re very welcome. I’m doing really well thank you! The sun is shining here in London and I’m listening to loads of new music that’s just come out (The Xcerts, Hop Along and The Wonder Years). Perfect!

You have quite a music career, starting in 2005 and have been nominated at the annual UK Blog Awards for “Best Independent Blog” in 2016. Would you mind telling us a little bit more about your profession in the music industry and how you started?
I feel very spoilt for the experiences I’ve had in the Music Industry but I’ve also worked exceptionally hard for them too. I started putting on gigs aged 16 in my tiny town, as there wasn’t much for us to do for fun. I promoted for 10 years, working my way up to bigger venues in the city (Norwich), hosting the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Wild Beasts, Ghostpoet & many more, as well as supporting local acts too.

I’ve tour managed great bands across ten countries, I worked in music publishing, radio and now as Neighbouring Rights Management Executive for Phoenix Music International Ltd in London which I am loving.

As for the blog, I started that when I was at Bucks New University studying a Music Management degree. It was a way to delve deeper into the subjects I was learning about. My blog (www.sunnystuartwinter.com) has become an opportunity to share knowledge with my readers as well as working with brands, bands and artists.

I know just how hard it is for people to get jobs in Music and for bands to break through, so my aim is to always do my part in given them all the help and guidance I can give.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start working in the music industry?
The business is inundated with people wanting to work in it so the best advice I can give is, if you want it bad enough, throw yourself at every opportunity of experience you can get. It’s no secret that the Music Industry is all about contacts, so the more people you meet, the more people you work with, the better chance you have of progressing.

Obviously money is an issue, affording internships and the like, but when I first started I would work full time outside of Music, then use my wage to fund putting on gigs. It was a risk that sometimes brought profit and often didn’t, but it was a valuable learning curve in how the live music industry operates, plus I got to meet and become friends with great musicians.

I was lucky enough to earn enough to supplement my music experience and I realise others might not have that luxury but if you know a local band who you like and think has potential, you should definitely offer to help. It’ll give you great experience, you’ll learn loads and you’ll have fun in the process. Don’t think that just because you don’t have much/any experience, you don’t have anything to offer because that couldn’t be more wrong. Fortune favours the brave.

You have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Management & Artist Development at Bucks New University in High Wycombe. Do you think a music management degree helps in stepping into the music industry?
For me, my time at Bucks was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I was 24, I knew I wanted to work full time in Music so I had two choices: 1. Move to London, intern and struggle financially but get working and progress, or 2. study near London, challenge myself, grow as a person and as a Music Industry professional, as well as having a plethora of intern opportunities on my doorstep while having a safety net (and student loan) to rely on.

My degree definitely helped me become a better-rounded person and professional. I was at a distinct advantage as I’d had a number of years experience and knew how the Industry worked but it really helped me put all the pieces together, it challenged me and it supercharged my passion and curiosity in an Industry I knew I was meant to work within.

It also advanced my interest in social media and its psychology. I think I’m a rare breed of student who loved every moment of their 10,000-word dissertation. Mine was on social media influence and whether social media likes and followers truly equal popularity. You can read it here: http://www.sunnystuartwinter.com/2015/10/do-social-media-likes-followers.html

The mission of our website is to connect people through the power of music. We believe that sharing a story to a song that helped someone might be able to help someone else too and therefore encourage people to keep going. Is there a specific song that is connected to something special in your life and would you mind sharing that story?

This might be a little mushy so forgive me. Probably anything from Polica’s ‘Give You The Ghost’ album (especially ‘Dark Star’). It came out in 2012, the same year I met my fiancée Erin. After I stumbled upon it, Erin and I listened to it religiously in our early days of dating so it became entrenched in our relationship. We saw them live on an early date, now we live together in London and are getting married in a couple years.

Do you have a favourite band or artist yourself and do you remember the first memory that is connected to music?
Music has always been ingrained in me and I owe most of that to my Dad who would listen to vinyl records all the time at home, especially weekend mornings, coming down and hearing anything from The Temptations to Joy Division, The Specials to The Smiths.

I remember spending tons of my teenage years in HMV or Virgin Megastore, browsing albums, mostly buying records purely off the artwork and hoping I would like it. There are so many albums I remember buying without knowing what they sounded like. ‘Boxer’ by The National, ‘Actions’ by My Awesome Compilation and loads more.

Death Cab For Cutie have been the most consistent band in my collection. When it was released, I bought ‘Transatlanticism’ purely off the artwork and they instantly became my favourite band. Ben Gibbard is a wonderful songwriter, probably my favourite of all time as I connect so intensely with his lyrics. Death Cab, along with The Postal Service (Ben Gibbard’s other project), have soundtracked so many moments and memories in my life and will always be so important to me.

There is an ongoing debate whether music has the ability to save a person’s life. Would you mind sharing your personal opinion on that?
I really believe it can. Music can definitely be a comfort to anyone. There are so many artists who I feel I know personally because I connect so intensely to their music, or their lyrics seem to be exactly what I’m thinking or feeling and in moments, they sing exactly what I need to hear.

That’s why I think music fans are more fanatical than most other artistic forms. They connect so deeply especially when you think of the importance of the song choice at a wedding, funeral or in intimate moments.

Besides music, do you think other artistic expressions share the same power as music?
I’m probably biased when it comes to this being so dedicated to music. I guess in the book world there are similarities. Outside of Music blogging, i’m an avid fiction writer / poet as well. I’ve had moments when reading where I really click with the words on the page, they describe the pains and pleasures of life in a way I can identify with, but still, music is something else, it’s so powerful, so overwhelming and comforting.

Are you a musician yourself?
I am, although I’m not currently in a band. A couple years ago I released solo music as ‘Mention Me’ and did a short German tour, which I loved. That all came about as, sadly, painfully, my friend (and ex-girlfriend) Jacqueline took her own life after struggling with mental health. I really needed something to help make sense of it all, to get out my pain, my grief and try to get across how I felt to help me cope.

I wrote a song called ‘Will I Ever Sleep?’ about Jacq (listen here: https://mentionmoi.bandcamp.com/track/will-i-ever-sleep). Before performing it on tour I always spoke to the crowd and talked about mental health, the importance of talking about your feelings, knowing you’re not alone, that your friends and family would do anything for you. People really connected to that and I’m so thankful that the stigma behind mental health is slowly going because it’s no different to physical health.

Before coming to an end, is there anything you’d like to say to people who are struggling at the moment?
You are not, and will never be, alone. You are loved, you have friends and family who care for you and never be afraid to talk about your feelings. I for one am always open to talking to anyone if you need to vent, need support or someone to listen.

I’ve struggled, as everyone struggles. Life can be hard and confusing and unfair and testing but it can also be incredible and hopeful, exhilarating and wonderful.

As well as the Music Industry video content I produce (Subscribe here: www.youtube.com/sunnystuartwinter), I’m also creating mental health videos in the hope it will show how common mental health issues are, how we’re not alone, why we feel the way we feel and how this modern life, especially social media, is having a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Sure, we’re not going to abandon social media, but limiting your use of it can really help.

I want to be your ally. I want to create content that truly helps you in your life, whether that’s getting on (in the Music Industry) or getting by (in life).

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
It’s been my pleasure!

Now, please go and follow Sunny on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube!

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