Inside Virgin Money's push into live music

Inside Virgin Money's push into live music

Virgin Money's Helen Page has told Music Week the brand is returning to its roots with its renewed focus on music in the UK. 

Last week, the bank announced the launch of its Emerging Stars programme to identify, support and promote the next generation of UK music talent. It has also teamed with North East promoter SSD Concerts on Newcastle's new outdoor, socially distanced venue and announced partnerships with AEG's The O2 in London and The SSE Hydro in Glasgow.

Virgin Money Unity Arena will launch at Newcastle Racecourse, Gosforth Park, on Friday, August 14 and Saturday, August 15, and will host performances by DJ Craig Charles, Two Door Cinema Club, Supergrass, Tom Grennan, The Libertines and Maxïmo Park, along with comedians Jason Manford and Bill Bailey.

"We've been looking for innovation around bringing music back to people," said Page, Virgin Money's group brand and marketing director. "You can't beat a live event so the fact that they were able to set this up relatively quickly has been brilliant - and it's right next door to where our big head office is in Newcastle, so it's great for us.

"Music would be the heart of our DNA, it is where Virgin came from and we felt, 'Let's get back to our roots' a bit. We talk to our customers about what great experiences would mean from us - and everybody has a relationship with music."

I feel like we're actually going to make a real change for very talented people, which is exciting

Toby Leighton-Pope, AEG Presents

Singer/songwriter Aaron Taylor, rock band Mosa Wild and indie-pop artist Dylan are the first three acts to be chosen for its Emerging Stars initiative. Each artist will receive a £10,000 development fund, with five more acts to follow over the next 12 months. 

The artists were selected by an industry panel including AEG Presents co-CEO Toby Leighton-Pope.

"[Virgin Money] are people who care about music and are going to put real money into helping artists at the very start of their career," Leighton-Pope told Music Week. "These artists will take time to develop - they're not going to be playing stadiums next year - but we want to be there at the very start with Virgin, grow together and find and help acts. We can't ask more from a brand than that and so it's been a great process.

"This isn't like a Battle Of The Bands [competition] at Islington Academy on Tuesday night, the artists are really good, so I feel like we're actually going to make a real change for very talented people, which is exciting."

Originally planned to kick-off with a live showcase, the programme will instead launch digitally with the help of official ambassador, television presenter and Radio DJ Laura Whitmore.

"We had a relationship with the Hydro in Scotland already, so we talked to the guys at The O2 about how we could have something at either end of the country to provide opportunities for people to enjoy music," said Page. "Then it was about how took that into the grassroots arena, which is what the Emerging Stars programme was born out of.

"We want to go on this journey with these artists. I don't think it's going to end in 12 months' time, we want to stick with them and see them through to a level of success. And then, for us, it's about giving the consumers of our brands a very different experience from us. We don't want a banking relationship, we want people to think of us as a consumer brand that they can trust and have fun with."

Virgin Money will host an event to showcase the eight Emerging Stars live at Indigo At The O2 at the end of the first year of the Emerging Stars programme, which will run through to June 2021.

"It's hard to break an artist," added Leighton-Pope. "It all comes down to songs and music and we are hoping that we've picked three acts that have the right songs and music that people are going to connect with. All we can do is help amplify it.

"The type of customer Virgin Money attracts is a cooler, younger, smarter, diverse person than a stuffy old bank, so we're hoping our bringing new music to their customer base is a great way to start. We've got all of the O2 assets and our Presents assets to bring to this and do what we can, but it does come down to the talent. The bursary that Virgin is going to give to these artists will be a big help. It's all marginal gains, and that is what helps artists break."

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