Six Questions With... Ryan Keary of Switch Southampton

Six Questions With... Ryan Keary of Switch Southampton

Welcome to the latest edition of Six Questions With..., a regular short and sharp interview with a live music figure. Email if you would like to take part or recommend someone for inclusion. 

This week's Q&A is with Ryan Keary (pictured, left), founder and CEO of Switch Southampton and Docklands Festival, which takes place in Hoglands Park, Southampton on September 28 with acts such as Pete Tong, Andy C, Patrick Topping and Sub Focus.

What was your first job in music? 

I originally founded and expanded Carnage UK first as a promoter at a young age of 19 and then progressed to a director role which involved running events across 12 cities in the South of UK when I was 25. I saw real potential with Carnage UK and began running my own club events alongside WH parties. Between the ages of 18 and 25, I was responsible for booking artists for the dance tent at the Isle Of Wight Festival which led to the start of Soundclash, my very first self-funded festival. Although this was a key milestone in my music career, buying Switch shortly after was prominent as I saw its potential. A few years on, Switch is thriving with international acts and has provided me with the tools to create something really special, Docklands.

How long have you been in your current role?

I founded and managed my own business, Dirty Box Productions, since the age of 18 which effectively means 14 years! That expands across numerous student club brands such WH parties, Soundclash, Switch and now Docklands. I also book prominent artists for various festivals, clubs and venues across the South coast.  

What is your favourite thing about working in the live music industry?

Watching people leave all their stresses and inhibitions at the front door and immerse themselves in a carefree environment, partying with their friends with a smile on their face. Making people happy is one rewarding factor of my job, it makes it all worthwhile. Music really does bring people together and when you run artist led shows whereby everyone is inside an arena for the same common interest, the atmospheres are unrivalled to that of any club show - the build-up before an artist performs their set and the transition to when they drop a favoured song is wicked to witness, it’s like all expectations are exceeded every time, definitely second to none.

What is the one thing you would like to change about the business?

Exclusivities. Completely understand it but it stems the flow of new promoters and shows - and with that emerging talent. It is so hard to infiltrate the music industry nowadays, club shows and local promoters are so important to people reaching the big stages and headline shows - sometimes agents and managers pull DJs out the club market too quickly and/or raise the artist fee to a point whereby if you don’t own the venue and take the bar, it becomes impossible to make money as a promoter. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Driving and building Switch has been bloody hard work but we are now at a point where it is established and respected by customers, artists and agents which is beyond rewarding. However, in the interim period of liaising with agents and artists and continually reinvesting profits into the production and marketing whilst trusting your gut is a scary but really exciting feeling which keeps you motivated to do better. Recently, we launched an Elrow Halloween festival which received a huge response, filling 10,000 capacity. Festivals really are the full package, a day of fun, music, food, rides etc, it was a lot of fun to run the show and watch the whole show come to life.

What's the best gig you’ve ever been to? 

Most memorable was an AMP at Koko years ago where I just walked away thinking, I need to commit more to this and run shows like that. The atmosphere was insane and the crowds mixed so nicely, along with amazing production. Festival wise - Boomtown in UK is really extraordinary because their attention to detail is insane and their courage to put on ridiculous productions. Sonus in Croatia is also a very special place to party. Most recently, Printworks is so slick and well run, and that perfect day time model of having lunch with mates, partying together then heading back to your own bed by 1am is well up my street nowadays. It’s hard to pick one to be honest - but those early AMP shows always make me smile and reminisce 

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