Cornet practice for a seven-year boy in 1980s Glasgow was torture. No matter how loudly I played through endless scales and ‘Arban Method’ studies, there was no drowning out of the sounds of football being played in the back lane. And who cares about ‘A Tune A Day’ when there’s a new adventure with Star Wars figures waiting to be explored?
But the moment I heard the dark, haunting swell of the opening movement of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, everything changed. I was hooked. That was 1991 and the late Bryden Thomson was conducting our regional schools’ orchestra. I was a fifteen year old trumpet student – hopelessly out-of-my-depth – falling deeply into orchestral music. To this day, I need only hear a single bar from that symphony and everything changes – mood, atmosphere… I am taken to another place.
My final year dissertation at university (Music, York, 1994) was titled ‘The Selling of Classical Music’, an exploration of the brave new world of Classic FM, Gorecki, Nigel Kennedy and The Three Tenors. Still harbouring dreams of becoming a professional symphonic trumpet player, I had little idea in those moments of time that within a few years I would be someone who sold classical music – with a passion!
The RSNO Years
After graduating from the University of York I worked in London as an apprentice music typesetter and then events administrator of a small Christian arts organisation.
I was appointed Marketing Manager for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in the early 2000s – something of a dream job for a young man who was one of the orchestra’s biggest fans! In 2003 I set-up an early email marketing database (one of the first in the arts industry?) and SMS text-alert system that would send out 160-character special ticket offers… years before Twitter came on the scene!
2005 was an eventful year for Scottish Opera and I joined them at perhaps their lowest ebb, helping the company transition through a tumultous time of near closure. The Opera’s Chorus was made redundant, our box office was ‘sold off’ and full-scale operas were cancelled for a season… so we promoted the Opera Orchestra on a ‘Showcase’ tour of small venues and produced a magazine for audiences that celebrated the life of an opera company away from ‘Grand Opera’ – education programmes, touring work and ‘behind the scenes’.
After a year at the opera I returned to the RSNO, as Director of Marketing & Communications, from 2006-2010. This was an exciting time of renaissance for Scotland’s national symphony orchestra. We radically overhauled pricing, subscriptions and audience engagement, with dramatic effects… ‘record’ subscription numbers and ticket yields and, within a few years, dramatic increases in audience numbers in each of the Orchestra’s four main venues. It got to the point where the Herald music critic would regularly discuss marketing effects in his column.
I was privileged to be part of the team who developed new concert ideas and packages, including:
- Symphonies at Six
- Naked Classics
- Out and About (local touring)
… and much, much more.
I loved that job! Only a call from God would have persuaded me to leave…
Since 2010 I have served as Co-Director of an international charity founded by my wife, Emma Stark, called the International Network of Prophetic Centres. Under this umbrella we lead two Christian ministries – Glasgow Prophetic Centre and Kingdom Company Church. As well as managing the Centre and our team of full-time staff and volunteers (ten full-time, five+ part-time and over 50 volunteers), I am responsibile for marketing, media, finances and communications (… and fixing broken computers, changing lightbulbs, setting up the sound system, putting out chairs….). We train hundreds in prophecy and Spiritual gifts; our regular conferences attract 400+ attendees and our daily emails reach around 5,000 people every day. Each year our teams minister to around 1,000 people in personal appointments, who come from near and far to hear what is on God’s heart for them.
Freelance Web Design & Marketing
In addition to my ‘day job’ I love to keep busy with web, design and marketing projects, especially in the arts and non-profit sector…
Since leaving the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2010 I have been privileged to work with its former Music Director, Stephane Deneve, on designing, building, developing and maintaining his online presence. As an internationally renowned conductor, who regularly works with Europe, Asia and the USA’s greatest orchestras, his website and Facebook page are popular destinations for his fans, his peers, orchestral management and classical music lovers.
I’ve also worked on small web design projects for, amongst others, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Biggart & Co. (retail property consultants).
Arts Marketing Consultancy work has included projects for Hear Glasgow! (Glasgow Life) and Missions, Models, Money (on behalf of the National Companies of Scotland).