For Matt Cheshire, interaction with the stars is something of a daily routine. As director and founder of The Needs Group, he runs a VIP concierge service and spends half his time at 45,000 feet, flying around the world to provide an exclusive service to some of the biggest names within the industry.
Late 2014 marked the tenth anniversary of his company’s incorporation, which has gone from strength to strength and has recently reported record turnover nearing £3 million. Dav Williams was fortunate enough to catch up with Matt to learn about his entrepreneurial attitude and the importance of networking within an ever changing industry, discovering some interesting requests for artist riders along the way...
Matt began his plunge into the world of exclusivity by undertaking some invaluable work experience whilst studying at Leeds College of Music, for award winning events management company Logistik, where he helped to run the Leeds University graduation ball at Lotherton Hall. Working at the event gave Matt an initial taste of the industry alongside the opportunity to establish lucrative contact with some of the A-list celebrities and tour managers.
Matt Cheshire: It’s all about networking, showing that familiar face. I was driving around in muddy fields on a golf cart but I can tell you when it’s chucking it down with rain and someone who is high profile doesn’t want to get wet, they become your best friend.
After spending a portion of his early career within broadcasting for companies such as ITV alongside work at major festivals, Matt spotted a few gaps in the market and was able to set up a bespoke tour management company of his own - ‘Artist Needs’ which quickly grew into something much bigger. The company now operates under the name The Needs Group and incorporates four very different strands to the organisation: Artist Needs, Aviation Needs, VIP Needs and Furniture Needs. Matt explains his success is down to his little black book and people’s inherent desire to be entertained.
MC: Recently, it has gone berserk, our business has expanded ten-fold and the reason is because people know me because of the industry links I have… Everyone is touring now; no one goes out to buy a CD anymore, the demographic has changed. Even when the economy was down and there was a recession, the shows were still booming because people will put it on a credit card, they still want to have fun.
A decline in the profitability of music sales ultimately led to a boom in the touring circuit and live performance as artists sought alternative income. Out of this industry change, the business managed to capitalise and expand resulting in creation of a second part of the group. Aviation Needs deals with private charter and aircraft for the world’s elite, getting them from A to B in relative luxury. The venture resulted following an interesting deal that was struck between Matt and an ex-premier league footballer.
MC: I knew he had a helicopter which took him and a colleague to training every day of the week but didn’t do anything else. It was perfect for putting music artists on so we both saw an opportunity and that’s how it began. I put numerous clients in there from Elton John to Guns N’ Roses. It was perfect for the industry as it meant you could do double shows, double festivals, you could get home quicker, you could put bands in there. Out of this both footballers and musicians came to me wanting a similar service, so I entered the world of private jets.
VIP Needs ultimately grew out of a desire to provide a similarly exclusive service to people who although were not necessarily a music artist, were wealthy enough to afford such a luxurious lifestyle. Furniture Needs came out of the festivals through awareness that it would be more cost effective to own furniture for festivals than rent them.
MC: [As a company] we’re on a four lane motorway, each day of the week I’m in a different lane but I get to oversee all of it. I’m still touring and it’s great to still see the artists on a one to one basis.
Whilst working within this world of providing a first class service to the world’s elite, Matt has had a huge variety of interesting artist rider requests including some which are more peculiar than the well documented blue M&M’s.
MC: I’ve been on tours where we’ve had to book two hotels as decoys, checked in under a variety of names, put artists under different names, had calls on divert to my room. From having certain animals tethered to the backs of stages to certain goldfish in certain tanks in certain rooms, we’ve seen it all! I’d like to think I would never be amazed with something that comes under my nose again but whether that’ll be the case I don’t know…
After a successful decade within the high-flying industry, Matt hopes to establish further networks within the U.S and Asia. However, he is aware of the constant unpredictability within the industry.
MC: We’ve had a great 10 years. However, there is a lot of change on the horizon, the big promoters are changing. There used to be a lot of independent festivals but now you’d be hard pressed not to find one that is ran by LiveNation or SFX but that’s business… It’s important to keep that radar on and adapt to what the radar is telling you. You have to be adaptable to the climate.
Matt has been successful as a result of his entrepreneurial attitude coupled with his awareness of changes within the industry. As 'The Needs Group', the company places an emphasis on employing staff who are flexible and suit the needs of the business through their adaptability. Recently, the group signed up to be part of the Living Wage Foundation with a firm belief that employees have a basic right to earn a decent wage. However, Matt ensures that employees are driven towards to success through an interesting salary scheme.
MC: If someone says to me I need £30,000 to live off, I will offer them £25,000 plus bonus… I know that they will work hard for it because there is potential for them to earn more than their targeted earnings; it’ll be more rewarding and keeps people both hungry and focussed.
More information about Matt's company can be found on The Needs Group website. To find out more about our Music Business degree programme, click here.
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