The Life Of… A Label Boss

By Sofia Ilyas


Interview with Sofia Ilyas, Director of Brand & Partnerships of Nura and founder of Float Records.

Can you detail your career journey so far?

I’ve had quite the journey so far, starting by living in a temple for four years. I then had some small jobs before taking the role of managing a luxury sex toy company. It was a really fun role and gave me a lot of commercial and marketing experience. Five years in I discovered Nils Frahm and it was love at first sight! Musically that is. I followed him and the label Erased Tapes to Berlin and so my career began in music. It was a very special time, there were some incredible artists all living there at the time, I felt lucky to be the person that had the opportunity to do their PR. Before I knew it, I was managing the label and for quite a while it was a two person team, the founder and I. I had over four incredible years being part of the label and Nils’s career, and it then felt like a good time to do my own thing.

How did you go about setting up your own record label and PR company ‘Float’?

After Nils had hit so big I was really up for a challenge and establishing my creative vision in something I owned. I set-up Float and in the first year, some incredible projects came my way; Moodymann for Carhartt and a vinyl campaign for the restaurant Dishoom. A real high point was working with Jeff Mills, and hosting Piano Day at the Union Chapel where I combined grime and piano on the line-up. I then decided to launch the record label arm of Float. I always wanted one half of the company to be the consulting side bringing in funds and the other side where I can invest the funds in creative projects. My first signing was composer and drummer Andrea Belfi, who had been releasing records for over 10 years. I released his album and EP, after which we received an email saying Thom Yorke would like to invite him to be a special guest! It turned into a whole European and US tour. I’ve never felt so proud. That’s the thing with the online landscape, you
have a great opportunity to present yourself and you never know who’s watching. 

What advice would you give to students aiming to start their own business?

It’s really important to have a plan, even if it’s a simple list. Write down what goals you’d like to achieve each year and also put down a monthly income you’d like to aim for. Start at a reasonable amount and every few months increase the target. Have a clear vision of how you’d like to present your business. There are so many simple and low-cost programmes out there to make a website for example. Also, make sure you have a mentor or someone to go to if you have any questions. You don’t have to be alone on your journey.

Can you detail your move into technology?

I received a message one day saying I had to try some incredible headphones and consider working with the company. I was super curious and when I tried them I knew they were something special as they adapt to your hearing. When I listened to a Nils Frahm album through the headphones I could hear all of the intricate details, I knew I had to work with them in some way.

What inspired you to enter this area of the industry?

I didn’t have any experience in this industry but the first thing I thought of when the headphones were still in prototype stage was how great it would be to go to Record Labels and have them try them. Everyone who tried them had a huge reaction and smile on their face. I came up with the idea of filming the reactions which performed well and I never looked back. They have always been very receptive to my ideas and suggestions, four years on and many fun projects completed I’m now their Director of Brand & Partnerships.

Any tips for students or young musical entrepreneurs aiming to move into this area?

Look at the industry and think about what you’d like to bring to it. There’s so much scope to help but also create a service that’s needed. Also, consider your skill-set and how you can be most useful. Build slowly and organically, be kind and be genuinely curious of others, everyone deserves your attention. Whether that’s the person doing the light or sound at the show, the person behind the merch stand, a smile can go a long way. I made so many wonderful contacts through a simple hello and many have even become clients of mine.

You’ve made a successful career working across several areas of the music industry. What has been your experience working as a woman in music?

I can’t deny that I do face challenges as a woman but I also face challenges being Pakistani too. There are a lot of environments where it’s not common to find women in a work capacity. I’ve had many men, for example, ask me what it’s like to work for Float as they assumed it was owned by someone else. But I find it more of a nuisance rather than something in my way. If anything, it makes me want to work harder and go further.

Any advice to aspiring women working towards a career within the music business?

Be strong as I can’t deny it’s not tough and try not to get caught up in any negative comments by surrounding yourself with positive people. Be bold and be comfortable with who you are. Don’t let anyone make you feel you have to shout to be noticed. Your opinion matters, your voice matters. The music business is a great place to have a career in and we need more women involved and present. The more of us there are, the more it becomes the norm and younger women will be inspired to join too.

Sofia Ilyas

By Sofia Ilyas

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