You wouldn’t necessarily expect a former head chorister at Guildford Cathedral and a violist brought up as a classical violinist learning the Colourstrings method, both attending English classical music conservatoires, to be running a world music night at The Troubadour. That is exactly what we are doing. But this is really an unintentional message of what we are all about. At Buzz Music Group and Buzz Classical (soon to be rebranded as Hennessey-Brown Music) diversity and a non -judgemental love of music is at our very core. That is our starting point. We want musicians to thrive and then clients and punters can only be satisfied.
The first five events at the the iconic club on Old Brompton Road reflect our intention to find work for and promote groups that play music well. That is really the only qualification that interests us in choosing the best possible musicians for your event or venue.
Ragga flies in from Iceland with an ebullient, quirky and imaginative brilliance that is only matched by the world class, multi-instrumentalist who joins her; producer and creator of the brilliant Speech Project, Gerry Diver.
Then on January 26th the innovative Mela Guitar Quartet who stretch the boundaries of classical guitar writing and are true masters of their trade.
We will have guest artists in February including a wonderful Peruvian group who play with great spirit called Kausary:
I think I truly fell in love with the spontaneous nature of music from Latin and South America in my six years living in Mexico. I used to love eating Salbutes and Panuchos in the market on Thursday nights in Merida, Yucatan and listening to Trova and the Orquesta Typica. People used to wear all white and dance but, even better, people would just stop what they were doing or put their Jamaica, or Horchata down (common drinks in Yucatan) and dance. That is the kind of vibe we want to create in The Troubadour.
I see no harm in having friends I know and trust on the books of the agency, and Amanda Cook was always charming and easy to spend time with at Royal College of Music. In the twenty years since we both graduated Amanda has made a glittering career for herself and was described as “The Guitar Queen with a silken touch” by The Independent.
We will also have a visit from a very fine and relatively undiscovered singer songwriter called Ivy Mae. She lives around the corner and works in Kensington, and is hoping to turn things around and really make a go of her singing. Promoting young and new talent is not a box tick for us at Buzz Music Group. We know it’s tough and we want to help people make their way in music, help them take risks. I feel that Cressida and I are taking a risk setting up The Hive Sessions and starting this agency, and it is exciting.
So I am the co-owner of Buzz Music Group. How can you be honest and congruent and a music agent at the same time? How can you convince musicians that you care about them and want them to do well and you really are working a 25 hour week each to find the musicians on your books work and grow your business? Do they care? And how can you say “they” when you are a musician yourself? How can you empathise with certain elements of society that see musicians as a glorified Spotify list?
These are some of the challenging questions that Cressida and I face along with having two children each. Cressida with her charming and equally emotionally intelligent husband Juan Carlos, and me in a single dad / shared custody situation. That’s right, agents are human beings and, in our case, we care a lot more about the music than the % cut, although we believe in valuing our efforts and, eventually monetising them!
We haven’t gone for all out risk with our start-up business and we continue to earn money as performers and teachers. Performing feels, to me, like a wonderful refreshing break from the grind of being an agent at times. But we are organised, count on over 45 groups or soloists who never let clients down or arrive late and are experts in their field. Perhaps we don’t even need to call ourselves agents. Maybe we are just a bloke called Jonny who plays the cello and a woman called Cressida who plays the viola who have branched out into finding the most creative ways of finding work for colleagues and friends that they admire.
This doesn’t feel like the place for marketing speak or name dropping. That’s on the website! We know our musicians are good enough for residencies in London and performances at Glastonbury and WOMAD and so on. They have already done it in some cases. What we provide is a central point for multi genre music booking with a few select groups in varying categories. The contrast between The Queen’s Six and Ragga Garage is both stark and wonderful. Both groups are made up of fascinating and highly talented people so why pigeon hole them and choose which ones to represent? Maybe our USP is that we don’t really care very much about USPs and see life as a fluid experience. I might meet a hotel owner tomorrow who wants a didgeridoo player at his wedding. Cressida and I are always only one musician friend away from someone who can find any musician we need. They may not all be on the books, but we will be using life experience and real people to find what you need.
Should I keep quiet from now on about being bipolar and being a mental health campaigner for fear that event planners, conductors and venue owners won’t trust our agency or book our musicians? I have a definite answer to that one. No bloody way! Just look at our website and the work our musicians have done and are doing and, if you are really so prejudiced that you wouldn’t give Buzz Music Group or Hennessey-Brown Music group an equal playing field you can always deal with Cressida! She doesn’t have a diagnosis! The energy and drive provided by under control bipolar is often a positive and I have learnt when to stop and know how to keep well.
We believe in no genre of music being superior or inferior to any other. People have preferences and interesting subjective opinions but the entertainment industry should have space for everything from an electric violin with DJ through jazz bands, world music and folk to soloists with symphony orchestras and producers. There is no pecking order to us in the arts. We are a single point of contact for a select hand-picked group of talented and likeable human beings who appreciate a bit of support finding extra work at home and abroad.
The best part of the new career for me is that I am serving music. I am able to promote musicians with talent, a sense of fun and, in a lot of cases, people who I have cared about and worked with for over two decades. At Buzz Music Group and Hennessey-Brown Music we don’t Google “guitar recitals, concertos Austria”, we send a text to someone like Cecilio Perera who came all the way from Austria to visit me in hospital when I was unwell with bipolar. This personal touch and the fact that he happens to be a relatively undiscovered virtuoso of the guitar far too humble to ever describe himself of such makes our agency, the story behind us, and the way we intend to conduct ourselves in future far more congruent, honest and convincing than possibly some competitors might be!
Jonny Hennessey-Brown is co-director of Buzz Music Group and Hennessey-Brown Music (launching next month).