In 2010, Diane Dunkley formed RM2 Music, and agency that celebrates the best of British by supporting home-grown talent from the UK music scene. With a strong focus on working in complete partnerships with the artists, RM2 has been recognised for the importance of giving artists the opportunity to create.
Hi Diane, can you tell us what you’ve been up to this week?
This week has been pretty full on, in fact this whole month has. I am in the middle of a European tour with Leon Ware, my second tour this month, the previous one being with Mint Condition. After his first date in Paris Leon played two sold out dates at Ronnie Scotts and tomorrow he flies out to Amsterdam. A lot of my time has been making sure Leon is where he is supposed to be, as well as the shows he is doing a lot of interviews in preparation for his new album release in May. I also liaise a lot with the band making sure they know where they are supposed to be, i.e. rehearsals, sound checks, shows and airports. As well as tour dates Leon and another of my acts, Four Femmes on the Thames (pictured), performed for The Variety Club at their fundraiser held at The Savoy, where they raised over £141,000 on the night.
I’m also working in partnership with Lloyd Bradley an author who released the critically acclaimed book Sounds Like London last year and we are planning a live event taking place on Monday.
I also signed a new artist Debra Debs who is currently number 1 in the UK Soul charts so I’m really excited to be working with her.
What’s it like to own your own music agency?
I love it! I get to work with amazing talent, some of whom I grew up listening to and others I’m proud to see grow and develop. It has always been a dream of mine to work in the music industry and as I’ve not been blessed with a talent, this is the next best thing.
What is the philosophy behind the RM2 brand?
RM2 stands for Real Musicians Real Music. We are all about nurturing artists so they have longevity. It’s about bringing real music back having full live shows reminding people of the artistry behind music. It is not about what you can knock out on a Mac in half an hour. We give artists the space to create while we deal with the business aspect.
What do you look for in an artist?
Dedication, commitment, tenacity and a thick skin to deal with the rejections. If I believe in an artist I will do all I can to help them. I need to know the artist is willing to put in as much time and effort towards their goals as I am.
How did you initially get into the music industry?
My journey started in 2005 when a chance conversation with an ex-backing singer of the artist Prince asked me if I could arrange for him to play a show in the UK. Along with a friend I agreed and hired out The Jazz Cafe and we put on the show. As a result we were asked to put on more shows or source artists for corporate events. The company KIKIT was formed and a well timed organisational reshuffle at London Underground meant I was in the position to take voluntary redundancy and follow my dream of working in music and be instrumental in building KIKIT to the point where one of its main clients ended up being Prince. However KIKIT was drifting away from the love and passion that drove me which was the music and working closely with the musicians.
In May 2010 I made the life-changing decision to leave KIKIT and set up RM2 Music. I am extremely proud that RM2 Music has grown strictly by word of mouth and recommendation with industry leaders now coming to me and seeking my services. When you have artists of the calibre I work with recommend you it’s extremely humbling.
From where did you gain the confidence to take such a chance?
To come across the opportunity to do what you have always wanted and dreamed of doesn’t come around very often so it is not one you can let slip by. I knew if I didn’t take the chance I would always regret it.
Would you say you believed in fate?
I believe if you put your mind to something you can achieve it, it might not be how you planned it, but you will get there. I’m also a big believer in listening to your gut. That has always been right for me and when I’ve gone against it I’ve regretted it.
Considering you started the business during the recession, how did you ensure its survival in the first three years?
Pure grit and determination! Holding onto to my dreams and ambitions and pushing through the tough times.
Who were your first clients and how did you get them to put their trust in you and the agency?
On the very same day I formed RM2 Music I got a phone call from one of my idols growing up, Carl McIntosh. Carl was in Loose Ends who were the first UK soul group to make in big in the US and paved the way for the likes of Soul II Soul. He wanted to enquire if I’d be interested in managing him. Needless to say I was totally bowled over. We had spoken only a few times before and he liked my outlook and work ethic. When word got out that I had left KIKIT both Leon Ware and Mint Condition expressed an interest in continuing working with me and I’m pleased to say almost four years on they are still with me.
I’ve always been very open and honest and I’m always prepared to go the extra mile for my artists. The service I provide is very hands on and tailored. All I have is my reputation so I have to make sure I live up to it.
Out of the extensive list of talented artists you’ve met so far, who has been your favourite?
Oh wow outside of RM2 artists of course (smiles)… Being an avid Prince fan since the age of 13, meeting him was pretty special. One woman who stands out for me is Annie Lennox, one of the most humble and most beautiful person inside and out I have ever met. She left a huge mark on me.
From the UK music scene today, who would you most like to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea with?
I was going to say George Michael but does he count as an artist of today? If he doesn’t count then Tinie Tempah, his interviews on Graham Norton make me laugh so it would be a fun cup of tea (smiles).
Can you name drop any new artists we should listen out for this year?
Timotha Lanae, Debra Debs, Kyra Simone, The British Collective, Four Femmes on the Thames … is that too RM2 Music biased? (winks)
So have you always loved music?
Yes in a word. My earliest memories involve music. My grandmother used to say I would dance to the sound of frying fish! Growing up when my friends were clothes shopping on a Saturday afternoon, I’d be in a record shop.
So what sort of music gets you ready for a work day?
That can be anything. I have wide and varied taste in music so it very much depends on my mood. It could be from new music from one of my artists, Luther Vandross, Blondie, David Bowie, Rare Groove, Lovers Rock to The Jam. I grew up in the eighties where there was exposure to all kinds of music which is missing today. If I can’t decide I just put my iPod on shuffle.
Personally, what has been a particularly iconic moment in UK music history for yourself?
For me it was Live Aid. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 14 years old and it was my dad’s birthday. I watched it from beginning to end and taped bits from the radio broadcast which I still have. It just demonstrated how powerful music is globally.
Where do you see the business being in five years time?
Within the RM2 brand, the introduction of RM2 Productions which will be a stable of producers, studios and remixers and the formation of RM2 Radio.
I want RM2 Music to be a premium booking agency and music management company. To be known for its roster of quality artists and as an industry model of good practice in booking and promoting shows. We will be helping artists build long-term careers helping them generate various income streams and breaking global territories.
We will also be championing British black music and we will be centre of a movement championing its history and legacy.
What must an artist do to ensure soul remains in the heart of their music?
Stay true to the art and do it for the art, don’t do it with the end goal of getting to number one or selling lots of units. If it’s good and honest work it will do that as a by-product.
Do you ever feel you’ve compromised any elements of family life to run your own business?
We haven’t had a family holiday for years so that is something we need to do soon. I’m getting better at taking time out, I now don’t work on Sundays and may only do a few hours on a Saturday.
What events are you looking forward to over this year?
I’m working with The British Collective which is made up of UK Soul greats: Omar, Leee John, Junior Giscombe, Noel McKoy and Don-e. The album is almost finished, which is sounding amazing. People are really getting exciting about the project and can’t wait for the album to drop and the live shows are going to be something special.
Finally, how do you manage your diary?
I like to do the school run as my children are still quite young so I work around that, or I book a day out where I’m in London and can do all my meetings for the week in one day. Also as my artists are international the time zones work for me, In the morning I could be dealing with Japan, UK in the afternoon and LA in the evening once the kids are in bed. I’ve just taken on an assistant so I’m learning how to delegate which is hard after doing it all myself for so long.
To find out more about RM2 and the artists they support, visit www.rm2music.co.uk.