Come Play With Me: Meet the ex-investment banker helping promising Yorkshire musicians to build their careers

An award-winning Leeds non-profit organisation designed to help widen access to careers in music is looking for backers. Chris Burn reports.

Tony Ereira’s job in investment banking took him around the world – now he is helping promising musicians in Yorkshire move their own careers to the next level.

His award-winning organisation Come Play With Me supports artists from under-represented groups and marginalised communities in a variety of ways – from releasing their music to putting on workshops about promoting their work and making their finances work.

Come Play With Me is helping promising musicians to build their careers. Picture: Andrew BengeCome Play With Me is helping promising musicians to build their careers. Picture: Andrew Benge
Come Play With Me is helping promising musicians to build their careers. Picture: Andrew Benge
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The organisation is a non-profit community interest company that up to now has been largely funded by public sector grants.

But Ereira is hoping to bring more private sector backers on board to help give the organisation a more stable future, with Come Play With Me in the process of hiring a new partnerships and development manager.

“I want this to be self-sustaining,” he explains. “My main objective is to switch to a funding model where we are largely commercially funded.

“We also want to operate more nationally. Yorkshire is very much part of what we do but we are trying to operate more nationally and internationally.”

Tony Ereira is looking for private sector support to build the work of Come Play With Me. Picture: Andrew BengeTony Ereira is looking for private sector support to build the work of Come Play With Me. Picture: Andrew Benge
Tony Ereira is looking for private sector support to build the work of Come Play With Me. Picture: Andrew Benge
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He says their target audience for potential backers “is really anyone we are keen on understanding what we are doing”. “It is a chance to work with lots of young creatives, there are great opportunities and the chance to engage with some cool, exciting stuff.”

Ereira, who is also a co-owner of Clue Records, has had a circuitous journey into Yorkshire’s music industry and supporting those within it.

Originally from a working-class family in Essex, at 16 he managed to land a job doing junior clerical work at private bank Coutts. It led onto a job with Morgan Stanley and he worked his way up into roles that took him to work and live in places like Japan and Italy.

He ended up specialising in equity derivatives and during the late 1990s and early 2000s worked for the now notorious Lehman Brothers whose collapse in 2008 was at the centre of the global financial crisis.

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Ereira says his time there was a positive experience. “It was a really kind of go-getting entrepreneurial organisation. But I think as we all came to realise later there was some stuff going on that has been well-documented in the press.”

He went on to work for Bear Stearns, which was taken over by JP Morgan in early 2008. He stayed with JP Morgan as an executive director until 2012, initially splitting his time between London and Leeds where his partner and now husband Hendrik had got a job at the university.

When the pair adopted their first of two children, they decided to settle in Yorkshire and Ereira left JP Morgan. The change also allowed Ereira to turn his long-standing passion for music into a new career.

He co-launched a company called Hatch Records, which following a merger became Clue Records.

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“Very quickly I kept meeting lots of young folks who would be trying to start their music careers, get to their mid-20s and see their friends settling down and think they need to get a ‘real job’. No one is pretending that it is easy to make life work in music and the arts in general but I wanted to see what I could to help. That was the genesis of Come Play With Me.”

Come Play With Me started in November 2015, initially as a seven inch singles club that released new music, but it pivoted to focus on specifically supporting women, LGBTQ+ and gender minority artists.

“It is hard for anyone to make a career in the music industry but it became really obvious to me that you were in any way different, it was that much harder.”

To take just one example, a 2019 study of the music industry found that under 20 per cent of those signed to 219 record labels were female.

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Come Play With Me’s work is not just with performers – they have also been working with promoters and sound engineers, as well as delivering LGBTQ and trans inclusion training for major music companies, grassroots venues and non-industry organisations.

Ereira admits: “When we first started, women would say to us I’m not sure I want to be involved because I don’t want to be here just because of my gender. Then you would get men saying, ‘you are excluding me’. But there are many other opportunities out there and how the industry has responded has been brilliant.”

In November 2022, the organisation won a Diversity in the Workplace award at the Music Week Women In Music Awards – an honour previously held by industry giants like Warner and Universal.

He says he hopes the organisation can help create a more diverse industry while also giving artists a better chance of making a career.

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“A lot of people in the arts don’t like to talk about numbers and finance. For me, a lot of the young artists we work with are the most amazingly talented musicians but you do have to think about yourself as a business.”

"For us, success is a world where it is acceptable to be your authentic self.”

Love for Yorkshire after building family life here

Tony Ereira says he has grown to love Yorkshire since moving here for his partner’s work.

"I came from being an ignorant southerner who had travelled around the world but I didn’t really know anything about the rest of the country,” he says.

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"We totally fell in love with Leeds but we were trying to work out as a gay couple are we better off doing this in London or Leeds?

"I always remember we went along to the first training adoption programme from Leeds City Council and there were three or four same-sex couples.

"We also realised we would have a much better quality of life for the family up here.”

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