Music maestro hit top note

Nathan Clark at Brudenell Social Club
Nathan Clark at Brudenell Social Club
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A new music industry award lists Leeds’s Nathan Clark among the most influential in the business. Neil Hudson finds out why.

For someone who has just been named one of the most influential people in the music industry, The Brudenell Social Club’s Nathan Clark is incredibly modest.

The Kaiser Chiefs

The Kaiser Chiefs

Rather than blithely accepting the plaudits which go with his recent Indie50 listing, he prefers to heap glory on others – mainly his colleagues, family, friends and other cohorts. The Indie50 was launched earlier this year in a bid to bring more recognition to the unsung heros of the independent live music industry – the people who book music artists to play local gigs and in so doing nurture emerging talent but also provide a platform for established names to reach new audiences. It’s The Brit Awards for those behind the scenes: the technicians, ticket sellers, club promoters and managers.

For Nathan, 36, and his team, it brings long overdue recognition to what is one of the city’s oldest and most successful independent music venues. Part of the reason the Leeds club in Hyde Park won the listing, however, is down to the hard work they’ve had to put in over the years to adapt to a rapidly changing market.

“The best thing about getting the award is that it reflects on all the hard work which has been done by a lot of other people. It’s pleasing to see us as a venue being recognised,” says Nathan, who grew up and went to university in Leeds, studying sport, health and leisure management, later going on to become a professional footballer and a coach working in Portland, America.

He said of the Indie50: “I think it’s a good idea. It’s OK to have The Brit Awards but there was no platform for the people behind the scenes, the music writers, club promoters, ticket agents. If you took all of those people away, the music industry would fall apart.”

So, how has he made a success of The Brudenell?

“We try to make it as attractive to customers and performers as we can. We have acts who play here regularly but they’re also customers, they’ll come in here for a drink.”

One such is Johnny Marr from The Smiths, while chart toppers Franz Ferdinand have been back to the club more than once.

Nathan explains the appeal of the club, which was founded in 1913: “When someone plays here, they don’t just leave, they stay to talk to people afterward, that’s really useful for them in terms of meeting people. It’s something they value. Also, if a band wants a certain thing to happen, or a certain visual or something else, we’re happy to provide that. I’m very open to working with people to get them the right thing.

“A lot of hard work has gone into this place over the years and it’s been around a long time. When this area of the city started changing, we were one of the few places who changed with it. We adapted, we had to.

“There’s a big student population here and there’s always customers come here who went to uni here and they come back but we have a very diverse customer base. In many ways, we’re part of the way of life. It really doesn’t matter what kind of people come in here, whether they’ve got a beard and come in wearing ripped jeans or whether they come in in a suit. We welcome everyone and I like to think they all feel at home here.

“It’s more about us doing the right thing. It’s about working with other people too. So, we’re in regular touch with other clubs around the area, so in a way we work together. There’s no point in us booking a major act for the same night as another club, because then we’re working against each other. It’s more like a big family, rather than being out to capture trade from someone else.”

The Indie50 may help shine a light on the unsung heroes running local clubs and in so doing bring them wider recognition.

Dave Newton, co-founder of WeGotTickets, the company behind the Indie50 awards, said: “We work with thousands of venues and promoters, we’ve seen time and again, the effect certain individuals have on a local scene. Indie50 is about celebrating those people and giving them some recognition on a national level.”

One of the things the Brudenell prides itself on its adapting to the needs of its customers. For example, it has fully embraced social media, providing a constantly updated schedule of bands and what time they will appear on a certain night, all of which means people can plan their evening much better.

“We’ve adapted, so we’re good at social media, we’re great at telling customers when shows are on… what time an act is one and when it’s likely to finish, so if they need to book a taxi home they can do. It’s something we’ve been doing for ten years now.

“It’s the little things that don’t cost a lot of money that make the difference. The personal touch. Nowadays, it’s those things that people have come to expect. It’s something you have to keep adapting to if you want to stay ahead.”

Nathan’s father, Malcolm, who died in 2005 aged 58 and mother Patricia, 65, ran the club before him.

“My parents were part of the change as well. They were open to it and they helped create a club with one of the best atmospheres around. Artists came to play here but they came back as customers. The Brudenell became a benchmark.

“At the end of the day, it’s about creating a great experience for people, whether they’re performers or customers.

“When they go away, we want them to have a happy memory of being here. You can’t buy happy memories.”