Darryl Hurs: „There is never enough marketing”

Darryl is the Managing Director for Downtown Music in Canada heading the Canadian operations for Fuga, Songtrust, Adrev, Found.ee, CD Baby and Downtown Music Services. Previously, Darryl was the market manager for CD Baby in Canada for 3 years. As a speaker at Mastering The Music Business 2022 we talked about his passion for music, pandemic and the power to adapt, NFTs and many more.

an interview by Romanita Oprea

You already knew in the sixth grade that you wanted to get into the music business. How were you that sure at such a young age? 

Music was a big influence as it was all around. Every Saturday morning before cartoons there was the Bay City Rollers, The Partridge Family and others, same with after school tv, my grandfather played the piano and I would hear rag time and musicals, my sister listened to bands like Black Sabbath, The WHO, AC/DC and my dad would listen to country music – usually when driving. 

And, of course, there also was the radio. Music was all around and I knew I just wanted to be a part of it. A big record was Live at Budokan from Cheap Trick.  Everyone was playing it. 

You said in an interview that you felt in the last years the excitement was missing and the NFTs brought it back. Why was this happening, in your opinion?

Well, it’s been a while since we had something to be excited about in the music business. A lot of talk was doom and gloom and really negative, so it’s good to have something that people are excited about and inspired to try new business models out. Any time there is something new it’s a chance for growth. 

What is your perspective on NFTs? Are you working with them?

I just haven’t had time, but I am very interested and will jump in when the time is right.

How has the pandemic impacted you and how have you reinvented yourself?

Indeed it has. We lost almost everything and had to change everything we do and rebuild from the ground up – it has been quite the experience, but we are seeing returns in our efforts and in truth, we believe we are better than we were before COVID. We do everything online and we reach a wider more unique audience – for participants we have a higher level of the industry. We can’t complain, we are in a good place. 

You founded three new online conferences: Music Pro Summit, indie101, and SCREENxSCREEN. How did you choose the concepts and what are your goals for each of them?

We basically broke down the main conference into segments and by hosting different conferences with different focus points we can have higher level speakers and discussions. SCREENxSCREEN for example is about music + tech. We are able to have cutting edge tech talks with speakers participating from around the globe. We’ve run 2 editions and both we have had on trend topics with great results. 

How do you see them evolve after the pandemic?

We are staying online and we are building a reputation for delivering high quality content and we are seeing people coming back to each conference which tells us we are doing something right. Lol. What may happen is we will partner with other events to capitalize on diverse strengths and audiences. 

What do they offer differently than the competition?

A big factor that separates us from others is our high level of consistency and expertise in execution. Many events went online only because it was their only option but not because they wanted to. When we went online we wanted to – and we want to excel by providing top level sessions. By running 4 a year we have already ran 9 online conferences. Which has given us a lot of experience in a short period of time in knowing what works, what doesn’t, what do people want, and what do they get the most out of. I really feel we are world leaders in this space. So much so that other events have been coming to us asking us to run their online event. 

How do you see the challenges of the industry today, from the point of the events` organizer role?

Well, COVID is still here and there are now many other measures to put in place than before. Its time consuming, labor intensive, and there are often shortages in supplies and staffing. And there is still a chance it might get canceled for reasons related to COVID. I’m still seeing events being canceled.

What do you think are the key elements in negotiating sponsorship and partnership agreements in 2022?

You really have to know what you can offer a sponsor and does it meet their needs. It has to be the right fit and both parties need to benefit or it just doesn’t work. We take sponsorship very seriously and work with our sponsors to build an experience that meets their needs. We try to exceed their expectations. As a result, all of our sponsors have renewed each year. 

What has changed in the last 5 years, from this point?

This could be a whole story. Basically, almost everything for us – we are no longer in person events, but online, and it’s a whole new world.

What pieces of advice would you give artists that want to get sponsorships from brands?

Sponsors really want their brand to be exposed to as many people as possible – know your audience size, reach and engagement. Be realistic when approaching sponsors and work with them.

How was it to be a freelancer? How is the music freelancing market in Canada, in your opinion?

Freelancing has always been good – you basically can make any job you want as long as you are willing to put the effort in and pay your dues. Too many people get into freelancing thinking about the whole – make your own hours, work when you want aspect but realize that you have to work to get the jobs done and that can mean weekends, late nights, long days…. many people quit after a short period of time. 

You had so many roles at Live Nations. What were the most important moments for you and why?

A number of moments – most of the time everything was a rush job, but some highlights include being asked to build VIP Nation.com after doing the first 2 projects, then rebranding the whole company and probably one of the most stressful times was having to „design” the TicketMaster merger press release in Microsoft word which was due in 5 minutes. Funny thing, I looked at their current logo and it looks like it’s based on another design I did at the near end of my time working for LN. I have to say though it was a great experience and I learned a lot, especially in time management and multi-tasking juggling many jobs and deadlines at the same time. 

What are the steps that upcoming artists must take in 2022-2023 to find success?

Know your audience, and get to know the digital landscape and marketing!! There never is enough marketing!

How much of an artist`s success today is marketing & PR and how much talent?

Its huge – the whole world is online which means you can build a large audience online and marketing/ads can do a lot of the work for you. Get to know how to look at data and then how to use data to influence your decisions.

What do you look for in a musician or a band?

Professionalism and quality. I’m pretty picky and expect a lot at a high level – but today you have to with the amount of music being released every day. Competition is higher than ever before.

You said that AI will make it possible for anything to happen musically in the future. Can you develop more on that?

Well, AI is going to make it possible really for anything you can think of, can be a reality. Would you like a new song from ELVIS or the Beatles? Would you like to see them perform the new song? One day it will be possible. 

More info

Darryl Hurs has a 30+ year history in the music business including launching and running one of Canada’s largest music showcase festivals and conference, Indie Week. In the past two years due to COVID, he has founded 3 new online conferences: Music Pro Summit, indie101 and SCREENxSCREEN and has moved INDIE WEEK online, also as a virtual conference.
Darryl is the Managing Director for Downtown Music in Canada heading the Canadian operations for Fuga, Songtrust, Adrev, Found.ee, CD Baby and Downtown Music Services. Previously, Darryl was the market manager for CD Baby in Canada for 3 years.
Darryl has held many positions over his career including venue booker (The Rivoli, The B-Side, Gypsy Co-Op), talent buyer/event management (client: MLSE), artist management, tour manager, retail buyer (HMV), instructor (Harris Institute, Trebas, Humber), digital graphics and design including branding/marketing for Live Nation as a freelancer (projects included a corporate rebrand and logo design, launching VIPNATION.com, work for U2, Nickelback, Madonna, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Dave Matthews).