The Unsigned Music Awards were founded in 2015 by Simon O’Kelly, Georgina Thomas and Ben Connor; three twenty-somethings with a shared love for music, and business. Here’s their UMA story.
After graduating with a degree in Music Business and Professional Musicianship in 2008, Simon spent the best part of his early twenties chasing the golden dream of building a successful career as a performing artist, signing with a major label and seeing the rest of his life out as a rockstar loved the world over - safe to say, this never happened. However, in all seriousness, despite his strong will, determination and years of hard work, the opportunity simply never presented itself. Simon explains:
“It was a common theme; watching some of my favourite bands split around me because they either lost belief, got ‘proper jobs’ or simply grew tired of trying; but loads of these bands were incredible and deserved to be heard - it seemed such a shame, and that bugged me. Inevitably, the same thing happened to us in the end”
The concept for the Unsigned Music Awards had waited patiently in the back of his mind ever since, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he and the two UMA co-founders, Georgina Thomas and Ben Connor met and decided that now was the perfect time to act on this vision.
Georgina had been a music manager for five years prior to the birth of the UMAs, managing multiple artists, hosting live music events throughout the country and building a solid base of industry contacts, all of which proved extremely useful when launching UMA.
Ben had been working in TV Production on shows such as The Voice, A League Of Their Own, The Choir and the BAFTAs. After picking up a video camera at the ripe ol’ age of ten, he fell in love with the endless creative possibilities and hasn’t looked back since. In 2014, he started his own online music chat show which will be relaunched now under UMA.
So, why the UMAs?
The music industry is changing. Along with the rest of the world, the UMA team began to notice a movement and a distinct attraction to unsigned and independent artists, especially in the marketing of influential high-street brands and at the foundation of many revolutionary tech-startups, yet it baffled them how the unsigned industry still seemed to lack any real infrastructure; there are genuinely talented unsigned artists, but no identifiable industry behind them.
The change begins with the UMAs. The major record industry boasts countless award shows crafted to recognise the achievements of well-known chart toppers and other big names throughout the year, but until today, nobody has tilted the spotlight fully towards the unsigned industry with a view to recognising the huge wealth of new music on the same scale, with the same glamour and the very same prestige.
So, with the BRITS and the GRAMMYs in mind, the UMAs were born, and the rest, as they say, is soon to make music history.