My interview with George Kapardelis on his journey creating a record label from his bedroom in Athens to founding Modu Heart, a deep house and techno record label, brand and artistic management company in Manchester.
Summary below or jump straight to the interview
We discuss how George, through releasing his music in Athens, found a business and music collaboration opportunity in the UK.
George goes onto explain how he identified a bigger market for his record label Modu Heart outside of Greece due to a bigger fan base in the UK for house and techno related music.
The debt crisis in Greece may also have had an influence as it has seen a ‘brain drain’ of many talented young Greeks. George was 25 years old when he left Greece for the UK.
Over 350,000 Greeks, or 3% of the population, emigrated between 2010 and 2013, according to official data. Almost 270,000 of them were young people aged between 20 and 39
(Brain drain: Greece’s future is walking away, CNN Money: July 2015)
I go on to explore how George, who identifies himself as an introvert, built contacts, recruited business partners and a team of freelancers to expand the Modu Heart brand and music experience offering.
George shares some of his successes and failures and encourages readers not to be afraid to try things or to worry about what people may say.
After two years in Manchester, George is following his own advice with ambitious plans to link and build up the Modu Heart community and fan base between the cities of Athens and Manchester bringing together artists and talent from across the two cities.
Through pursuing his dream to venture, George is no longer waiting till he’s 50 years old to look back on his successes. For George, success is now waking up and being proud of what you did yesterday.
On to the interview – 8 min read – transcribed from our audio podcast
How did you get started with Modu Heart George?
Oh well that’s a long story 😀
It started back in Greece, 2012. That’s when I created my record label. It was called Modu Records, back then.
It was a way to present my music and also music from artists around the world.
How old were you when you set up your record label?
I was 23 years old when I started this.
What were you doing before, had you just finished University or College?
I had just finished University, a bachelors in Business Administration from The Technological Educational Institute of Athens.
I was already into music production, so I had a couple of releases and I was spending time in my studio …
Was the studio your bedroom? 😀
It was my bedroom 😀 with a midi controller and sound card, I didn’t even have speakers back then, just headphones.
What music were you producing?
I was influenced by deep house music, so I was trying to present deep house sounds. Maybe a bit of techno too, but mostly deep house.
Is that what you and your friends were into?
Yes it was the days of deep house.
I started the label so I can release my music and connect with other artists …
You say this so casually George, yeah I just started my own label 😀
😀 I tried to combine my educational background in business administration with my passion for music. You know the music business is crazy and I ran the label for a year and a half in Greece, but it wasn’t the right market for that kind of music.
When you say not the right market, what do you mean? Not a big enough market …
Yes, Greece is a small country; it’s a small market. There is a lot of traditional music and influences from Asia. The electronic music market is not that big.
So it was a niche market?
It is niche. There were a few artists and venues that do that kind of music but your options are either to work with them and get them involved or just try to create your own way, which is more difficult.
Were you making money at this time with your record label?
Not much, not much. I made some from music releases, events we were performing and DJing .
So this was your first time setting up a record label, there must have been lots of learning as your doing going on …
Yeah, yeah. I was having lots of first experiences. I had some achievements with my music for example I had some airplay on Ministry of Sound radio and I also won the runner up place in a remix contest for a big artist called Timo Maas.
You were releasing your music through your own label?
Yes, I was producing and releasing music under my real name George Kapardelis.
A bad decision 😀
It’s difficult to spell and say my surname Kapardelis 😀
I never knew my music would have an impact outside of Greece.
You found people outside of Athens and Greece were discovering your music?
Yes, I’ll send you a link of Gavyn Mytchel, a presenter of Ministry of Sound radio and you can hear him try to pronounce my name on the radio 😀
So I thought my label could work outside of Greece.
This exposure helped me to meet a couple of people through my achievements who were living in the UK. One of them was in Stoke on Trent and he invited me over to work together, artistically and business wise.
I was 25 and this opportunity came up and I said to myself I’m willing to sacrifice what I have here in Greece to explore the opportunity in the UK.
I accepted the invitation and the challenge to come here to the UK and improve as an artist with new influences.
Did you have any fears leaving your friends, your family back in Athens to come to another country or did you decide to just go with the flow?
I just thought, I have to try things now whilst I’m still young and I have the willingness to work hard to achieve my dreams.
I didn’t want to wake up as a 50 year old and say to myself I never tried, it’s too late then.
So you made the move over to Stoke on Trent
I moved over to Stoke on Trent and I saw it as an opportunity to set up the music label as a business properly.
Did you find your degree in Business Administration helpful putting into practice what you learned for Modu Heart?
Yes, that’s true but I’m not an academic. I think that even if you don’t have a degree you learn best by doing.
Sometimes the only way to learn is to throw yourself into the deepend and go do and try things …
And don’t worry about failure, it doesn’t matter.
Each failure is a learning opportunity
That’s how I see it.
I moved on from Stoke on Trent to Manchester where I was more business active with Modu Heart, playing live music and events, bringing in artists from abroad, mainly Germany.
How did you get artists from Germany, what was your connection with Germany?
Again you say it so casually, we got artists from Germany 😀
I say it casually because when you start something and you’re into it 24 hours a day, you just meet people, make new connections, you release music to other labels. So you meet people from other labels and other countries 😀
Your growing your networks and your contacts organically because your living and breathing music 24/7
Yes, you build your networks, and we created a database of contacts.
Were people approaching you as well?
Yes, yes, we had lots of remix requests from music artists actually.
Where was your music studio?
We initially had a space at Hello Work. We wanted to build a music studio that’s cosy for artists to pop in and create music with our machines.
I saw that releasing music was not enough for us, so I decided to expand the brand from Modu Records to Modu Heart.
I wanted to create a family, a bigger community so instead of just releasing music, I found a few people to work with, an engineer, couple of DJ’s, music producers here.
And we decided to offer music services and experiences, like mixing, mastering and artistic management. Handling the social media, demo and gig management for artists.
How did you go about recruiting the Modu Heart team and get them to buy into your vision. Your from Greece, come over to Manchester …
Having a bad accent, I know 😀
Your English is much better than my Greek 😀
How did you reach out to recruit your team?
Most of the team are freelancers we work with. We are a startup bootstrapping the business.
Before coming to Manchester I did a lot of research on artists and music producers based here and I identified two people who I really liked for their music and style and wanted to work with.
In my second event in Manchester, I was on the door and there was a guy who came up with a ticket for the event.
I asked for his name. He was drunk and gave me his artists name, Adam Element rather that his real name.
Nobody else understood who this guy was, but I had done my research and I said, did you say Adam Element. He said yeah. So I said you’re the guy who produced techno music and released music on this, this and this.
He said yes. Adam was one of the artists I identified in my research I wanted to work with and he came to my event. It was amazing. Since then we became friends and we work together and have a great working relationship.
He’s a top class music engineer taking care of mastering and mixing and he also coordinates our music releases now.
The other artist I wanted to work with was Mark Sweeney, a DJ from Scotland, I love his accent 😀 I met him through some other contacts I had. He’s one of the best DJ’s I’ve ever heard.
He gradually became part of the Modu Heart brand. Those two guys are my main two business partners. I’m so glad to have met them to be honest.
That’s inspiring to hear especially for those who might be looking to do something similar, how you went about identifying people you wanted to work with and brought them in as part of the Modu Heart team
I believe if your an extrovert and you like talking to people and making connections you will find people to work with easily here in the UK.
So your an extrovert?
NO I’m not, I’m not. That’s why I don’t speak with people on everything. I’m an introvert. I will meet just a few people BUT the right people 😀
You may miss some opportunities if your an introvert but you can build stronger bonds with fewer people.
It doesn’t matter if your an extrovert or introvert to do business. The best combination is to have a mix of both in your business partners.
How detailed were you in business planning and setting yourself goals to say we are going to achieve x, y, z in 3 months, 6 months, 12 months?
I used the business model canvas and created a detailed business plan. But the problem with the music industry is I found you can’t really plan that far ahead.
In general, to be honest I don’t believe in business plans. I believe in the business model canvas to help you identify your market, your customers, your revenue streams.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and successes you’ve had?
In terms of success, the most important achievement for me is I came to a country that I didn’t know the language well and in 2 years I managed to have clients …
Paying customers …
Yes, I convinced people to pay for a service I offer. That’s the biggest achievement for me.
There are failures and successes every day for example closing or not closing a deal, putting out a music release that’s not successful. This is part of industry though.
For people wanting to start their own business, you can do it too. Don’t be afraid of what people might say.
You mentioned to me earlier you’re looking to create connections between what you’ve built here in Manchester with Modu Heart and linking it back to the scene in Athens. Why is that?
I think businesses that will survive now are ones that can create some kind of community, having your fans and customers all around the world.
Remember when we had this conversation the other day about football teams. There are more fans of Manchester United in Asia than Europe, that’s a strong worldwide community and fan base.
So what I’m trying to do now is combine these two cities of Manchester and Athens and bring artists and talent together from the two cities to strengthen the Modu Heart brand.
By bringing fans together so they have their own interactions I can take a step back and let the community play an important role in exchanging ideas and influencing the style of the brand.
This way I can also get back into the studio and work on my new music and the influences I have now.
What’s the ultimate dream George?
I like to do business, so I’ll never say that the music business is enough for me. Right now for example I have an opportunity to get involved with a travel agency.
I like traveling and offering services to people that will make them happier, much like we do with Modu Heart recording experiences for example.
I love business in general and try to do it successfully.
How do you define success, what does it mean for you?
I used to believe success would be waking up as a 50 year old and saying I’ve done this, this, this and this.
Success for me now is waking up and being proud of what you did yesterday.
Thanks for sharing your Dream 2 Venture George.
You can connect with George at Modu Heart, on Twitter at @kapardelis and on LinkedIn.
Know someone who might be inspired by George’s journey?
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