Me & My Career

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Diane Dunkley: Founder and Managing Director of RM2 Music

She’s the all round music aficionado who made friends with Prince to kick-start her music career. Diane, who has worked with acts such as Leon Ware, Mint Condition and as well as Prince himself, lets Afua Adom in on the secrets to her success.

I always wanted to work in the music industry – I loved music growing up. When all my friends were out shopping for clothes on a Saturday afternoon I was in the record shops digging through the crates. Unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with a talent – I can’t sing and I can’t dance – I can do a little two step but that’s about it! I’m of Jamaican heritage and when I told my parents I wanted to get into the music industry they said that usual parent stuff – it’s not a stable career etc, and they said I should go to university and study something sensible. I loved chemistry and had a natural affinity for it but at the last minute when I was going to uni I changed my mind to do business, as I didn’t know any rich chemists! So I studied business, came to London and ended up in the corporate world but the love of music was always there. I was a huge Prince fan from the age of 13; I’ve got everything he’s ever released. Once a year I would jump on a plane to Minneapolis to visit his studios, with about 300 fans from around the world. He would open up his studio complex Paisley Park and during the day there would be seminars and workshops, you get to tour the studios, you get to meet the band. Then in the evenings there would be a show and he would invite Alicia Keys, or Common or Erykah Badu to come and play with him so every night you would get two full concerts and it really was one of the best weeks you could ever imagine. Over the years I got to know the band and one year I came back and one of his backing singers rung me and said I love working with Prince but I really want to do my solo stuff I want to do a show in the UK and asked if I would help them. So I rang one of my friends Kiera who would travel to Minneapolis with me too, asked her to help me and that’s how it all started. Initially we just did it as a little hobby, we thought it would be a one off thing but people just kept asking us to do more and more and then gradually we began to think, “oh maybe we could do something with this”. Kiera went into it full time and started a company called Kick It and I was still at home with the kids and working with TFL doing business development management. But when the opportunity for redundancy came I thought if I don’t do it now I just won’t do it so I took it. And I never looked back.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 16.54.32We started Kick It back in 2006 and in 2010 I decided to go out on my own. I felt like the business was going away from what I originally wanted to do which was going back to the grass roots and working hands on with the artists so I started RM2 which stands for Real Musicians Real Music. Basically I sit down and work with the artist, say where are you now and where do you want to go from here so technically there’s a management arm, a booking arm and a label who form various elements of that and we put together a package for the artists at different stages. We tailor packages for the artists depending on what they need so I might say to one you need management, but another just needs a booking agent so it’s very fluid and organic. My established artists are people like Leon Ware and Mint Condition, and I’ve just signed some newer artists; Debra Debs, Timotha Lanae and Jebonare and I’m also working with the British Collective which is a new collective of UK soul artists including Omar and Don-E which is going to a be a real celebration of UK soul.

At the start it was scary in terms of not having that security anymore – especially as I’ve got two kids but I wouldn’t change it. Obviously there were tough times when I thought should I go back and get a job but I’m not sure I could go back to a nine to five. At home I am so much more content and happier because I am doing what I love. I absolutely love watching the artist develop, just seeing them grow and seeing people switch on to them. However, it can be a bit of a hustle. Just to keep knocking on doors and to keep on top of it all the time is a bit tiring. You just have to keep on top of it all the time, there’ll be times you’ll think we’re almost there, we’ve almost got this deal and then at the last minute it collapses which can be a bit disheartening. The worst part about what I do is the rejection. When you’re a manager of an artist you have to believe in them 110% and there are times where you will be the only one who does. You have to always just keep going. There can be a lot of work involved and you really have to believe in your artist to do that. You really have to have a thick skin and have a passion for this business. Sometimes I can have a bad day or an artist will upset me and then I’ll play something and realise okay this is why I do it and it pulls you back in again.

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