Opening the door to great music with Mr London: Ray Jones

Written by | Events, Interviews, News

TalentBanq is an exciting and innovative organisation changing the musical landscape across the UK. As a live music agency, they represent a fantastic range of independent artists with over 150 artists currently on their roster from a diverse range of genres.Working with festivals and venues across the UK, including Black Deer, Cornbury. Isle of Wight, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Joe Allen, Hard Rock Café, The Ned, Green Note and many more, they also run their own Grassroots Music Venue in London, The Camden Chapel. TalentBanq events are always exciting and always, always have great music.

Ray Jones

Obviously, this work can only be achieved with a highly skilled and highly motivated team of people, with shared visions and a love of great music, but I must shine a light on the incredible CEO Ray Jones. Known as Mr London, Ray is a true advocate for artists and his passion, joy and dedication to providing exceptional music and great entertainment is astounding. His energy is highly contagious, and you cannot help but feel inspired, energised and excited about anything he is involved in. His love of music and his belief in the power music has to invigorate, galvanize and motivate is embedded into his very being.

Ray has been working in the entertainment industry for many years and brings a vast amount of experience to his work. I first became aware of Ray when he was introducing Migdalia Van Der Hoven at Ronnie’s Scott’s and within seconds, I knew that this was someone very special. A few months later, I attended a TalentBanq event, Crypt Lates at St Martin-in-the-Fields: Alex Webb presenting Freddie Benedict & Lulu Pierre and it was astounding. You can read my review of the event here, but I wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on Rays incredible work. He truly lives and breathes his work with such excitement and passion and the opportunities and support he gives artists and the life he breathes into venues across the UK, mustn’t be underestimated. His work is vital.

It all began with a meeting…

RJ: I used to work at Time Out  and I was running the ‘Time Out Live’ element, working on bringing the pages of Time Out to life for our readers. After about five years, I went to a meeting with two quite extraordinary men.  Firstly, Pablo Ettinger the Co-founder of the Cafe Nero, the coffee shop chain, who is still the head of music there now, and secondly Lord Mervyn Davies the ex-chairman of Standard Chartered  worldwide. In a pretty crazy half hour meeting we found out that we shared a massive passion for discovering new artists and for helping to foster the early stages of their careers, so we decided we would start a business to try to do exactly that – to nurture, discover and promote great unsigned independent new talents. TalentBanq was born and we started trading in January 2018 and have just been celebrating 5 years.

It is incredible to see what has been achieved in a relatively short amount of time which is a real testament to Ray and the team. It is not just about the significant number of events, or the huge artist roster but the outstanding quality of everything that is presented.

As with us all, the pandemic had an impact, but it is of no surprise that Ray was able to ensure great music still had a place which in turn led to some brilliant opportunities and exciting partnerships.

RJ: As Covid started to lift the one thing that was allowed was outdoor music and I was called one day by the chief executive of St Martin in the Fields to go and have a look at the courtyard behind the church. He said could we put on outdoor music here? At the time the Mayor of London was very keen to bring life back into London. It was an amusing meeting because Chris, a great man, (Chris Denton) showed us the courtyard and said look, we’d love to put live music on here and I said Chris what have you got? A marquee, backline etc? He looked at me and said we’ve got an idea, can you make it happen?

Anyone that knows Ray, will know that, yes, Ray can make anything happen. St Martins is a stunning church, built in 1726 full of rich history and situated in a prime London location, right beside Trafalgar Square. Unsurprisingly, these events have become a huge success.

RJ: The first year we just did four weeks and believe me, when people saw live music, they were shocked. It’s an outdoor stage, we put deck chairs all around, there’s a little cafe and you can just sit down and enjoy great music. We are now entering our third year of running the Summer Stage at St Martin’s!  We obviously promote what’s going on but we find that most of the audience are people that hear the music and go wow, that’s cool and we curate it so it’s very high quality. It’s professional rising artists, often playing original music, all different genres and it is very, very cool.

One day we had a series of refugees appearing on stage which was wonderful, another day we had the London Homeless choir which was incredible. We’ve had jazz, funk, soul…we have had literally the whole place jumping.  At the end of the first summer, the chief executive took us downstairs, under the church and showed us the beautiful crypt, a magnificent piece of architecture and he simply said could we get some of the talent that we had on during the summer to come down into the crypt? So instead of it being a spontaneous passer-by’s style event, we made every Wednesday night into a ticketed, ‘Crypt Lates at Saint Martin in the Fields’. We have had extraordinary nights going across various genres. We’ve had Rhythm and Blues with James Sayer, we have had Celtic music with a wild Irish harpist called Lisa Canny, we’ve had big band jazz, we’ve had more intimate jazz, straight forward pop, country and Americana. We are unashamedly eclectic. People know if they come, the music is going to be high quality and we have a heavy accent on fun. Quite often at the end of the evening the whole place is on its feet roaring for more and as the compère I’m the one that has to tell them they have go home!

As well as Ray’s extraordinary energy for providing great music to an audience, his care and consideration for the artists is really something wonderful.

RJ: Let’s talk about women for a minute. One of the things about TalentBanq and everywhere that we work, is that we have signed up to the Women’s Night Safety Charter. We run our own small venue in Camden, The Camden Chapel, and it’s a place where insanely high quality intimate experiences happen. We don’t have bar in the room so it’s pin drop silence. It’s all about the artist and the audience having a shared experience. We have a lot of girls there and make sure that the girls feel comfortable and safe, – A, with our staff and B with the audience – and then we do also make sure they get home safely. It’s important to us. We have a lot of young girls in our roster and some of them are literally first year university students, very, very talented but maybe a little bit innocent about London. I like to treat our artists and our audience members with the respect I would expect people to show my own family so that is the attitude we bring to it. If you’re coming to one of our gigs, we want you to feel welcome and safe.

Keeping live music going has become an increasing struggle for many, especially through and after the pandemic, with many venues and businesses having to close, which has been devastating. Ray and I explored how he has managed to not only keep going, but to do so successfully.

RJ: TalentBanq is a business and it is hard to be a business in the music industry especially in the grassroots area but we are a business that seeks to discover, nurture and promote the wonderful, quite often young unsigned artists and we try to get them opportunities to perform live, to build their audience and build their fanbase and we luckily have found the support of great places such as St. Martin in the Fields.

Firstly, myself and my two business partners, Pablo Ettinger and Lord Mervyn Davis put in personal capital – we had a business idea, and we were brave enough to put some of our own money into it. We then ran it for one year to make sure that we had a business formula that we thought was robust. Then we invited shareholders to come into the business and we found a group of individuals who were also very passionate about helping young artists – and this was quite a passion play for people. We invited investment, built a little bit of what I would call a war chest, and it gave us what we were hoping for, which was a three-year runway to get the business started. COVID was very challenging, but I am so pleased to tell you that every one of our shareholders told us to keep going, nobody tried to pull the plug. So, there is a whole commercial mix – our investment shareholder, clients that we have that pay us fees – it’s a bit of a fruit cocktail but through some sort of crazy alchemy it works!

It does so much more than work. Having been to several events now, I can honestly say, Ray really is incredible. Fantastic music, enthusiastic and engaging audiences, gorgeous venues, helpful and welcoming staff – this is how it should be. It was such an enormous pleasure to talk to Ray and you will find links below to follow and support the work of TalentBanq. I will leave the last words to Ray:

RJ: I love nothing more than at the end of the night, standing by the door and saying goodnight to people. Back when I was a boy, when I started my career as a concierge, I was the first person you saw and the last person you saw. Always love that hello and goodbye aspect. I’m a bit like that.

Upcoming events include:

August 30th: Sinatra & Friends with Gary Williams and his Band, Crypt Lates, St Martin- In-The-Field

Sept 7th: Sarah Walk & Hayfitz | Live at the Camden Chapel

Sept 14th: Unsigned & Gifted | Live at The Camden Chapel

Sept 16th: Denmark Street Big Band, Crypt Lates, St Martin-In-The-Field

Visit the TalentBanq website here

Photos provided by TalentBanq

Last modified: August 24, 2023