Why does proximity matter?

A month or two ago, Jim Thacker, acting editor of Computer Arts Magazine got in touch to ask if Music would take part in a series of agency interviews to feature online and in the printed magazine.

Music had just won ‘Best Agency Outside London’ in Computer Arts’ Brand Impact Awards – so as a publication they were particularly interested in the specific challenges of operating an agency out of Manchester and to explore the inside / outside the M25 ‘divide’.

My response to Jim’s first question was that we never think about ‘the divide’ until the question is posed by journalists. But then we’re not particularly fans of divides at all at Music – geographically, or in discipline. In fact, one of my favourite quotes of recent times is from Ben Terrett, Group Design Director at The Co-operative Group. When asked about digital marketing he replied, ‘There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing – most of which happens to be digital’. Anyway, I digress.

What Jim and the team did succeed in doing, was to get me thinking a bit… why does proximity in the creative industries matter?

For example, nobody ever asks what it’s like to run a football team out of Manchester, do they?

Some time around 1880, a vicar’s daughter by the name of Anna Connell knocked on the doors of every house in Ardwick, drumming up support for the formation of a football team. This team would be called St Mark’s FC, then Gorton Association FC – and in time would become Manchester City FC. Fast forward 136 years and MCFC have assembled a world class squad (at the time of writing, some may beg to differ), won the league 6 times (twice in the last three years), raised aloft a few other meaningful pieces of silverware, and have just signed Pep Guardiola as manager. Proximity, you’d have to say, doesn’t seem to be causing them too many issues.

Nine years ago, Music was brought to life in the lounge of an apartment in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Two offices, a fire, a couple of chats with Peter Saville in a bath tub, some smart hires, and we’re now a twenty something strong branding and communication agency working with clients across the world, across more ‘disciplines’ than you can shake a fist at – and we’ve got our hands on our fair share of wood, perspex and metal in the form of national and international awards. We compete for business with some of the best agencies in the UK, and beyond. In an age where where technology means we FaceTime clients two minutes down the road from us just as regularly as we Skype a client in New York or Melbourne, we’d like to think our proximity isn’t holding us back too much either.

The parallel between ourselves and Manchester City may be a little strong, but our success as a business, first and foremost, is in finding and retaining the best talent, and that team just happens to be assembled in Manchester. The same goes for MCFC, an agency in London, or indeed, any agency in the world. At Music, that’s why we firmly believe our team is our product, and that’s why we focus our efforts on retaining and recruiting talent, rather than developing some fancy proprietary TM’d branding process (but that’s for another blog post). 

How that team goes about what it does – recruiting, winning new business, getting noticed, nailing a brief – isn’t any different to anyone else, anywhere else in the world. At Music we’re united by a desire to make game changing work that cuts through the clutter and moves people. That’s what motivates us, and makes Music what it is. And that’s what we’ll continue to do whether we’ve got offices in Manchester, New York, New Delhi, Naples or Norwich.

Adam – ‘Get noticed nationally’

Adam – ‘Brand more creatively’

Dan – ‘Craft a killer portfolio’

Lottie – ‘Make the most of an internship’

Music’s full interview is featured in Computer Arts issue 251, which is only available to print or digital subscribers. To get an overview of the issue and to subscribe, follow the link below: