The health of London’s live music scene is mainly a reflection of the calibre and variety of its artists but those who facilitate that experience deserve some credit too.
Tom Baker is the mastermind behind Eat Your Own Ears, a company he founded in 2001 that has become a major force in promoting live music.
After starting the company in 2001, he help the likes of Fourtet, Hot Chip and Florence and the Machine in their early years, and in 2007 found Field Day, the annual music festival that sees 30,000 people trek to Victoria Park each year.
His secret, it seems, is to take your chances when they come. After graduating in arts management, he moved to London to work at the Scala in Kings Cross. It was one day while flyering that fortune struck.
“A friend who worked at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane asked me if I’d thought about doing my own night,” he explains. “He offered me the venue and said he’d help if I came up with some ideas.”
The next step involved putting his university research into action. Tom’s dissertation had been on independent versus major record labels, which gave him the idea to approach labels like Domino, Rough Trade and Warp with the idea of putting on nights where a new artist would be presented alongside the label’s more established artists.
And this link to artists and labels remains, even though the company is much bigger.
“It’s about the music we like and are passionate about and about working with artists we’ve worked with over time and finding and developing new ones,” he says.
Such an attitude would stand any potential festival organiser in good stead, but the roots of Field Day are somewhat more idealistic.
“It was inspired by an event called Return of the Rural,” he says. “Me, my brother and partner are all from Somerset, and at the time of Foot and Mouth we thought we’d put together an event that celebrates the countryside. We did it in the 291 Gallery in Hackney and it was a mixture of dance music, live bands and a ceilidh band.”
Anyone who’s experienced Field Day will recognise the village fête in an urban setting vibe. The festival has grown year-on-year, and in 2014 will become a two-day event.
“The Saturday will be the full onslaught with multiple stages and a mixture of dance music and live bands, new bands and world music, and the Sunday will be a scaled down version that’s accessible for people who have to go to work the next day,” he says.
It promises to be a special year, with Pixies to headline the first ever Field Day Sunday and melancholic electronica masters Meteronomy confirmed as Saturday’s main act.
Baker adds: “We’ve taken our time to take it to a second day until we felt comfortable we could do it and until we were sure we’d found the right act to launch it with.”