Photography courtesy of Yamisees & Gary Brown
If you’ve been raving in Manchester then you’ll likely know about the events HIT & RUN put on, and you’ll probably have heard of the founder Rich Reason. As someone who came to the city in 2004 with the aim of DJing on the circuit for a year, Rich Reason has since spent 17 years building a name for himself and his brand.
Originating in Oxford, HIT & RUN have become one of the most respected bass music promoters in Manchester with a reputation for booking eccentric line-ups featuring everything from Cookie Monsta and James Blake, to the first ever LSB B2B Calibre set and a special resurrection of Calibre’s link up with Shadow Demon Coalition.
A promoter invested in the community, they’ve always been motivated to push the Manchester scene and the artists inside it – alongside breaking fresh faces into the scene for the first time. But like most things in this upside down world, the pandemic has taken its toll on HIT & RUN, who have drastically had to rethink their operations.
This has culminated into the creation of their latest venture – HIT & RUN TV – the online subscription streaming platform bringing you the innovation of HIT & RUN on a weekly basis. Free from the hinderance of copyright and ads, it’s a hub of creativity supporting the DJs, MCs and VJs hit hard by the pandemic.
But it’s only a cog in the grander machine that has been driving Manchester’s bass music scene forward over the years. Ahead of HIT & RUN’s belated 14th birthday celebration on April 16 with Spinscott, Jon 1st, Ternion Sound, KHABs x P1 CAPS x K.I.M.E, Metrodome, Truthos Mufasa, T-Man, Sparkz and the man himself, we caught up with the LEVELZ member to talk about an events brand that has become a cultural institution.
HIT & RUN TV is a wicked concept!
I’m glad you think so! People in the industry have earnt barely anything over the past year, so we wanted to think of a creative way to bring value back to their art. I remember speaking to Sam Binga when he came up for Chimpo’s Birthday Bash and he told me he hadn’t done any streaming recently because he felt it devalued the thousands of hours he’d spent in the studio. So I think a paid platform like HIT & RUN TV was needed.
The music industry always comes up with creative solutions to help those in need.
When there’s a crisis the music industry is always first to react. In Manchester, we’ve got a long tradition of community and charity work. Artists here leap at any opportunity to help out, even though they’re not rich themselves. With this pandemic, the artists have become the ones in need of a bit of help, especially the more underground ones that are our wheelhouse, so HIT & RUN wanted to do something for them.
That’s very noble. Tell us a bit more about how HIT & RUN TV came to be.
My friends at Neuron Pro Audio approached me about creating something as they had moved towards a A/V streaming business due to restrictions. We were going to launch via Twitch last October and did a tester session with Reform Radio, but at that moment Twitch sent an email out to creators discouraging everyone from playing unlicensed music. That broadcast had vast chunks of the sets muted.
We started thinking about how we could circumvent the issues associated with streaming on major platforms, whilst also providing a fairer pay-out to artists. Putting our heads together, we got a PRS license and began streaming from our website. Shouts to Ben Weiss for being instrumental in all of this.
Copyright and ads are a big grievance for anyone trying to stream.
Exactly. The whole point of a mix is that it flows. Even when you look at a lot of the Boiler Room mixes they’ll have an ad after 7-8 minutes, which ruins it. Then there’s the whole muting issue on social media. People get round it by not playing certain tracks, but it’s not practical. Twitch and Facebook compression is also terrible. Twitch sound quality is like the kid at the back of the bus listening to Lethal Bizzle on a Nokia…
Very true! So how does the HIT & RUN TV model work?
The £3 subscription pays the teams involved, whereas all donations during the sets go to the DJs, MCs and VJs – as we also recognise the techies have been badly impacted by the pandemic. We wanted to create a platform creating opportunities for people in the industry to make money again, alongside keeping people match fit. When we started going back at it again in January I realised how much I’d missed putting together line-ups.
The lack of events over the past year must have been pretty crushing for you as a promoter.
It has been hard because I’ve pretty much run an event every week for 14 years. Despite doing this for so long, the year before the pandemic was the first one where I paid myself an actual wage… I remember asking my missus if she was okay with me living this life as we were about to become parents. She told me I should keep pushing to make it work. Things were better than ever. I was putting on some of the best shows of my life. The last big show we did was our 13th birthday celebration featuring LSB B2B Calibre for the first time ever. It was the most expensive line-up I’ve ever done, and we only managed to breakeven… The promoting side of things is so fickle. You have two months where you make loads, then two months where you lose loads. It’s basically gambling for music lovers…
Running your first Warehouse Project at the end of 2019 must have been a special moment too.
The WHP event was big. Afterwards, they asked me if I wanted to do a big WHP in December 2020 with a 10,000 cap. So for all of that to be dragged away at a time I had finally become financially stable, and was becoming a dad, was hard to take. I’ve happily lived off Baked Beans before, but when you’ve got a family to look after it’s not possible!
Well hopefully HIT & RUN TV allows you to eat a bit better…
Hopefully. We’re currently speaking to others promoters and are encouraging more to reach out, as we want to build a platform helping promoters get around streaming issues. HIT & RUN TV is a new challenge, so I’m still working out the best way to promote it to the world and shine a light on what is happening in Manchester and around the UK. Don’t get me wrong, the money we’ve made isn’t that much… But it’s a business model showing that DJs, MCs and VJs can get paid without being in a club. Hopefully we can keep increasing our views and provide another stream of income for Neuron, HIT & RUN and the artists who play, as well as being more ethical than the large social media companies unfairly profiting off of streaming.
I admire HIT & RUN’s focus on showcasing Manchester talent. The scene in the city has always struck me as a tight community.
Manchester is a really close-knit community. DRS, Trigga, Tonn Piper, IAMDDB – they’re all kids from around here. It’s a small world where we all have ups and down, but people stay the same. I even know the indie and cabaret promoters. You don’t get that in London. I remember Tonn Piper used to go to Jilly’s Rock World on a night out and he was like a celebrity in the rock scene whilst also being a D&B head!
Amazing! There’s clearly a real romanticism to Manchester’s scene.
There sure is. I moved to Manchester after uni in 2004 for what was supposed to be a year, and I’ve now been here 17 years… I came here in the hope of pursuing a career as a DJ.
So did you launch HIT & RUN as soon as you moved to the city?
It wasn’t actually until 2006 I started it. I used to play at this club called Po Na Na and they didn’t have a Monday night event, so the manager invited me to launch a D&B night. It took place every Monday for 7-8 years. Luckily, HIT & RUN was already established in Oxford, where I had been resident and ran it with my friends Riz and Craig for years, so there was a brand to base the night on. The club was two floors and only 350-400 cap. We started off on one floor and put the decks on the dancefloor, so even if there were only 80 people it felt packed. Quite quickly the night became something significant with touring artists stopping by. We had DJ Craze, A-Trak, Flosstradamus are Kid Sister all come through on a Monday night…
It’s funny because when I initially came to Manchester I was flyering for Sankeys and got quite lucky. They used to sack me for being late, but I was good at my job (i.e. chatting shit) so they kept getting me back. One day they said they needed a resident who could step in on multiple genre nights. They got me in and I remember one set where I was meant to play for half an hour before Andy C. He was late so I ended up playing for an hour and a half.
That must have been a huge opportunity.
It was my breakthrough. My friends were in the crowd looking at me like – don’t fuck this up… Thankfully, it went well. Tonn Piper was on the mic that night and I remember him looking at me thinking – this kid can DJ. Then when I started HIT & RUN, Tonn came along to our third event and loved it. He said he would come every Monday and I could pay him whatever I could afford. That was a huge moment because Tonn was the D&B MC in the city. Him being there helped us grow. It was the start of this community where people would rock up to the club, buy a drink and stand in the smoking area chatting.
A real community feel!
Definitely. HIT & RUN grew as a local talent event where we booked our friends across hip-hop and D&B. Keeping it close-knit has always been our ethos. One thing I say to young promoters is to start small and local, but make it something people want to go to, and to play it, so that when you book a headliner it’s like the cherry on top of the cake – rather than it being the whole cake. We’ve been going so long we book big headliners now, but I always try to keep it original.
My missus has said to me before “Why don’t you just book the acts who will sell the most tickets?”, but that’s not HIT & RUN. We like to be innovative. Probably the craziest example was when we booked Cookie Monsta and Borgore, and had a James Blake DJ set in the middle of them.
Haha, I promise you it happened! I don’t know what I was thinking. It was back in 2009 at a point when Ben UFO was still in the same room as Coki. Everyone was going through a dubstep phase. It was a weird one, but it actually worked well. I remember overhearing students talking as they left saying they had come for the harder stuff, but walked away as converts to the James Blake sound. This was when he was still a relatively undiscovered artist. That for me is what curating line-ups is about.
I like that you’ve taken risks over the years instead of chasing the popular choices.
I’m glad you think that. I get frustrated when promoters book artists from a certain genre just because it’s popular, but then when it’s not the flavour of the month they drop it. I think that’s terrible for the scene because it inflates prices. I’m a bit perverse because when D&B was surging before lockdown I wanted to book more dubstep. I don’t like following the crowd. I love innovation. That’s why I’ve championed the likes of Ivy Lab, as they’ve evolved, over the years. With my line-ups, I book it until I think it looks right, then I work out the maths later.
Events should be built around the line-up, not the potential profit.
I worry about the scene going stale for that reason, which is why I always try to bring something different. I was proud to book Calibre and Shadow Demon Coalition for our 12th birthday. It had only happened once before, but Calibre trusted us to bring it back. For various reasons, I’m pretty certain that that will never happen again. I like creating those special moments when people look at a flyer and think – I need to be there as I’m unlikely to see that again; Non-Fungible Moments, if you will. I worry there’s a lot of formulaic booking going on right now. Promoters have more responsibility than they realise as the whole culture was founded on forward-thinking.
For sure. Events are an important vehicle opening doors for audiences.
Definitely. I’ve always said HIT & RUN is a gateway night. For a lot of people it’s their first experience of an underground event. It’s like in the days of Hoya:Hoya where we booked Jonny Dub as a resident. People were like – who is this crazy DJ mixing folk into trap? Oh, he runs his own night, I should check that out too. I like that. I enjoy showing people new artists and experiences – especially in Manchester. People like Enei, Lenzman, Kahn and Commodo are artists I brought to Manchester first.
Wicked. So what is on the horizon for HIT & RUN?
We’ve got some big news coming soon… Aside from that, I think I’ll start doing 7-8 big shows a year instead of more smaller ones. I also want to integrate HIT & RUN TV so that it lives alongside our events. Hopefully it can become a hub for others to support the local community, post content and get paid. I’ve also got big plans for LEVELZ, which will be announced soon. In general, I want to keep bringing through new talent and doing things differently.
You’ll also be celebrating 14 years of Hit & Run tomorrow with a special stream!
Yes! For the birthday we’ve got some wicked HIT & RUN TV sets lined up. We’ve got 2 incredibly skilled acts headlining – Jon 1st coming from Leicester and Spinscott, the rapid-fingered, live-jungle maestro is doing a live set from the US, which is a first for us.
I’m also delighted that Ternion Sound are delivering a special set for us, having smashed it at Hidden when they visited the UK in 2019. As ever we have some local talent repped in the shape of KHABS with P1 CAPS and K.I.M.E. on the mic, as well as a back to back set from myself and Metrodome; all very ably hosted by three of our all-star resident MCs – T-MAN, SPARKZ & TRUTHOS MUFASA.
I know there are loads of streaming platforms out there people could use, but we are trying to create something valuable people want to pay for, as well as one which supports the artists, producers, and even some of those behind the scenes, properly.