As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild in the Post COVID19 Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Moss, Managing Director of Worldwide FM, an award winning music platform and radio station with a global audience. Worldwide FM represents music, culture and people from marginalized societies and oppressed communities. In April 2021 Worldwide FM launched Make Art Work, a global initiative which will support musicians and creatives who have been affected by COVID. The aim of the network is to build a new foundation for the creative industry as well as provide commercial opportunities and guidance. #MakeArtWork is a platform for collaboration between exciting artists and innovative brands that want to make a difference.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Over a decade before joining Worldwide FM, I was lucky enough to join a production company called Somethin’ Else — I had clocked on to the fact that they were behind some of my favorite specialist radio programs — and that was (and remains!) my huge passion and obsession. I worked my way up there for a number of years, eventually becoming an Executive Producer and leading on a number of productions and successful pitches. I joined Worldwide FM shortly after it’s first birthday in 2017 — the platform was started by Gilles Peterson, Thristian Richards, Simon Goffe and, my predecessor, David O’Donnell. I’d worked with both Gilles and David over the years and I could tell they’d conceived something really special and wanted to help drive the project forward.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One funny — and preventable — mistake was setting up our original studio opposite a motorbike garage in Stoke Newington. The proprietors were really lovely people, but sometimes presenters couldn’t believe it when they would spend half an hour revving bike engines while they were trying to broadcast. I miss a lot of things about that lovely studio, but I don’t miss the motorbikes! The next studio we moved into was a much more sound-proof affair.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
David Mansfield’s The Monday Revolution is a brilliant book for someone like me who came from a more creative background and had to learn the business and management side of things as I went. David actually comes from an amazing radio background, so while many of his insights apply across industries, I can really relate to some of his anecdotes and examples.
I know this is quite a popular one, but I religiously listen to How I Built This, a podcast that never fails to illustrate the fine line between ‘progress’ and ‘failure’ and that demonstrates that every single one of your favorite companies and the people behind it — however successful they may have become — have been through their own rollercoaster journey.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Nearly five years after starting out, Worldwide FM has a very clear idea of our purpose, but it has been a vision in evolution. What started out as a really open-ended and almost experimental creative idea to connect likeminded DJs and broadcasters from all over the world has become more meaningful and deliberate — Worldwide FM is now a community and platform where marginalized voices, alternative perspectives and shared progressive values are brought to the forefront through music and culture. Identifying and interrogating this purpose has allowed us to make better, informed decisions and allows our staff, partners and audience to clearly understand what we are trying to do.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Navigating the world of music can feel quite disposable and algorithmic, so I think treating our family of musical specialists and their individual experiences with deep respect is really key to what we do, and translates to an audience that appreciates and relates to that authenticity. Whether they’ve had a eureka moment or a tough personal situation, having real and honest dialogue with our broadcasters has led to some of the development of some of our best ideas and important conversations. Things can get busy and hard, but we always try to make time for that.
It was this act of listening during the pandemic that led Worldwide to our new initiative, Make Art Work. There were so many amazing ideas from creative network that were essentially unworkable because of the restrictions of Covid-19 in the UK and internationally. My colleagues Sam Warriner and Kiran Gill developed this into a tangible idea, and we quickly prototyped a non-profit, community-first platform that showcases ideas from curators and artists to brands and agencies — and we launched in April. The response has been extremely positive and we are excited for what comes next!
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
From a personal perspective, looking after our young toddler has been both a delightful distraction and an exhausting element to juggle whilst working largely from home with little access to wider family. We’ve had family losses and illnesses relating to the pandemic, and many of my work colleagues have as well, so it’s been incredibly tough across the board, but we feel lucky to live in our own home and have a supportive neighborhood and network of friends.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
As a radio platform, Worldwide FM’s day-to-day world was, like so many others, turned upside down by the pandemic. With no communal studio here or in some of our key cities around the world, we immediately responded by becoming essentially become a remote radio station. We were in a fortunate position we had presenters from New York to Tokyo with incredible home recording facilities. As such, our response to the pandemic resulted in a huge surge in listenership, going well above one million listeners a month. At one point we had the legendary Louie Vega DJing and broadcasting live every single weekday from his studio — it was crazy! That period permanently transformed our reach and appeal as a platform and our team have done an incredible job of maintaining that energy and driving us forward even more.
We’ve just released this brilliant book Lockdown FM written by our founder Gilles Peterson. It chronicles the pandemic from his last gigs abroad through all three lockdowns… it’s beautifully designed by Hugh Miller definitely worth a read!
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
For me, I feel that actively counteracting the sense of hopelessness or uselessness that the news cycle can generate and inflict on us is really important. There are lots of amazing organizations doing good work that we can support or get involved in ourselves. One I’ve worked with personally includes ‘Sleep Pod’ who have invented cheap but effective emergency aid sleeping units that can be distributed to refugees and rough sleepers. Feeling like you are making a difference is good for the spirit and soul!
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
We are really hopeful of a positive bounce back for events in the UK with the progress in vaccine development and deployment. I can’t wait for that emotional first dance in a muddy field! At the same time in the cultural sector, there is this huge opportunity to find and embrace new digital solutions that will both benefit exchange internationally and provide high quality experiences for arts-lovers who can’t attend mass gatherings.
It’s been really positive to see a democratization in broadcasting through the availability of entry level equipment, and some of the more ambitious technology I’ve seen includes setups that would allow musicians to play live shows together in different countries with barely a shred of latency. I believe we’ll see a lot of exciting new technology but, crucially, the platforms and organizations who come out of this in the best position will have put community at the forefront of their thinking.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Hopefully we maintain a much deeper appreciation of cultural spaces, our green areas and our neighbors and neighborhoods.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We have spent recent months preparing for a new phase of Worldwide FM to make the most of the energy we’ve been putting into the platform. Last month we launched a new Worldwide Family membership that offers great value to our audience, while helping sustain our station and presenters directly from that income. We’ve also launched a Test Press Club to connect our community with some of our favourite labels — both have been really successful. We also launched a new website and have an app on the way in the coming weeks. Quickly prototyping and continuing to develop innovative products, events and first and foremost a platform that our community really loves is how we are going to get through this next uncertain time.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to look at the point of difference you are offering and embrace it wholeheartedly, rather than imitating a competitor. Look at inspirations and influences from across different industries that are thriving. And if you are going to move quickly because of external factors, keep your identity and values in tact as you pivot.
How can our readers further follow your work?