INTERVIEW | BRAND BUILDING WITH SHEENA LADWA FROM ULTIMATE ARTISTS

Sheena Lad­wa is the dir­ect­or of Ulti­mate Artists who was once on the path of a music artist. This then changed and Sheena decided to turn her pas­sion for music into a more sup­port­ing role. Help­ing artists to real­ise their dreams and ambi­tions. Guid­ing them through the ever chan­ging and rocky ter­rit­ory that is the music industry. By provid­ing price­less sup­port and insights that come from Sheena and her amaz­ing team. Sheena has taken up some of her time to answer a few of our ques­tions. Bless­ings us with some insight into her life and handy advice just for you read­ers. So, without fur­ther ado I present the amaz­ing Sheena Lad­wa (cheers and applause)!

I know this is a bit corny but if you could describe your­self with one word what would it be?

Pas­sion­ate

If you were stran­ded on a desert island and could only take 5 music artists cata­logues with you, who would they be?

Great ques­tion! 5 artists would be Whit­ney Hou­s­ton, Stevie Won­der, Bri­an McK­night, Kim Bur­rell, H.E.R

What was it like grow­ing up and who were/are your major influ­ences?

Well I grew up in a very music­al house­hold but it wasn’t all easy. Life is all about les­sons and grow­ing but when it all got a bit too much music was my sanc­tu­ary. A way of tun­ing out from real­ity and get­ting lost in some­thing that made my soul happy — music. I listened to Boyz II Men, Mari­ah Carey, Whit­ney Hou­s­ton, Az Yet, Dru Hill, and some Bol­ly­wood, haha!

Tell us a bit about your jour­ney as an artist to dir­ect­or of Ulti­mate Artists.

Well I star­ted singing when I was young and because of my fam­ily back­ground I thought that music is what I wanted to do as in being an artist. I moved to Lon­don for music and star­ted to pur­sue that career but at my head­line show in Lon­don a few years later, I real­ised that I didn’t want to be in the lime­light, I didn’t want to be on the stage as I didn’t love it enough and so I made a decision. Two days later I walked out of my man­age­ment deal because I needed to live in my truth. I kept think­ing that there were all these artists who were crav­ing this oppor­tun­ity and I was depriving someone of their oppor­tun­ity so that’s where my jour­ney as an artist came to an end.

Dur­ing that time though I met the man who is now my busi­ness part­ner, he was my vocal coach at the time and he told me about this concept to help devel­op and nur­ture artists in the right way, con­cen­trat­ing more on their well-being and devel­op­ing their skill­set, all the intern­al wir­ing of what you need as an artist and so really long story short I star­ted work­ing with him and a year later he made me a part­ner and we have been run­ning Ulti­mate Artists togeth­er ever since.

How did the concept of U.A. come about and how it came to be?

So, UA came about when Josh was on tour with The Voice on the BBC. They were say­ing no to so many sing­ers, not because they weren’t tal­en­ted but because they were under developed, and so he thought what if they had this place where they could get the right kind of devel­op­ment, sup­port, and nur­tur­ing for their tal­ent.’ That’s kind of where UA was birthed.

At the same time Josh was pur­su­ing music, I was also work­ing for a glob­al agency strategising for brands, plan­ning their cam­paigns and really got to under­stand what is involved in being a suc­cess­ful brand. So, I brought those two things togeth­er, my brand back­ground and my music back­ground, and was able to help Josh take his vis­ion and of this label and turn it into a suc­cess­ful brand that offers artists the highest level of ser­vice and sup­port.

Dur­ing these unpre­dicted crazy times with Cov­id and lock­down, what activ­it­ies have you been up to?

So, yeah lock­down has been inter­est­ing, obvi­ously one of the hard­est times any of us have faced in our gen­er­a­tion but you know what, it also has its pos­it­ives.

I’ve been really con­cen­trat­ing on my work mak­ing sure that we are still sup­port­ing artists, even more so in this situ­ation. I have been focus­ing a lot more on being men­tally and phys­ic­ally fit, so med­it­at­ing and pray­ing more, doing yoga which I’ve nev­er done before but always wanted to so I’ve been doing that every day for about five weeks, and also look­ing inward. This time has giv­en us the oppor­tun­ity to really look at ourselves as people and I’ve been spend­ing a lot of time on that. Being more con­scious, more present and yeah…connecting more with people as well. More than I would’ve done when we were allowed out and about and I was liv­ing a nor­mal life. So, I think lock­down for sev­er­al reas­ons has been quite a pos­it­ive exper­i­ence, but I am def­in­itely look­ing for­ward to see­ing people again and just giv­ing people a hug!

For those that are for­tu­nate enough to shift to work­ing vir­tu­ally, how have you man­aged your work­shops and train­ing.? What has been the pos­it­ives and neg­at­ives of this abrupt trans­ition?

Mov­ing what I do for work online has been very simple and hasn’t presen­ted any major dif­fi­culties. Just mak­ing sure that every­body has a good inter­net con­nec­tion lol.

Usu­ally to over­come such chal­lenges I just prep my cli­ents and my artists before­hand to make sure that they have checked their Wi-Fi con­nec­tion. Ensur­ing that they’re in good light­ing and that the audio is clear. Because some­times we host show­cases online as well and you need good sound for that kind of thing, so yeah, I think it’s all been fairly man­age­able.

What chal­lenges have you faced as a cre­at­ive and how have you over­come them?

As a cre­at­ive the kind of chal­lenges that I faced was people not being on the same page as me when it came to my vis­ion and as a res­ult, not work­ing towards a com­mon goal. The way to over­come that is to have very hon­est con­ver­sa­tions early on so that every­body is on the same page. Oth­er­wise you can find rela­tion­ships break down, and it may even cause you to part ways with team mem­bers or man­age­ment, which in turn can leave you feel­ing like you hav­ing to start over which can be quite frus­trat­ing.

I think com­mu­nic­a­tion is the key. 

Usu­ally we know how we feel and what we want to say but we don’t say it in a way that brings a pos­it­ive resolve so it feels like an argu­ment, but when we set the inten­tion to achieve a res­ult that is mutu­ally bene­fi­cial we can start to make some really, really good head­way and see res­ults. So, always com­mu­nic­ate clearly and openly.

For music artists dur­ing this peri­od what tips could you give them to pro­mote them­selves, and main­tain the momentum when we are finally set free?

There are a few things you can do to pro­mote your­self dur­ing lock­down and I would say util­ise your social media well. Under­stand the dif­fer­ent func­tion­al­it­ies and what they are able to do on social media e.g. Ins­tagram Lives, Ins­tagram Feeds, Ins­tagram Stor­ies — they all have a dif­fer­ent func­tion and can reach dif­fer­ent audi­ences.

Make sure you are act­ive, make sure you’re con­sist­ent and make sure that you are brand­ing your­self in the way that you want to be presen­ted as an artist.

Con­nect with your com­munit­ies and cross pro­mote! You will be sur­prised how many people you know who can help you fur­ther your audi­ence reach.

If we were not in Lock­down whilst writ­ing this Q&A what tips would you give artists, or are they really the same?

If we weren’t in lock­down and things were nor­mal my advice would be to get out and per­form live, go to open mics, con­nect with people, build your net­work and act­ively go to net­work­ing events. Do all the things that keeps you in the scene and encour­ages you to get seen by the right kinds of peoples.

Along with all the things above too.

This ques­tion may have been answered before but I wanted to get a bit more insight if you may? What are some of the best ways to grow your fan base organ­ic­ally, digit­ally and phys­ic­ally? Are insights like algorithms essen­tial, and how does chan­ging algorithms effect your expos­ure?

I think some of the best ways to grow your fan base organ­ic­ally is to con­nect with like-minded people on Ins­tagram or on social media in gen­er­al; fol­low people and engage with their posts. It’s proven that if you fol­low someone, like a post and com­ment on it, the like­li­hood of them fol­low­ing you back is approx­im­ately 35% high­er, so make sure that that’s what you’re doing.

I would say also learn about social media, really know and under­stand the backend of how they work, the tips and tricks.

Algorithms are forever chan­ging. So, I think that as long as you’re doing all the things that you pos­sibly can, you should be hit­ting the algorithms and being seen as act­ive. By doing this you should become someone to fol­low by being fea­tured in the explorer page.

What advice could you give music artists and how to avoid being sucked in my Glitz and Glam of the industry?

My advice to make sure that artists avoid being sucked in by the Glitz and Glam of the industry is to remem­ber your ‘why!’ Why did you start music? Why did you want share your music with the world? what’s your mes­sage?

I think that you can be exposed to the Glitz and Glam but don’t let it change you as a per­son and in order to not change as a per­son, sur­round your­self with the right kind of people! People who are going to tell you when you’re being out of line and will help you to keep your ego in check. The people you sur­round your­self with is incred­ibly import­ant so be select­ive. Have strong anchors wheth­er that’s your faith, fam­ily, good ment­ors and any­thing that helps to keep you groun­ded.

Music has made leaps in bounds over the last few dec­ades. See­ing the trans­ition from phys­ic­al to digit­al how can music artists make the most of Social Media plat­forms?

I think this has been answered in some of my pre­vi­ous answers

With a lot of inde­pend­ent artists out there thanks to plat­forms like Sound­cloud. How import­ant is it to have a team behind you, or is it pos­sible to go at it alone?

I think hav­ing a team is really import­ant because indi­vidu­ally we can’t be mas­ters of everything so where we have weak­nesses, hav­ing people in our team who can be a strength in our areas of weak­ness is really import­ant and as they say ‘no man is an island.’ We can’t achieve everything by ourselves so I believe that a good team who has your best interest at heart is a neces­sity.

Once like your­self I wanted to be on the front lines as an artist. Like most I used to get a slight case of the but­ter­flies but once it hit, it hit and I loved every moment of it. How­ever, I found that the group I was work­ing with were just a lot bet­ter than me. They were amaz­ing writers and per­formers who took the art of pen writ­ing very ser­i­ously. Me I was a free­styler and still am (Sat­urday Lock­down on Ins­tagram Live with Sire plug) and enjoy that part of it as well as the stage antics but still how were we going to get exposed. Giv­en at these times Social Media was still an infant so we still had to do it the hard way. It then hit me the P Diddy quote “Not every­one in the clique can be the rap­per!”. This quote put me on to the path I am on now which is just as ful­filling.

What are your thoughts and advice if any for those who may want to take the path of sup­port­ing rather than per­form­ing?

For those of you want­ing to sup­port and be in a sup­port­ing role, my advice would be to really under­stand what your strengths are. Do you know what do you bring to the table?

I knew with me that I was really good at plan­ning, I’m really good at struc­ture, good with dead­lines and I thrive under pres­sure, so I knew that my role would be more on the plan­ning side. I’m really good with sup­port­ing people and recog­nising when some­thing is wrong. Being able to pick up on energy and when there is a shift in energy has helped me to be in tune with artists and people. I’d say this is a gift for me, so sit with your strengths and when you know what they are, see how those strengths can cross over to the music industry and what you can bring to help sup­port artists

Like the song by The Notori­ous BIG (Rest In Power) “Ten Crack Com­mand­ments”, what are you’re 10 artist/industry Com­mand­ments?

I don’t really have 10 com­mand­ments as such. But I think as an artist make sure you have a clear vis­ion of where you want to go and what you want to say through your music. Be con­scious of how you want to be presen­ted as an artist/brand. Make sure that you keep the right people around you who can keep you groun­ded. People who are look­ing out for you and want to see you suc­ceed. Remem­ber not every­body is your well-wish­er.

When you need help, reach out to people that you trust and con­nect with.

Trust your gut! If some­thing doesn’t feel right, it usu­ally means that it isn’t and you your­self will always know when the energy about some­thing is off

What oth­er tools or sites could you sug­gest for music artists that can help?

www.ultimateartists.co.uk

playlist.com

submithub.com

ifttt.com

Men­tal Health Aware­ness week has recently fin­ished in the UK, but as we know men­tal health is some­thing that is con­sist­ently ongo­ing. Adding the lock­down to the mix it can­not be easy for any­body let alone artists. As music artists now have to rely on digit­al plat­forms as there is no option to per­form live, what advice can you give them to help their men­tal well­being?

A big one right now is to make sure you’re tak­ing social media breaks.

Con­nect with people who make you feel good and uplift you.

As much as you are feed­ing your body food, feed your mind good­ness and nour­ish­ment too. Be select­ive about what you watch and what you read. Be mind­ful of neg­at­ive self-talk as your thoughts become things!

If you feel like your energy, you’ve got writers block and you’re strug­gling to be cre­at­ive just take a break, go for a walk, switch off com­pletely. Maybe listen to a pod­cast or have a change of scenery.

If none of that helps, reach out to someone because the people that love and care for you want to help you and they want to see you suc­ceed and be happy.

So, what is on the forecast/schedule for UA, what amaz­ing and excit­ing things have you com­ing up.

Ah maaaan we’ve got quite a lot com­ing up.

Online webinars look­ing at things like sync and how to get your music synced, fund­ing and how artists can get fund­ing dur­ing these times.

Online show­cases through Ins­tagram live so will be con­nect­ing with our artist base around the world to get them per­form­ing for us.

Then as soon as lock­down lifts, we’ll resume with our mas­ter­classes in Lon­don with a song­writ­ing camp, our vocal mas­ter­classes so yeah quite a lot is com­ing up.

Is there any­one who we should be check­ing out that is on your radar?

 Check out an artist called @justel

I want to thank Sheena for tak­ing the time to answer our ques­tions first and fore­most. I was inspired to put this Q&A togeth­er from the Ins­tagram live inter­view on 19/05/2020. It was a truly inspir­ing inter­view and Sheena had so much pas­sion and wise words to share. I felt that instead of it being poten­tially missed by the com­munity It was best to get this in writ­ing. Under­stand­ably things with­in these fast-paced times change but that is why people like Sheena are essen­tial. Hav­ing someone to care and guide you on your jour­ney is a true God send. Make sure to check out Sheena’s links below and if you are ser­i­ous or need guid­ance then sign up to Ulti­mate Artists.

Ulti­mate Artists Webpage — https://www.ultimateartists.co.uk

Twit­ter — https://twitter.com/sheenaladwa

Ins­tagram — https://www.instagram.com/ultimateartists

Face­book — https://www.facebook.com/Sheenamusic1

You­Tube — http://www.youtube.com/sheenamusic1

Q&A by:

Jay St Paul AKA JuJu Man

Social: @jaystpaul

Founder of Hi…Creativity LTD

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Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul AKA JuJu Man Dee Jay / Graph­ic Design­er / Pod­caster / Radio Presenter James is a West Lon­don based Dee Jay, self taught Graph­ic Design­er, Radio Host, Pod­caster and Writer. Avid fan of animé, manga, com­ics, music (Hip-Hop, RnB, Soul – new and old, Funk, Jazz, House, Chill­hop, Soca, Chill Out & Liquid D&B), gam­ing & movies. A long term Spir­itu­al­ist and people sci­ent­ist, with a pas­sion to help people con­nect to a deep­er part with­in them­selves.

About Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul
Jay St Paul AKA JuJu Man Dee Jay / Graphic Designer / Podcaster / Radio Presenter James is a West London based Dee Jay, self taught Graphic Designer, Radio Host, Podcaster and Writer. Avid fan of anime, manga, comics, music (Hip-Hop, RnB, Soul – new and old, Funk, Jazz, House, Chillhop, Soca, Chill Out & Liquid D&B), gaming & movies. A long term Spiritualist and people scientist, with a passion to help people connect to a deeper part within themselves.