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?
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?
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
Jay St Paul AKA JuJu Man
Founder of Hi…Creativity LTD