Keeping the Music Alive - Shure Friends, Signature Brew Are Fighting the Good Fight
With restrictions now starting to ease, we sat down with their Head of Marketing, John Longbottom, to understand how the business survived lockdown while supporting independent musicians in the process.
At Shure, we've had a strong partnership with music-focused craft brewers Signature Brew for some time now. Like all industries, the lockdown had a significant impact on how the brewery could do business. So with restrictions now starting to ease, we sat down with their Head of Marketing, John Longbottom, to understand how the business survived lockdown while supporting independent musicians in the process.
We met at their new state-of-the-art brewing facility at Black Horse Road in Walthamstow, London, for a socially distant meeting. The guys had only just moved into the new facility back in late 2019, which has allowed them to host live music gigs along-side their brewery tap bar area. (Naturally, the bar is equipped with the brewery's signature SM58 tap handles).
To start with, I asked John to explain what Signature Brew are all about for the benefit of those who don't know.
"First and foremost, we're a brewery based in Walthamstow, East London. We've built up a reputation we're incredibly proud of for being <<the>> brewery for bringing beer and music together. That includes brewing beMagazine bands, supporting music festivals and grassroots venues and putting on gigs in our Haggerston Taproom & Venue as well as the brewery itself. All our beers are inspired by music too, including our core range of Roadie, Backstage IPA, Studio Lager and Nightliner."
Clearly, the passion for music shines through. I went on to ask John what drove the founders to start a music-focused brewery...
"It just seemed natural to us to bring the two things we love closer together, especially given the lack of good beer at gigs and festivals", John exclaims. "Co-founder Tom Bott is from a brewing family, while his cousin and other Signature Brew co-founder Sam McGregor has been in bands for years and has a background in music marketing. Signature Brew is the culmination of both their passions. Beyond that, everyone who works at the brewery has a connection to music. I, for example, also write for Kerrang! magazine, and even our finance manager Aaron Oliver DJs house and garage music. Plus, what's better than watching live music with a proper pint of beer in your hand?"
There is a similar story at Shure; many staff members have direct, hands-on experience within the audio production industry, and many are talented musicians in their own right. Passion and an attitude towards delivering perfection is undoubtedly at the heart of Shure, and you can see the same dedicated spirit emanating from Signature Brew, which has led to some pretty impressive collaborations with many artists over the last ten years.
"We're proud to have done the most artist collaborations of any brewery in the world", John continues. "Making beers with bands is something we take really seriously. It's not about slapping a band logo on a can, we meet the artist and go to the pub – one of the perks of doing what we do – then we decide what kind of beer we're going to make with them. Finally, they come and get hands-on and help brew their beer with us. Of course, every collab beer is special to us, but just off the top of our heads, Mastodon's chaotic, backstage tasting at Leeds Festival a few years ago was particularly memorable. Going around pubs in Glasgow with Mogwai was another fun one, as was getting IDLES down to the brewery bar. More recently, celebrating with Sports Team the week they got nominated for the Mercury Prize was a really special brew session."
Directly behind us at the bar, are several repurposed SM58 microphones reimagined as craft beer tap handles. Shure supplied a number of shells direct from the factory to help make this happen a couple of years ago, and since then Signature Brew has rolled them out to music venues across the land, as well as their own bars and venues. They have a strong presence on the bar, and so asked John why they settled on the trusty SM58 as part of their brand image.
"Our friendship with Shure came from a mutual love of music and a passion for quality – be it the stage gear being used, or the beer bands and fans are drinking. We work together in a number of ways, from putting on live events at the brewery to bringing secret festival sets to life, but our partnership is probably most clearly embodied by our use of the iconic SM58 microphone as our beer tap handles. For us, it's an immediate representation of our connection to music. Plus, they're famously robust, so they're perfect for everyday use, pulling thousands of pints a day in bars and pubs across the country."
The impact of lockdown is at the forefront of everyone's mind at the moment, and so it was always going to play a part in our conversation. Everyone is feeling the impact, but I was keen to understand how the lockdown affected Signature Brew and how they managed to adapt. John was able to reveal a positive story, which was refreshing to say the least.
"While COVID 19 forced around 80% of breweries our size to temporarily close their doors, we were fortunate to act fast and create an offering called Pub In A Box. We pivoted our entire business overnight to help deliver beer to people's homes. We even hired musicians from bands such as The Skints to deliver beer locally. They'd had a US tour and Glastonbury cancelled and lost their income, so it was a really rewarding way to help out where we could and people loved having bands turn up in vans to drop the beer off. Pub In A Box got picked up by Time Out, GQ, Sky News, LADbible and lots of other places and helped us keep the brewery doors open through lockdown and all of our staff in employment.
"We have no doubt that Pub In A Box is going to live forever now. It's going to be a permanent reminder of making it through the brewing industry's most difficult period and the way our team pulled together in the face of genuine adversity. It was something none of us could've predicted at the start of 2020, but we're proud of the way we handled the situation."
Quite rightly, the team are very proud of how they managed to ride out the storm, but for many folks across the live events industry in particular, the story has only just begun. Thanks to their taproom & brewery venue, Signature Brew are no strangers to putting on live events. So in light of the #WeMakeEvents campaign, and the drive for further government support, I asked John how significant—and culturally important—live gigs are to their business.
"Gigs and festivals are why we do what we do; they're the lifeblood of everything we love. Seeing the music and events industry enduring the fallout from COVID19 is heartbreaking. We're doing what we can to help, hiring people from those worlds to help at our bars and putting gigs on at the brewery with the likes of Jamie Lenman, Rob Lynch, Dynamite MC and The Skints to try and kickstart the gig scene and bring live music back. We just want to stand in a muddy field with our friends, have a beer and watch our favourite bands. Live music will return… and when it does, we'll be bringing as much beer as we can to help give it the welcome return it deserves."