To put it in simple terms, SBTV have absolutely smashed it. Since the online broadcasting channel was founded in 2007, an unstoppable momentum carried the brand through to a milestone 100m views earlier this year.
At the heart of the brand’s emergence is Liam Tootill. A graduate of Sheffield University, Liam became managing director at SBTV in 2009 and hasn’t looked back. We speak to Liam on the phenomenal success story.
SQ: Straight off the bat, for anyone who hasn’t yet heard of SBTV, tell everyone exactly what you guys are all about.
Liam: SBTV is an online music channel that’s broadcast directly through YouTube. We produce all our own content, right through from freestyle sessions to acoustic sessions and we’re now starting to also get involved in music video production. This covers both artists that are still emerging and also signed artists. We like to bring our own production values to each project.
You’ve been working at SBTV for a couple of years now, how did you come to first be involved with Jamal Edwards (founder) and the rest of the team?
I actually met Jamal when I was at university. My thesis was on the grime scene and I came across SBTV during research. I hooked up with Jamal a few times over that summer to talk everything through. We shared a lot of interests and things just went from there.
We want to use SBTV in as much of a diverse way as possible.
Your title at SBTV at the moment is Managing Director. What sort of roles does that undertake on a day-tot-day basis?
Mainly managing relationships with clients and working on the long-term strategy of developing series and concepts that SBTV can work on to move forward. Combine this with new projects on merchandise and events, we want to use SBTV in as much of a diverse way as possible.
Perhaps the biggest level of exposure that the team have got so far is from a fly-on-the-wall series that aired on Channel 4 – was it weird for you guys being in front of the camera as oppose to behind it?
The series was an okay experience. Because of the awkward timings on air though, it never received the required support from Channel 4 to push it. Although we appreciate it, I don’t think it propelled us to long-term mainstream consciousness.
You’ve done a lot with SBTV – what’s been your proudest moment so far?
We’ve done such massive projects. The Christmas party we put on last December was intense though. The number of performers we had down there, the quality of the night, the amount of the people that came…it was a testament to the brand. We also secured great sponsorship, great resources and great marketing. It was all done by a small team of people at SBTV and amongst everything we’ve done, that was amazing.
You’re a graduate from Sheffield University, how much did you enjoy that experience and do you feel it’s helped on this journey so far?
I got a lot more out of it than just education and it was a lifestyle thing, really. I had mad experiences, made great friends, but when I was doing my MA and met Jamal that was a fortunate slice of luck because it changed everything. That relationship led me to this position.
You’ve done a lot of work elsewhere too, where are you hoping your future takes you?
At the moment I’ve been doing some consultancy with labels last year, that was involving Cher Lloyd’s project and I enjoyed that. I’m also doing a lot of stuff that’s under wraps until it comes out – but I should have a TV documentary on the cards pretty soon. So look for that.
Students can’t come straight out of university anymore and walk into jobs.
You did journalism work with a few magazines upon leaving university – are there any plans to revisit that side of your career?
No, I don’t want to get into journalism. It’s what I did when I first came out of university. I did an internship while at SBTV and that was great because I’d go to these magazines and look at structure and how they’re run. I’d see how the sales team affected the editorial team and how the editorial department would work with PR agencies. It was a target for how we’d do things at SBTV because we’re similar to a magazine but with a visual element. I treated it all as a learning curve that allowed me to look at the competition.
There’s a real increase of young people creating opportunities for themselves to similar to the manner that SBTV has taken – why?
Because of the climate that we’re in. Students can’t come straight out of university anymore and walk into jobs. The people with head-starts at the moment are the people that are making opportunities for themselves and being realistic with their expectations. Those that are achieving the most are those who are starting at 15 or 16 because by 20 they’re more experienced than those who are about to leave university.
Just how powerful do you think independent youth media can be – is that the future?
I think that traditional media outlets will always have a lot of kudos, in our lifetimes anyway. They still have a hugely loyal audience but ultimately, who knows? You can never predict the power shift that can take place. It’s amazing just how fast the world changes. I hope that the future of entertainment is online and SBTV stays as something that’s very watched over the coming years. We need to capitalise on this opportunity that we have and if it’s down to SBTV to set an example, we need to do the best job possible.