#AMTDetox - 'a' conversation with Encore

Music is a fundamental part of any day spent in the Alice Made This studio. Whether we’re listening to something to help us focus, getting excited about a Friday night beer or talking about the latest gig we’ve been to, it brings us together as a team and sets the tone for the working day. It’s only natural then that the next in our #AMTDetox series looks at the unique power of live music and the emotional impact for both listeners and performers.

Encore is an online home for musicians to network and for people to easily find and book musicians. We speak to founder and CEO James McAulay about the platform and the benefits of music as he sees it.


James has been surrounded by music from a very young age. He tells me how his parents met in an orchestra, his mum an oboist and his dad an organist and a singer, and how he started playing piano when he was nine before going to music school and taking up the cello. When deciding what to do about university, James had to choose between going for an interview for Computer Science at Imperial and taking a cello audition at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. After focusing on the Computer Science route, James later accepted an offer from Cambridge and went to study there.

“There was a website for the actors at Cambridge called Cam Dram,” he tells me. “Every show you did was logged in this website and, as you went through university, you built up a portfolio. I just kept thinking that that should exist for musicians. Even in Cambridge there wasn't a central network, allowing them to connect with each other and form ensembles.”

This is where the idea for Encore began. Often described as ‘LinkedIn for musicians’, Encore is a platform where musicians can connect and people can easily find and book them for their events. It’s more than a place to showcase recordings or another form of booking agent. It’s somewhere to talk directly with musicians and organise the best live music to fit your requirements. After 18 months, Encore now has over 21,000 musicians using the platform and continues to grow.

“We created Encore because we wanted it to be easier to book musicians,” James tells me. “I wanted to remove all the barriers to having live music. Should we get a band or should we put on a playlist? Who do I book? Are they going to be good enough? I wanted to take those barriers away and let people know that they have a huge choice. We want to get to a point where you tell us about an event and we give you a list of people available, but we also say that should you go for this person based on the information you've given us.”

At Alice Made This, everything we do focuses on celebrating craft and championing expert processes. We work with a number of British factories, using their industrial techniques to design and manufacture our clean and refined collections. This attention to detail and respect for craftsmanship mirrors the work that Encore do with their musicians. Like the work produced by our military armoury or our family owned casting house, live music is something that takes time, precision and an honest approach.


“The live music that is being created at any moment and will never exist again,” James says. “Nobody else in the world is having that experience. I think this is especially true of jazz music or musicians who are free to improvise. A playlist become functional background noise because the sounds are all familiar so people kind of tune them out. When you have live music you are crafting an experience.”

“For audience members at a concert,” he continues, “it’s all about when music is so good that you get absorbed in it. It makes it really easy to forget what's been going on in the day. As a performer the benefits of live music are numerous. A couple of days ago I was the last one in the office and I didn't know exactly how I was feeling. I had some energy, maybe some angst that I wanted to deal with. I just sat at the piano and I started to really enjoy expressing whatever I was feeling through music. It didn't involve sitting down and analysing my feelings. The joy of the piano is that all the notes are there and they're all tuned. You can just mess around and not be too hung up on making mistakes.”

It’s no secret that music can shape your mood. It can lift you up and live music is the epitome of that. If you are looking for a way to unwind and switch off, then a gig could be just the thing. I finish by asking James what role he thinks live music plays in the industry today.

“Music has done a complete arc,” he concludes. “Before recordings, live music was how you experienced it. You didn't have a record player. If you wanted music you had to go out and hear it. Now I think it's the other way around. Musicians make an album so that they can go on tour. Now that you can hear anything anywhere, people do appreciate live music more.”

“If Encore increases the amount of live music happening, then that's great for the industry. What we are doing is extremely important in helping musicians make money and meet each other and form new bands.”

Learn more about Encore and its network of musicians here.

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