Around 10 years ago, three friends in London set up a business that would turn their love of street art into a successful business.
Graffiti Life was co-founded by David Speed, Iona Thomas and Adam Brazier to create murals on company walls, advertising and even corporate workshops. Today, the leading graffiti and street art collective work for the likes of Disney, Microsoft and YouTube.
They've been around as long as Creative Boom and we've sincerely enjoyed watching their various ventures come to life. Now, David and Adam have recently launched a new podcast, Creative Rebels, which debuted at number one on the iTunes business charts. With such an interesting journey so far, we wanted to find out more about their latest adventure.
You have a new podcast, Creative Rebels. It's had quite the debut, hasn't it?
David: It’s been insane.
Adam: Haha yeah, we decided we wanted to launch a number one podcast so we spent about a year growing our network and researching everything podcasting. It was still surreal when it actually happened though.
David: Yeah, and then the momentum afterwards we hadn’t really planned for so it’s kind of taken on a life of its own. It’s definitely opened a lot of doors, but I think that’s because it’s resonating with so many creative people
What was the inspiration behind it?
David: We wanted to help people. It’s the podcast we never had when we started our first business (Graffiti Life) in 2010. We were good artists but we had to learn about business, how to work with clients, how to build an audience, everything other than the art basically.
Adam: We were doing a lot of talks and always getting DMs and emails from creatives asking advice so we decided a podcast would be the best way to help the largest number of people. Now is the best time ever to start a creative career and we hope that people will learn how it’s done through the stories of our guests.
Can you share a few pointers for anyone else thinking of starting their own podcast?
David: Start with ‘Why?’ (to quote Simon Sinek). Identify your desired audience and design a show that brings the maximum value. There are a lot of podcasts out there so you need to earn your listeners and you need to stand out from the crowd as something different.
Adam: I think it’s a good idea to try and build an audience before you launch (we spent a whole year doing this). If you’re an interview based podcast like we are, good guests are key. We were able to get big guests like Emma Gannon and Adrienne London confirmed before we launched. We had no audience, no download data, but they still agreed to come on because we wrote a clear email explaining what we wanted to do with the show. Most people are too scared to ask ‘big’ names.
Moving on...Graffiti Life is something I've followed since its launch in 2010. What was the thinking behind it back then?
Adam: Thanks! You’ve featured our work in CB and it has always been great for us. When we started we felt like there were no real platforms for any of the artists and creatives that we knew and no real way of them creating a sustained income from their talents. We decided to start our own thing to see if we could make that happen. It started off with three of us and now we’re a team of 15.
David: A lot of people that I knew were being sent to prison for graff and I didn’t want to go down that road. In those early days, we were really promoting graffiti as a positive art form and helping change the public perception of what this art could be and what it could do. It’s such a different world nine years on.
What were you both doing before that?
David: Working crap jobs that I hated so I could get money to buy paint for the weekends.
Adam: Drawing. Coding. Building websites.
How has Graffiti Life evolved over the last nine years? What successes have you enjoyed?
David: The team has grown to 15 of us now, and we’re in a big studio in Shoreditch
Adam: Yeah, we started in a garage in Norwood!
David: We’ve got some amazing clients and we’re really proud of some of the work we’ve done for big brands like Disney and Nike.
Adam: I think we really impacted OOH advertising with our large scale hand-painted advertisements and we’re continuing to push forward with the augmented reality murals we’re making. It’s really cool to incorporate new technology into what we do.
Any challenges you've faced and overcome?
Adam: How long have you got? Haha!
David: The biggest challenges were in the first few three to four years.
Adam: Definitely. The first challenge was to get discovered and get clients when no one knew who we were.
David: I remember the first job we did for Nike, we had been so scared to send over a quote because at the time it was three times more than anything we’d sent to anyone else. We were so happy when we got the job and when we were painting it I got chatting to the client. He said he almost didn’t go with us because we were too cheap, learning how to price our work (and that it’s ok to charge a good amount for your art) was a big lesson.
It's tough for people starting businesses online these days. Would you say you were in the right place at the right time?
David: I believe that there’s never been a better time to start. If we had to start over tomorrow I wouldn’t be worried. It’s hard work, but if you’re good at what you do and you are prepared to work hard you will succeed. Right place and time can be a factor but I think people give it too much credit in other people’s success when really they’d probably been successful whenever they started.
Adam: I agree. Get good at something, work out who your customers are, learn how to reach them and work tirelessly to do so. The technologies will change but those core principals will always be the same.
Why do you think Graffiti Life has been so successful?
Adam: We have a good ‘product’; our team are amazing artists. We have invested back into our business and our people. We have worked really, really hard.
Aside from your blog, what else has helped get your name out there?
David: We have a good Instagram following and a comprehensive website but actually the bulk of our work has come from meeting people in the real world and building relationships.
Adam: We also get a lot of work from referrals; word of mouth is a great marketing tool. We’ve also found that the podcast is putting us on the radar of a lot of potential clients and opening conversations after they’ve listened to our show.
Are you ever worried about losing touch? How do you aim to stay relevant?
David: We work with young artists, develop new talent and we listen. If we stop listening we’ll lose touch.
Adam: I think street art is well established now, but if it ever did happen to go out of fashion we would pivot and develop something new. Spraypaint is just one of the tools we use, but we can apply our art skills to a million other business ideas.
What advice would you give to others looking to make art for a living?
David: Keep going. Most people quit, the ones who keep going are the ones who win. Focus on the art, grow and learn but understand that getting clients requires work. Learn about branding, marketing and sales and apply the lessons to your creative pursuits.
Adam: Keep an open mind and always be learning. Listen to Creative Rebels and Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis, read Creative Boom, follow accounts of people who are where you’d like to be, watch what they do.
What's next for you?
Adam: The podcast has brought us a lot of unexpected opportunities like speaking gigs and events so we’re definitely exploring that path currently. We have four live podcasts with Apple at their Covent Garden Store coming up soon, so that will be interesting.
David: More podcasts, more wall paintings and growing our other businesses; ‘Allover’ which is a creative OOH agency and ‘Parlour’ our bespoke tattoo studio in Shoreditch. So basically, constantly working! But that’s when we’re happiest.