It’s become a recurring trend in our industry for companies to use this forced hiatus in live events as a chance to look into new markets and how they might be able to better serve the music industry when it is back to full health. Take Only Helix for example. Founded in 2018 by Steven Down and Tom Nicol, the duo’s joint business began after they saw a space in the market to aid artist managers by securing the right people with the right skills for their acts’ live productions, as well as taking care of advancing and touring budgets.
Since then, the pair have developed a reputation for creating seamless live shows and tours as OH Production for the likes of Years and Years, Fontaines D.C. and Bombay Bicycle Club to a name a few, and recently expanded to offer their own brand of artist career guidance, OH Management, as well as new specialist visa services in OH Visas.
Aimed at taking the headache out of time-consuming travel admin by offering comprehensive and efficient solutions for certified travel, and with data security at the forefront of its offering, OH Visas handles the entire visa process from start to finish, covering applications, appointments and embassy visits. Learning from previous challenges faced as a result of the intricacies found within the touring industry, OH Visas hopes to streamline the end-to-end process down to one universal form. As part of this service, passport and ATA carnet advice and support will also be included.
Headed up by seasoned travel pro Ben Young, who has extensive visa agency experience and brings a wealth of experience to the role, OH Visas is led by proven industry expertise.
“Both Tom and Steven had been clients of my previous company and we already had a great working relationship,” began Young. “This forced hiatus for the music industry has really given us the time to dig into the processes involved in facilitating travel for artists. Up until now, a lot of the admin involved in obtaining information needed for visas has been done by ‘any means necessary’, with personal information being exchanged via WhatsApp chats or long email chains.”
Young compared this rather haphazard method to other industries, where dealing with personal data is much more streamlined and organised, not to mention more secure. “The premise of this branch of Only Helix is to provide the music industry with a safe and secure platform for tour and production managers to take the pressure of that admin off their shoulders.”
With the company’s unique USP, it began to develop where traditional visa companies remained unable to help. With its own dedicated website, OH Visas is already accepting an influx of requests from interested parties, as Young explained how a number of existing Only Helix clients had been very responsive to the new offering.
With the ever-increasing complexity of Brexit to navigate for touring personnel, there’s no doubt the team will be receiving further enquiries as admin is likely to see a sharp increase moving forward.
Young commented: “There’s a lack of transparency when it comes to artists touring the EU post Brexit. The correct information is somewhat difficult to find. It’s best to check with us before you travel, as we can provide full guidance on the entry requirements for each EU territory.
“There has been a huge amount of negative press on the impact of Brexit on the UK touring music industry. We want to reassure artists and their management that touring the EU is still viable. Further, we want to work with emerging artists and help them gain that international status by touring the EU, so they are able to produce evidence to satisfy a US petition in the future, by using our cost-effective visa services long term, which is a direct benefit of the system we have put in place.”
With OH Visas now fully operational, Down gave a broader overview of how the company is moving forward. “The visa side of the business, overseen by Ben, is now its own limited company,” he began. “As much as our focus has always been within the music industry, this new branch presents an opportunity to move into other markets, such as entertainment and sports, which also put on large-scale events and where knowledge can be transferred.”
Nicol also outlined the third arrow in the business that has also seen major development in lockdown, OH Management. “When our industry entered this hiatus in March 2020, we realised that our eggs were very much in one basket,” he explained. “We’d always aspired to branch out, but COVID-19 fast-forwarded everything. In the early months, we worked on a lot of livestreaming events for our clients, but we also started to develop a management arm to the business.”
From its geographical spread across London, New York and LA, the fast-growing management division has quickly established a network of individuals and is able to provide artists, producers and songwriters. The varied and exciting new roster includes Yinyang, Sir Was and Skinny Pelembe as well as new talent Second Thoughts and Freak Slug.
“In total, with have four people on the management team and we are in the process of growing this side of the business in the near future,” stated Nicol.
With its three-pronged business model, the Only Helix team is optimistic about the future and is set to provide the industry with even more opportunity for up-and-coming artists and crew. “Like most of the industry, we’re in somewhat of a holding pattern, but as soon as things start moving, we’ll be ready,” closed Nicol.
This article originally appeared in issue #264 of TPi, which you can read here.
Photos: Only Helix