Last year, several companies in the dance music world ran into trouble. This shouldn’t be a surprise – a pandemic with an uncanny ability to effectively close down huge swathes of this sector will do that. So when Arts Council England announced a fund was being launched to effectively bail out the sector, lots of companies applied.
One of the companies which got what it wanted was Boiler Room (UK) Limited, to use their corporate name. They got £791,652 from the British taxpayer to continue streaming mixes. Incidentally, they only started paying the DJs who appeared on their platform back in June 2020 – something no doubt made easier by the fact no sod was appearing at the time.
Questions were asked at the time as to how Boiler Room was actually eligible for the money. One of the things businesses applying to Arts Council England had to prove was that they had a future – something I suspect they had difficulty with, given they posted a net operating loss of £1,299,656 up to 31st December 2019. The picture in 2018 was even bleaker, with an operating loss of £6,633,752.
Nonetheless, they were able to sway Arts Council England to give them some lovely British taxpayer money to help them out. But couldn’t their own shareholders help out? I headed over to Companies House and downloaded a PDF of their latest confirmation statement. It lists the shareholders in the company. Whilst there’s obviously nothing unusual about companies having shareholders, Boiler Room has a total of twelve – most of whom are in fact other companies.
Most of the shares in Boiler Room are owned by a Blaise Anthony Valentine Bellville, one of the site’s own founders. This public school boy from an artistocratic background mentioned in an interview with The Independent some years ago that he’s been involved in “far more businesses than I can count”. Which just raises questions about how successful those ventures actually were, and why he hasn’t got any money he can invest in his own company.
Another company in the list only came into existence last September – Sherbet Mirror Private Fund Limited, who are based in Jersey. In 2019, the Tax Justice Network rated the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey some of the most “aggressive” tax havens in the entire world.
Another company on the list called Connect Ventures Two LP claims to be a “thesis-led, pan-European seed stage VC”. The term “seed stage” presumably means investment from an early age – a bit of an odd statement given that Boiler Room is now over a decade old. And the “VC” bit? That stands for venture capital. Which is the same as what New York based Conegliano Ventures also do.
Mazdak Sanii is an investment banker who was previously involved with the company. He was a director at the company from October 2013 to October 2018. Jodie Nicholson was, for two years, the Managing Director at Boiler Room. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was personally responsible for eight different departments within the company at that time. She left in early 2020 and recently took a job as Head of Campaign Marketing at the Universal Music Group behemoth.
And as for Caius Pawson? He runs a record label called Young – who had to change their previous name Young Turks due to its unfortunate connotations with Armenian genocide.
Since Boiler Room got their grant money last year, I have still seen no valid explanation as to why they deserve it. Nightclubs had to stay closed and couldn’t have people in them. In comparison, Boiler Room could continue to put on events. Most of their business appears to consist of online streaming.
And plenty of DJs have managed to stream live sets during the pandemic from their own homes – Judge Jules gets knocked on this blog occasionally, but he turns up every week for his fans.
They could have even used clever computer software to add a crowd afterwards if they’d really wanted…