Future Proof: Hitting the right note at Choice Cuts

Friends merged technology and music skills to promote independent music scene

What started as two friends booking DJs in their spare time transformed into Choice Cuts, a music marketing and promotions company with plans to reinvigorate Dublin's music scene.

Loughlin McSweeney worked in web development for years, while his friend Mark Murphy worked in marketing before they co-founded Choice Cuts in 2001.

McSweeney has more than 15 years’ experience in web application design and development. Murphy, an established DJ, is regularly booked for events in North America, Europe and Australia.

In 2010, McSweeney co-founded the digital and design agency Practice and Theory with his colleague Donal Thornton as a division of Choice Cuts. Practice and Theory provides graphic design and digital services to the music and creative industries nationally and internationally. Clients include Yahoo and Warner Music Ireland.


Artistic projects
A year later, McSweeney spearheaded the design and development of Ireland's first crowdfunding website Fund:it, which has helped its users to raise more than €1 million in revenue for independent projects.

The diversification from music promotion into web and graphic design was a natural progression, says McSweeney.

“We found that when we were booking artists, our clients were also looking for people to make posters or a website for their acts.

“If we invite a band over to play, we can offer to do their website and album design.

“We’re like a one-stop shop and the bigger brands love that because we’re a small company. There’s only three of us so we’re a port of call for all the web stuff, graphic design and events.

“Instead of having to deal with three separate agencies, you’re dealing with one and that has been our calling card for the last few years and has worked out really well.”

Choice Cuts is currently working with beer company Beck’s on a collaboration that sees it organise events that align the brand with their target market.

Target audience
"We're working on the Rhythm series with Beck's which features 10 shows throughout the year. We're hoping to align Beck's with their target audience, which is interested in a more niche type of music compared to other brands like Heineken, that go for a more general sweep of the market."

The series will feature acts such as Danny Brown, Hot 8 Brass Band, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Azymuth, Ultramagnetic MCs, Lee Fields among others.

Since last January, Choice Cuts have taken on the programming and creative direction of the Sugar Club on Dublin's Leeson Street. "It hasn't been performing as well as it should have been for the last few years.

“We’re trying to bring the Sugar Club back to a more niche audience that will attract jazz, hip hop, funk and reggae music fans, which has traditionally been our audience at Choice Cuts,” says McSweeney.

“Whenever we have done shows in there, they have always done well so we’re trying to turn the venue around so that it’s known in Dublin and Ireland as the go-to place for those genres of music.”

He says he’s noticed a gap in the market for a new type of music venue that will appeal to a more discerning punter. “We like to go a bit more left of centre when looking for acts [at Sugar Club]. There’s a lack of good music venues in town. People are fed up of going into Camden Street and falling out of a place at two in the morning,” he says.

McSweeney says they aim to attract to the venue those in their mid-20s to late 30, though they have plans for some midweek nights for students in the future.

They plan to close the venue in autumn for a refit. “We’re going to do up the smoking area, make small structural changes so the flow of people around the venue is better, add more seating and make the stage retractable so we can move it back when the act is over so more people can get on the dance floor,” he says.

Craft beers
McSweeney says the practice of people going out to see DJs performing has been lost in the past few years. "What we're trying to do with the club is bring night life back to being about the DJ and the dance floor. We want to reposition the venue as a great place to see live music and a great place to find out about music and to dance to it too," he says.

They have partnered with Beck’s to stock some of their beers and have plans also to stock craft beers.

McSweeney says plans for the future include getting the Sugar Club up and running, opening a pub and developing the Choice Cuts website, which sells T-shirts and posters through its online shop.