Celebrate 10 years of UKF with founder Luke Hood [Interview]
In April 2009, a 16-year-old from Frome, England wanted to share his love of bass music with the world. Luke Hood started a YouTube channel called UKF (which stands for United Kingdom and his hometown of Frome) and saw his subscriber base steadily begin to grow. The brand launched that year with the creation of its original channels: UKF Drum & Bass and UKF Dubstep, which now have 2.2 million and 6.3 million subscribers, respectively.
It’s been 10 years since the launch of these lauded channels, and Hood’s passion project has turned into something bigger than he ever could’ve imagined. Videos across the UKF channels have garnered more than 3 billion views, and the brand has hosted UKF events in 20 countries and 38 cities around the world.
Hood and his team have been celebrating these momentous milestones all year long by dropping singles from the label’s UKF10 – Ten Years Of UKF album—a massive 37-track compilation that makes its full debut on Friday, Nov. 29. So far this year, the world has been treated to fresh tunes from bass music greats like Camo & Krooked, Hybrid Minds, Matroda, and more. Finally, to cap off the year, UKF is throwing a huge party in London on Dec. 14, featuring a lineup that most bass music lovers could only dream of.
To hear more about the journey from humble YouTube beginnings to legendary compilation albums and worldwide events, we chatted with founder Luke Hood.
What does this 10-year anniversary milestone mean to you as UKF’s founder?
For me, it’s my entire adult life’s work! So it’s a really special moment to reflect for me. We’re all guilty always looking into the horizon, setting goals and comparing yourself to others along the way, without ever really taking a moment to pause and reflect, so it’s been really special in that respect. We’ve achieved a lot over 10 years with so many artists, managers and labels, and it’s been one of my favourite years ever running UKF.
What have been some of the most exciting moments in UKF’s timeline?
2011 was a really crazy year for us. We released UKF Dubstep 2010 in December 2010 which in January topped the iTunes Dance charts and remained in the top 50 for years, followed by venturing into live events where we put on our first 500 capacity show in January, through to a sell-out 12,000 capacity show at Alexandra Palace with UKF Bass Culture, which tied into our first TV advertised album. It was a lot to take in at the time, but I look back on it with some pretty fond memories.
In more recent years, festival takeovers and launching UKF.com into an editorial platform to help up and coming artists in the bass scene get support where they otherwise wouldn’t. I’ve always wanted to champion new music and supporting artists with some of their first interviews written on UKF has been a highlight.
And finally, taking UKF back to my hometown of Frome in Somerset was a real moment for me. I had the pleasure of bringing some well-known UKF artists back to my hometown where while I was growing up it was impossible to go out and see artists in the bass world perform. When I was 16/17 I always wanted to go to shows but they were all too far away, I hope that some people who had never been to a dance music event before were able to attend and hopefully be inspired enough to go on that journey and build the next UKF.
What have been some of the biggest challenges UKF has had to overcome?
When you’re a global youth music brand focusing on multiple niches/genres of music, it becomes really difficult to stay on top of the various scenes we cover while knowing which platforms to focus on as they appear. We obviously started out as a YouTube channel, but our ethos has always been to try and spread the music we love everywhere, so had invested from the early days to make sure we had a presence on Spotify and Apple Music, where a lot of our audience now live. That extends to social media too, where when you cover such a broad spectrum it’s hard to know should we be on Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? Tiktok? How much time and energy should we focus on each? I think we’ve done a good job of striking the balance over the years, but it’s something we have to constantly review.
What do you think makes UKF special and contributes to its longevity the most?
I’d like to think there’s a degree of authenticity that our fans subscribe to. Unlike most streaming services today we really do our best to keep our ear to the ground to find the latest tracks that are being made and getting reloaded in clubs, compared to the data-driven/algorithm-led world we live in today. I’m still heavily involved in the curation and I hope that consistently over the channels it’s noticeable.
The second and most important thing I think, particularly that has kept the longevity is the community. There have been people commenting on our videos for years, and it’s that interactivity and engagement you don’t get from other platforms. We are nothing without our fans and the comments/likes/dislikes that come with them. Without that, we’d just be a streaming service.
What has feedback been like on the UKF10 singles hitting the airwaves this year?
Positive! We were overwhelmed by the feedback initially when we put out the first single with Camo & Krooked. As soon as “Atlas” was announced we had so many artists and managers get in touch to express an interest in getting involved with the campaign. We’ve always been there promoting artists to our community at the core of what we do, and naturally helping artists release their music felt like a natural step after 10 years. I’m really proud of the album that’s come together as part of this and I’m excited to see the response to it when it finally drops! It’s an amazing collection of artists old and new that we’ve worked with and supported over the decade.
The 37-track UKF10 arrives Nov. 29. Listen to the compilation’s previously released singles here.
Who are some up-and-coming artists we should be keeping an eye on?
There’s a few, and I always find this a challenge to pick a small amount because there are so many! But if I had to pick 2 it would have to be 1991 and Notion. 1991 is coming out with some brilliant music, which doesn’t stick to a particular path like a lot of other Drum & Bass artists that will find their sound and stick to it for a while. Each release has a very different vibe to it and I like that! “Midnight” is probably my favourite track of his, as well as his UKF10 track “Full Send” and his upcoming track on RL Grime’s label, “The People.”
Notion I’m a big fan of because he is great with melodies and has taken that bass house sound and made it his own which a lot of producers have struggled with. Check out “Hooked.”
What are you looking forward to about the London event in December?
It’s been a long time since London has had a diverse showcase of artists big and small for a club event. There’s a lot of purely drum ‘n’ bass nights, dubstep nights, bass nights, but nobody is combining all three. I think it’s really special that we’re able to promote the full spectrum, and I hope that we’re able to introduce some people to some artists they wouldn’t usually go and see, with some favourites old and new. We’ve got Dimension headlining, who first had an upload nine years ago!
Get tickets to the Dec. 14 event and learn more here.
What does the future look like for UKF?
I want UKF to remain a consistent voice people can trust to help them discover new artists as well as see some existing favourites across all the different streaming services. The current streaming landscape on Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube means that algorithms are always giving you more of what you already know you like, which is great, but who is making sure the people grafting away in their bedroom with no audience are able to be heard? I hope that we’re able to continue to talk about artists in 5 years time that we discovered and picked up on in 2019 that are going on to achieve big things. There are plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline as well for our live events, but that’s all I can mention for now!
What do you want UKF’s legacy to be?
I hope we’ve helped billions of music fans discover new music they wouldn’t have otherwise heard, while continuing to engage a core community of around the various genres we cover. In addition to that I hope we’ve helped tens of thousands further their career in music, whether UKF inspired them to try and make their first record, carried out their first interview, played them for the first time, or helped accelerate their development by putting them in the spotlight on our YouTube channels.