When Simon Robinson left secondary school at 16, he went to college to study performing arts, but soon realised it wasn’t for him.
While at university he worked in various music venues, as a rep abroad and at music festivals. It was at this time that he realised his love of music was something he wanted to shape into his career.
“I went to UCLan and studied at the campus in Cumbria, and I got a job working at a music venue in Barrow in Furness,” says the 27-year-old.
“That was my first job in the music industry. I then managed to get a job at a festival, and I really enjoyed the festival side. I researched music publications and after a lot of research I launched the website.”
Simon’s website, which is run from the Media Factory on UCLan’s Preston campus, is called Gigs and Festivals. He launched it in May 2011, less than a year after he graduated from his Interactive Digital Media course.
Earlier this month the website, which has 53,000 unique daily visitors, overtook all rivals, including NME.com, MTV.co.uk, gigwise.com and efestivals.co.uk, for being the most visited music website in the UK, according to Alexa.com.
The aim of the website is to offer what a traditional music magazine would, but to be updated much more regularly.
There are two people running the website, together with a paid intern. Simon has also built up a network of 150 photographers and writers to contribute to the website, sending in everything from music to reviews and news.
“I wasn’t sure if it would work or if it was a waste of time,” says Simon.
“But things are going really well, we are trying to reach people and bring them to the site, we have a lot of contacts in the industry, and we are trying to keep the website fresh and get people to come back.
“As of a couple of weeks ago we are the most visited music website in the UK. Previously, NME had the top spot, and we have knocked them off.
“That is hard to put into words. It still hasn’t sunk in.”
Looking to the future, Simon is hopeful the website will continue to grow.
He adds: “We want to take on two full-time members of staff before the end of the year.
“It is hard work, but I love it, I don’t want to do anything else. I can’t imagine doing anything else at all.”
Simon, who attended Ribbleton Hall High School before studying at Preston College, said: “The music industry has always attracted me. I realised I wasn’t that good at performing arts, but I have found where I want to be.”
Simon has been helped in developing the business by Rockstar Youth – a partner of the government’s Start- Up Loan scheme.
“Rockstar Youth helped us with cash flow for marketing, website redesign and the funds to employ another member of staff,” explains Simon.
“Their contribution has been key to our growth.
“It has taken just two members of full-time staff working from one rent-a-desk to grow into the much-loved website and brand we have become today,” says Simon.
Rockstar Youth, a subsidiary of the Rockstar Group, the UK’s leading private mentoring organisation, is driving the government’s Youth Start-Up Loans Programme, having cut red tape and connected with some exciting young entrepreneurs.