It was about 10 years ago when Tom Readdy founded Yes Please Productions with his partner, Lucy. Since then, much has changed – but their joint ambition has remained exactly the same.
Both music obsessives and absolutely in love with consuming culture, the two founders created Yes Please from scratch, with no help from industry insiders nor any other kind of gentle poking.
Yes Please is the dream of two passionate creative professionals. It may have been a challenge, but this is what has been pushing them forward – and what will inevitably propel them into a successful future.
In this Company Spotlight, we are learning more about Yes Please Productions from Tom Readdy, Creative Director.
How was your company born and where are you based?
I formed Yes Please Productions with my partner Lucy in Bristol about 10 years ago. We were both freelancing at the time, me as a compositor and motion designer, Lucy as a graphic designer, but we knew we wanted to make our own work.
We’re both music obsessives, so music videos were the obvious place to start for us. We cut our teeth making some very low budget videos for bands that we liked, and Yes Please was formed. We are now based in Hackney, London, specialising in graphic and motion design for the music industry.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
For us, one of the biggest challenges has been that we’ve built this company entirely from scratch, with no help from industry insiders. From my experience, most production companies form as a result of founder leaving larger, well established studios and taking some clients with them.
We had to do everything ourselves, and learn every step of the process along the way. This inevitably led to a few missteps, and slowed our growth. The positive side of this slow growth was that we had time to really learn every aspect of running a company, who we were, and what work we wanted to concentrate on.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
The first thing we did that had a major impact was ‘My Secret World’ – a feature-length documentary we made about the Bristol indie label ‘Sarah Records’. Lucy began the film as a short for her final-year university project. I saw potential in it and encouraged her to continue working on it after uni, extending it to a feature-length piece.
We made this entirely ourselves, with no funding, so it took a few years to complete. But it was a great success, premiering with an accompanying exhibition at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol, winning an RTS award and playing in theatres and film festivals all over the world, which we were invited to speak at.
The documentary was a bit of an outlier for us though. Our real passion is for design and animation, so we soon focused back on music videos. We had joined ‘Creative Commission’, the pitching site in 2017, and applied for what seemed like a dream job – creating 10 animated lyric videos for The Rolling Stones psychedelic album ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’.
Neither of us had heard of lyric videos before, but they seemed to suit our particular skill set perfectly, so we pitched, and won! The videos were a great success, particularly the lead one for ‘She’s A Rainbow’, which quickly garnered millions of views. ABKCO, the record label that commissioned them, liked our work so much that they went on to commission us to make over 100 further videos for the Rolling Stones, as well as other artists on their roster like Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack and Marianne Faithful.
Names like the Rolling Stones can open a lot of doors, and soon, other labels started getting in touch.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
We have a few very exciting potential projects in the pipeline, but can’t talk about those yet. More generally, there’s huge opportunity for us in the growth of catalogue music worldwide. Since first working with the Stones, we’ve been asked to direct a lot of lyric videos for older, catalogue artists.
Catalogue music is currently having a bit of a moment, being streamed and bought more than ever. Thanks to streaming services, more people than ever are discovering old music, and labels are predicting a boon in catalogue sales, which is great news for us!
Can you explain your team’s creative process?
We specialise in content for music, so the music generally leads the creative process. We will listen to the track we’re working on relentlessly, until we know every note and beat. Over repeated listens we’ll begin to form ideas and images that will fit the vibe of the song. We also go deep into research of the artist, looking over old album covers, Instagram pages, Wikipedia articles, music press etc.
In this way we build a comprehensive picture of an artist’s history and aesthetic. If we’re working on an old song, we’ll also do tons of research into the time at which the song was originally recorded, looking into art, design, fashion and so on. All this research means that by the time we come to start designing, we’ll have a solid foundation to build on, and have a good idea what we want the final piece to look like.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
We consume culture. We’re still as obsessed with music as ever, and both Lucy and I love finding new artists. The internet radio station NTS has been a great discovery for us, and it’s always on in our house, and constantly introducing us to stuff we’ve never heard before. Living in London means we can go to loads of gigs and art exhibitions, and we do that at every opportunity. There’s always something new and interesting to see if you know where to look.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Luckily for us we weren’t affected by COVID a great deal. We make fully animated videos to be streamed on the internet, so an ideal business to weather lockdown. Where it did affect us was in regards to my previous answer.
We could no longer consume the culture we were so accustomed to. No gigs, no exhibitions, no cinema, so our creative horizons shrunk significantly. By the end of lockdown we were finding ourselves seriously in need of some inspiration!
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I’m a big fan of the work that Blink Ink put out. They were the first company I freelanced for when I moved to London, and have worked on and off with them for a few years. They make great work, and really care about the craft. I think we share a sensibility when it comes to combining design and music. Encyclopedia Pictura are also a great studio, their video for Panda Bear's 'Boys Latin' is insanely good.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Keep making good work, and keep making the work you love. We struggled to find our identity when we initially set up the company. When we were very new, our heads would get turned by high-paying corporate jobs. We did a few of these, but pretty soon we realised our hearts weren’t in it.
We made the conscious decision to focus on the music industry. This was a difficult choice at the time as budgets were much better, and work was more plentiful in the corporate world, and initially we took a big cut in how much we were earning. But we stuck at it and it was the best decision we could have made. We now specialise in the thing we love, and are making a success of it. Be true to yourself!
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
These days a lot of our work comes to us by word-of-mouth, but in the early days the pitching site Creative Commission was very helpful to us and helped us forge relationships with a few record labels.
We don’t really use it any more as the budgets are generally very (sometimes insultingly) low, but if you’re just starting out, it’s an OK place to start, just to build up some experience. Other than that, there are no tricks, just knocking on doors and continuing to create good work in a professional manner.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
My main hope for the area we work in, namely the music industry, is that more respect is placed on the kind of work we do. Motion design, and especially lyric videos, are often seen as lower-tier work by labels, and as such can garner very low budgets and tight deadlines. Even for ‘proper’ music videos, one is expected to achieve a lot more, with far lower budgets than for TV commercials or other commercial marketing.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
Creativepool, naturally! Motionographer is also a great source of of inspiration. I learnt most of what I know of After Effects from the legend that is Andrew Kramer and the tutorials on his Video Copilot website. For keeping up to date with latest trends in design and creativity sites such as Creative Review, Creative Boom, Crack Magazine, Eye Magazine and Digital Arts are good as is Typewolf for typography.