The man behind the (wedding) music: Zak Biddu
26 Jun 2017
Co-ordinating sensational wedding performances for the super rich is all in a day's work for Zak Biddu of UKNY Music - working with A-list stars from Elton John to Mariah Carey
Zak Biddu, founder and managing director of specialist London music agency UKNY Music, is responsible for orchestrating some of the most sensational power perfomances at the weddings of the rich and famous. Zak has arranged for Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie to perform at a wedding in the south of France, John Legend to sing 'All of Me' at a castle wedding in Rome, Nicole Scherzinger to entertain the crowds at a Bollywood ceremony, and even reformedThe Backstreet Boys for a once-in-a-lifetime wedding performance.
Here, he tells us more about his work and how he brings these magical musical moments to life....
How did you start out in the music industry and when did you found UKNY Music?
My father was a songwriter, so I always had music around me while growing up. After I finished university I wanted a cool, fast-paced job in an exciting industry. The music industry ticked all those boxes; I started out by getting some work experience in a major record label’s marketing department.
UKNY was founded in December 2005, having previously worked in a couple of major record labels, owning a record label and also consulting for various artist management companies.
Describe a typical day for you.
First thing I do in the morning is check my emails and messages. A lot of the artists we work with are based in the US and many clients based in the Far East/Asia, meaning a lot of emails and messages come in over night. I then take my two gorgeous dogs, Roxy and Dotty, to the park for a walk, then head to the office. I brief the team, check in on all the ongoing events and projects, then I go through the new enquiries with the team. Most of the day is spent going through the upcoming shows, as every show is different, it is important to go through each one in fine detail. UKNY’S greatest attribute is our attention to detail and it’s important we spot and solve any issues before they become a problem for our clients. At the end of the day I try and exercise, walk the dogs again and often head to a gig or one of our events.
What is your most memorable wedding performance to date? Any stories to share?
There has been so many memorable weddings performances, but I’m going to mention two.
- The first is surmounting the challenge of making an unlikely performance happen and seeing it come together. A client wanted Bruno Mars to perform at their wedding reception, however that particular year Bruno wasn’t playing any shows as he was working on his new record. After months of persevering and persuading him, he accepted. Bruno and his band flew out to Italy to the client's wedding reception. Seeing this come together made everything so worthwhile, he put on an amazing show and is such a special talent. The performance was the highlight of the reception and every guest was left with a phenomenal memory. He even performed covers of the client’s favourite Michael Jackson and Barry White songs.
- The other was a magical once-in-a-lifetime performance. The client separately booked superstar DJ David Guetta and the Black Eyed Peas to perform at their wedding. With a bit of subtle encouragement, the Black Eyed Peas joined David for his set and performed together the number one hit single ‘I Gotta Feeling’; this brought the house down, leaving guests with an unforgettable one-off memory.
Who is one of the easiest artists to work with - one which may surprise the public?
I’d say 99% of the acts we work with are straightforward. We have built up fantastic long-term relationships with the artists and their teams. If I had to pick a couple the first would be Lionel Richie; he makes everyone around him feel fantastic and never creates any problems. Similar to him is Robbie Williams; he’s always up for a laugh and has an amazing presence, he’s great fun to hang out with. You often find that the nicest artists are the most successful.
Who is the most popular wedding artist on your books?
This really depends on the age and audience of the wedding. We get a lot of requests for Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran and Take That, Beyoncé and all the big name popstars. However, obviously budgets really affect who the couple can ultimately have. We do a range of shows with an entire spectrum of different performers and genres, with acts such as Nile Rodgers and Chic or Kool and The Gang who are a great examples of fantastic performers with an hour and a half of non-stop hits.
What are the most common requests you get from wedding couples looking to use your services?
Generally people want the biggest name with the most hits for the budget, so UKNY guide the clients through the process of who they can achieve for their budget. We will then work out availability of performers and run through what practical issues that the client may not be aware of. We do a lot of consulting as we can lean on 20 years of music industry experience and relationships; we can help the client make a decision on what will work best for their event, which is not always the biggest name but the best experience. We aim to ensure that the clients have a stress-free and enjoyable experience by holding their hands every step of the way and always having a member of the UKNY team at every event to manage the artist.
Any outlandish requests from couples?
One superstar artist performed in a couple’s hotel room. Another time we were asked if a well-known DJ could perform on a client's plane which was transporting friends to the party. We are often asked to reform bands that haven’t played together in years or had acrimonious splits. We have in a majority of cases managed to get bands that haven't played together in a long time back together for a one-off event. We have strong powers of persuasion. We also try and ensure every performance has something memorable or unique, perhaps featuring a song or cover the client loves. We’ve created many once-in-a-lifetime moments at our client’s events. We always include time for the clients to meet the artists and have photos and filming of the performance for their wedding or event videos.
How do you work with couples to ensure their needs and requests are met?
We pride ourselves on our service and try and make ourselves constantly available for our clients, so we can consult and assist every step of the way. We understand that clients aren’t experts in the music business and lean on us for constant advice that we are happy to provide around the clock. We handle every client’s requests to the performers, no matter how quirky. On a practical level, we negotiate all the details around each performance; it is often the extra elements such as flights, accommodation, production and riders that frustrate clients, so we manage all these aspects. We are working on behalf of the event and client to secure them the best terms and experience.
What advice would you give to couples choosing their wedding music/entertainment?
Be considerate of your guests. Although it’s your special day a lot of people don’t have the same music taste. The most successful performances we have arranged are the ones where there are lots of commercial hits that all the guests are familiar with… that’s the best way to get your guests dancing.