What I've Learnt: Paul Sampson, Founder & CEO at Lickd

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo
Paul Sampson, Lickd

Music licensing startup Lickd supports YouTube creators who want to use fully licensed music on their content.

It is the first claim-free licensing platform for the streaming website, whose content producers have had trouble with aggressive copyright claims in the past, even for the briefest accidental clips of songs.

Paul worked in music licensing for more than 12 years, including five years as Head of Europe for Music Dealers, boosting revenue streams in brand partnerships including with Coca-Cola and Viacom. He founded Lickd in 2016 alongside Simon Davis, to help both YouTube creators and labels.

We found out what matters to him.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Getting in ahead of my team each morning and having an hour to myself in the quiet and prepping for the day ahead. In fact, sometimes I do it from home and then come in to work but starting each day with some clear thought and solitary space is really important for me.

What's been your luckiest break?

I was a fortunate, last minute invitee to a small, private ‘anti-conference’ in Ibiza a few years ago and met an incredible bunch of people from various sectors of media that have not only inspired me but one of them turned out to be my seed investor and business partner in Lickd and my life hasn’t been the same since.

What's your best failure?

I chanced my hand at starting a boutique music/brand agency a decade or so ago, which I had to close it in its second year.

It was a short-lived affair where I tried to run before I could walk, and didn’t have the necessary experience to make it work the way it needed to. I had big, lofty plans for it, but none of the contacts or local knowledge I now know I needed.

I learnt so much through the mistakes I made and what I’d want to do differently if I was to ever go out on my own again. I learned more in that 18 months than probably any other time in my career.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

A company I joined in late 2015 went in to administration six months after i joined them. Instead of going back into the job market, I took a couple of months off to think about what I really wanted to do next.

I landed on Lickd and then took a further few months to go out and raise the investment to get started, but without giving myself that time and space I might now be in a job that wasnt fulfilling me. It’s one of the best moves I ever made.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Not brilliant. I find it hard to take time away from the business, to be honest.

I need to be better at it and, as our team grows, I think I will be but, thus far, identifying a week or two weeks that is a ‘good time’ for me not to be at the helm seems almost impossible. That’s a personal issue though, and we’ve recently hired some excellent people that I think will enable me to take some more time off.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

'The One Thing' by Gary Keller, perhaps. But honestly, nothing has inspired me or taught me as much about start-ups than listening to the back catalogue of the ‘Masters Of Scale’ podcast. There are so many lessons to be learned from those that have been there and done it whilst making all the mistakes you are about to make and that podcast has guided me so much in the three years since I started the business.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t fret just yet. The career you’re in now is not the endgame, rather just a learning curve for your future professional life. Take in the lessons and heed them.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

I have to name two people here, from different eras in my professional life. Both are ex-bosses of mine, Helen O’Hanlon and Christina Vaughan.

They both showed an incredible amount of belief in me very early on after meeting, nurtured my talents well and encouraged me to go out and do my own thing one day. They saw something in me that I was perhaps too fearful to acknowledge myself. I flourished under both of them and, without their support and encouragement, I’m not sure I’d have believed in myself enough to go out on my own.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I have chicken wings named after me (“Sampson Wings”) in BBQ joints in the US (NY and Atlanta). It’s a long story.

What does success look like to you?

On a personal level, it resembles the freedom of choice afforded from financial stability. I’ve seen first hand how money issues can ruin a family environment and have a devastating butterfly effect so I’d like to be able to at least protect myself against that going forwards. That’s not to say that is the ultimate success but it is certainly a driving force for me.

Professionally, seeing Lickd achieve its mission at scale and providing the ‘win-win’ for both the industries it solves problems for, would mean the world to me.