BRIT Trust Diaries: Chris De Banks, Founder Not Saints
The BRIT Trust is the principal charity of the UK record industry, and is committed to improving lives through the power of music and the creative arts. Funded largely by The BRIT Awards and the Music Industry Trusts Award (MITS), the work of the BRIT Trust is enabled by a Board of Trustees chaired by Tony Wadsworth CBE.
Since its foundation by record labels and the BPI in 1989, the Trust has donated around £28 million to nearly 300 causes that promote education and wellbeing, including The BRIT School, Nordoff and Robbins, Mind, Music Support, ELAM, and Key4Life among many others, and since 2023 Not Saints. To learn more about the work of The BRIT Trust please visit here.
To help explain and promote the work of The BRIT Trust and the charities it supports, the Trust publishes a regular series of BRIT Trust Diaries in association with Music Week.
Chris De Banks, Founder Not Saints
Not Saints is the UK’s only record label working with musicians in recovery from addiction or those seeking a sober experience from their music career. We also promote our own sober events for those in recovery to have an alcohol and drug-free option in live music.
Like most people, I started in the industry in bands and worked as a promoter, manager, and booking agent. All the way through my career drugs and alcohol were present, and a bit of fun eventually developed into full-blown alcoholism and addiction. By 2016 I was at death’s door and desperate, so I checked myself into rehab and turned my back on drink and drugs for good (one day at a time).
During the next few years, I went back to work as a booking agent and really saw for the first time not just how available drugs and alcohol are in our industry, but also how accepted it is and it really got me thinking. I was also meeting some amazing, talented musicians in recovery circles who just weren’t getting the opportunities to play or record that “normal” artists get because of the potential triggers, and it all seemed so upside down to me.
At The Great Escape in 2018, I tried to engage with the networking events, which were all in bars and everyone seemed to be really making the most of the hospitality, which left me feeling pretty excluded. It was while watching one of the panels that the questions popped into my head “If you’re a sober musician how do you engage with this?” and “So, what if we could do all this differently?”
What came next is a bit of a blur of business plans, cash flow projections, and one very challenging crowd funder, but by October of that year we had capital in the bank, and by the following January we’d released our first single and video.
Since 2019, we’ve worked with more than 60 musicians and artists, produced 12 singles, five albums, and 16 music videos. We have also hosted over 30 sober live events around the UK. You can check out some of our artists and their music on the website.
Operationally, we function in much the same way as every other label but we put a lot more emphasis on artist well-being, making sure they are taking care of their recovery and that they aren’t under too much pressure. We’ve tried to build Not Saints as a family because it means we’re looking out for each other all the time.
The work Not Saints do is important because it gives recovering musicians we work with the opportunity to just be musicians again. In an industry that still has alcohol and drugs so tightly woven into its fabric, there are so many triggers for those in recovery and most of the people we work with would probably have given up entirely.
One of our early strap lines was “We’re not trying to change the world but we are trying to do things differently” which really captures our mission.
So far we’ve had a lot of support from those we’ve met in the industry and I think people really get what we do. We were asked to guest on a panel at last year’s Great Escape by Music Support and it felt like we’d kind of come full circle.
As a not-for-profit we’re really reliant on grant funding and donations to keep going, and the latest support we are receiving from the BRIT Trust is absolutely thrilling as it will allow us to produce two new records in 2023 and carry on trying to spread a positive message that we can put people and wellbeing above all else. And it’s great to get the recognition and additional profile so that more people across the music community can learn about our work and I hope might even want to support us.