Hen Hoose Founder Tamara Schlesinger's Industry Insights

As part of our free short course programme, we have been speaking with industry professionals to find out more about their career pathways, current projects and sharing their advice to those just starting out.

We recently had the chance to meet with Tamara Schlesinger: singer songwriter, record label owner, independent artist (MALKA) and founder of female and non- binary songwriting collective, Hen Hoose.

Read on to find out more about Tamara industry experience spanning over 20 years, the recent success of the Equaliser album and her advice for budding songwriters.

Looking to develop your skills in songwriting? Why not sign up for one of our free songwriting short courses, taught online and in our Glasgow centre.

Course typically run over 6 sessions, are entirely free to those 14 and over residing in Scotland. Courses are SQA accredited and taught by industry professionals to provide you with the most up to date industry relevant knowledge.

Check out our upcoming Singer Songwriter courses below.

Hi Tamara! Why don’t you introduce yourself?

My name is Tamara Schlesinger. I’m the founder of Hen Hoose, the all female and non-binary songwriting collective based in Glasgow. We work collaboratively writing to briefs for sync, music, TV and film adverts, and also we’ve written an album called Equaliser which is out now. It’s brings together some of the most experienced and successful songwriters in Scotland alongside new up and coming artists as well, which has been amazing. The idea is really to just showcase the talent that we have here in Scotland.

What was the inspiration behind starting the collective?

You don’t have to look very far to see the lack of women on festival lineups and unfortunately the data for female artist signed to major labels is atrocious. Only 17% of writers registered with PRS are women. So I just felt it was time to try and do something about it myself during lockdown. A lot of us had lost our revenue streams from touring. We were a bit lost in general and it gave us a focus and a purpose, to be honest and we ended up forming this beautiful community.

That’s amazing. It’s great to hear about really experienced songwriters working with newer songwriters and collaborating on ideas, giving different perspectives. It’s kind of similar to what we do AMS as well. Connecting experienced musicians with our students full of new ideas.

What have you been working on at the moment with Hen Hoose?

We’ve connected with a lot of the ad agencies in Scotland, we’re currently concentrating on sync because that’s where I have a lot of experience, in writing for TV and film. 

I think with Hen Hoose, we’re looking beyond the writing to project production. So a lot of us are producing. We’re encouraging our artists and our writers to move into production or to have the confidence to produce to help combat the stats for women in production. I think only 2% of producer registered at MPG are women. Collaborating is really vital. Most of us are not great at everything. So it’s really good to work with someone else, learn from them. I think using the best of your skill set with someone else is actually a brilliant way of making music.

When you start out in music you just have your dream, your vision. I think sometimes it comes with experience to know that actually working with others can bring out the best in you.

I think there’s a really nice collaborative network in Scotland. Everybody kind of works alongside each other and most are very willing to to connect you with people and welcome you into networks. It is really, really important.

Tell us a little more about your songwriting camp with 23rd Precinct.

The songwriting camp was a Hen Hoose and 23rd Precinct collaboration. The idea was to bring some of our writers on board with some of the 23rd Precinct writers.

They were given 6 hours or so to collaboratively write to this brief, create their track then produce and mix it. On day two we swapped the groups and did the same, so each person came away with two songs that they’d collaborated on.

A lot of it was about development, but also these are active briefs needed in the industry. I think actually from that camp, some of the songs have been pitched already and had some good feedback. The hope is the writers come away inspired. It’s quite a good bonding and networking experience. I think some of the writers have kept in touch and they’re going to work together as well.

That’s so cool. People bouncing ideas around and building up each other’s ideas is really great to see across the board in Scotland at the moment.

When you start out in music you just have your dream, your vision. I think sometimes it comes with experience to know that actually working with others can bring out the best in you.

Tell us a little bit about the Equaliser album and what that experience was like?

Equaliser was a Hen Hoose collaborative project born in lockdown. I’ve run my label for best part of 20 years, I thought “I’ll pop it out on my label if it’s great” and it was beyond great it was just incredible. We did these zoom listening parties together, we were all just left amazed with each song we would hear. I’d be so lucky cause I’d get them early and I’d hear them first. I felt it was too good not to release. I wanted people to hear it.

I think what’s really interesting with the project is somehow the record feels cohesive, it runs, it flows even with so many contributors. I think part of that is because we had people write on maybe two or three songs. So a part of them would run through the next song.

Even though it was written through lockdown it’s quite an uplifting record, actually. You’d have people that were just working across genres that they wouldn’t normally. We all got pushed out of our comfort zones. We all were producers. We didn’t know that before. We didn’t classify ourselves as producers because we always go into the studio and there’d be a man twiddling the knobs and they would be the producer. But actually creating all the arrangements on Logic or Ableton we found out we had that skill, we just weren’t crediting ourselves for it.

I love the album, I really am so proud of it. Equaliser has had amazing reviews, lots of play on 6 Music, it’s been a big success so far. Since interviewing, Equaliser has been selected for the Scottish Album of the Year Award Longlist.

It’s enough to make you emotional listening to you speak about what a warm, rewarding process it’s been working together on the project.

Yeah, I was actually crying. I hear the songs and I get quite emotional when we finished and on release day. We were recognised by the John Lennon Foundation for our work for gender equality. So at Christmas we got sent the vinyl of ‘Happy Christmas War is Over’ by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which was a surprise. My husband had filmed me receiving it, I think he knew that something was coming and it went mini viral.

It was incredible. So we were able to auction that off and raise funds for the project. That’s what we were meant to do with this vinyl. That’s allowed us to bring in this round of artists that are not based in Scotland to work with our Scottish writers which is really exciting.

That’s really amazing. I would be really interested to hear a little bit about your career so far and how you got to here.

I had friends that knew some producers who wanted a singer while I was living down in London. I just went for it and said “I can sing”. I’d never sung in the studio in my life. I sang a cover of ‘Boots Are Made For Walking’ by Nancy Sinatra, and it was used on Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. So it was a really crazy first entrance into music. I started to write my own music and I had a solo album. I was put in touch with Ann Harrison, who has written the definitive music business book [Music: The Business], and she was said “Why are you not just releasing this yourself?” This is 2004.

Not many people released their own music at this point and I could count on one hand how many women were doing it. So I did it and Ann helped me. She guided me, she was my mentor.

That’s when I just started to work on my music and then I eventually had a live band. I started working with the guitarist and we realised we were more of a band than a solo project now. So we named ourselves Six Day Riot. We worked with a producer called Steve Levine, who produced for The Beach Boys and The Culture Club. We did a record of him and lots of majors wanted to sign us. We didn’t end up signing anything. I thought “I’m gonna just release it on my own record label.” I’ve never released with any other label. I run my label and all my own projects. We had music on Skins and SCREAM 4, the Hollywood film and played Glastonbury Festival. Behind it all there’s me running everything.

That sounds like a really great but intense period of time.

Everyone knows the lead singer is the tour manager, lead songwriter and the label. We protect the work, send the emails, do the admin. Sometimes I’d pretend I had a manager. I’d send emails using my now husbands name trying to negotiate fees. Every so often he’d come to gig and I’m like “Oh, you know that person they’ve just given us some tour dates” and he would have to stand and introduce himself having never spoke to them in his life. Then I left London, had my kids came back to Scotland and went solo, as MALKA.

Even within that project, the success of my work was sync based. I think that’s why Hen Hoose made sense. So still running my label, I lecture as well in music business and and then Hen Hoose was born. So I kind of have these different hats. I have the business side and the artist side. I’ve released 10 albums of my own stuff across the board from solo to bands to collaborations as well. So yeah that’s kind of the trajectory of my career so far.

That is amazing, you’ve had such a varied career with one resounding theme throughout being having control over your own music.

Yeah you grow in confidence with handling your own work. I don’t use any other name now. I’m just me now. I’ve been doing it long enough that people would know I was lying!

It’s a massive achievement to have put out that many albums while trail blazing that path of self releasing.

My final question would be do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start out as a songwriter / self releasing musician?

You have to grow real confidence. Continue writing. Just write, write, write, write, write. Don’t worry about what genre or what style. Don’t worry about any of that. Just write. Find and discover yourself, connect with people. Go to events like Resonate, they are running networking nights where you just turn up with the guitar, writing and playing songs together. All these things are important and there’s so much available theres something for everyone. So just go find it, don’t sit in your room and hide. Go out and find your people and your own identity as a musician.

You can find out more about about MALKA, Hen Hoose & the free songwriting short course below. 


Flip The Script

"Women are at the forefront of UK Hip Hop": Arusa Qureshi Interview

We sat down with Arusa Qureshi, Edinburgh based author of ‘Flip the Script: How Women Came to Rule Hip Hop’, to discuss her life long connection with hip hop, the genres impact globally and closer to home as well as her career pathway, from her role as editor of The List to working with We are Here Scotland.

If you are considering taking part in one of our Rap & Hip Hop or Women in Music short courses coming up in June, make sure to check out Flip the Script as a great starting point to learn more.

Hey Arusa! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Arusa Qureshi, I’m a writer and editor based in Edinburgh. I write mostly about music, but I also do a lot of work in diversity and accessibility in arts and culture. I used to be the editor of The List and now I’m a freelancer and I write for various places like NME, The Guardian and Gold Flake Paint. And most recently I’ve written a book called ‘Flip the Script: How Women Came to Rule Hip Hop’, which is a love letter to women in hip hop in the UK specifically. 

At the start of your book, there’s a section all about hip hop being your safe haven and drawing the reader in with sharing your own connection with music from a young age, why don’t you tell us about that.

So hip hop is something that I’m really passionate about. Growing up, just seeing those women on TV owning their confidence really did something for me. It’s not just a genre of music, it’s more than that. It’s a cultural movement and it’s something I do love to analyse and write about and delve into the political and cultural aspects of it. I’ve written quite a lot about American hip hop and the roots of the genre. But I wanted to shine a light on what women in the UK were doing because I really feel like women are at the forefront of innovations that are happening in hip hop. 

Yes, hip hop started in the Bronx, but it has travelled the world and it’s morphed and picked up things as it’s traveled. So, I’m really interested in where we are in the UK at the moment.  

You can sense that lifelong connection, what really kicked off writing the book for you back in 2020?

Both the Scottish Album of the Year Award and the Welsh Music Prize were both won by women rappers, that’s Nova (SAY Award) and Deyah (WMP). It felt like we were in a really exciting period, that there was something special going on and I wanted to capture it in some way, and that’s what the book was. 

You talk in the book about writing your dissertation on hip hop in 2015 and being strongly advised against it by your lecturers. What was that experience like?

My tutors didn’t see hip hop as a genuine art form. Which made me sad at the time and it still does thinking about it. But I went ahead and did it and I’m really glad I did because it really ignited this passion in terms of writing about hip hop and writing about the political aspects of music. 

Personally, I think, in the UK we’re still a little bit behind America in relation to hip hop in academia, things are definitely much further ahead. I think partly because when Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, that was just a huge deal because hip hop was finally entering this sphere of being like a real art form, of being really respected. 

I really do think even though it is born in New York, hip hop represents and tells you a story about very specific communities or groups of people, people with a very specific political history. And for that reason, it should be taken seriously. 

The Academy of Music and Sound is proud to be the developers of the first Rap & Hip Hop pathway and short course into full time higher education in Scotland. Find out more about the educational opportunities we have on offer here.

Absolutely, we’ve seen a large scale shift in the media and education even in the past few years. What has your career looked like since finishing up your degree?

I went on to do a Masters at Napier in magazine publishing. I don’t think that doing a masters is the most important thing in the world at all. But it was the right choice for me at the time. I was really lucky that I got a scholarship to do it. So, because I was so grateful to be there, I really put myself forward for absolutely everything. I took advantage of all the free tickets that we got to conferences and events. I really didn’t close myself off from any experience that came my way. And I was interested in writing and editing, but I was willing to try out different things in that industry. The List had an opening and I just wanted to learn everything I could. I gradually became a part of the content team, and then in 2017 the editor was leaving. I applied for her job and somehow, I got it. And I say that because it was unexpected at the time. Unfortunately, because of COVID, my role as editor was made redundant in August 2020.  

That must have been really tough.

Yeah, I was at the company for almost five years in total. So, it was horrible. But I became a full time freelancer shortly after. And I’ve been doing that since, and I’m really grateful to say that it has worked out. I’ve been able to do all kinds of different things. So, like, writing for publications like NME and The Guardian and and Time Out. And I’ve done some radio work, and I worked on a BBC podcast for a little bit. And then I wrote a book. And none of that would have happened if I hadn’t lost my job.  

You’ll have built up a number of transferable skills in your time in the industry. That’s kind of what our short courses are about, giving people the chance to discover something new or up-skill. Which has been vital for so many creatives.  

I think first of all, what you’re saying about the short courses, that kind of thing is so perfect for if you are wanting to just build on what you already have or you know what you don’t have in terms of skill sets. Over the past two years it’s things like that I really looked out for I guess to try just push myself in different ways in the industry. It’s sometimes the case that you think you’re good at one thing and you can’t really do anything else but there’s so many things you could do with the skills that you have and that’s really what I’ve learned over the past two years. 

Do you think your transferable skills made the transition to freelancing easier?

I took the time to try all opportunities that came my way. It’s about really looking at the skills that you have and seeing what else you could use them for. And I think in terms of the skills I had from my earlier job, being organised, attention to detail and good with deadlines honestly helps me in everything I do. I think you have to really think outside the box a little bit when you’re looking at what you could use your skills for. You might think, “well, I’m a writer, so I can only write.” 

But you can work in TV, you can work in radio, you can work in film. You can work in all kinds of things. It’s just about being open to trying things. 

Would you say there are any resources you’ve used specifically to find hip hop opportunities throughout your career?

When it came to just looking for opportunities and applying for jobs, I subscribed to a lot of different newsletters that were free to subscribe to. They would send out regular specifically writing opportunities, but also ones that would say whether there was a role in the music industry for example, and it was just a good thing to keep getting that in my inbox. Just to remind me that there are things out there in terms of resources for hip hop. I really wish there was more written about just hip hop generally, but also specifically about women and hip hop. And there is a lot of written about it in in the US, but not as much in the UK. 

You can look at my bibliography in the book, which has everything that I read and that will give you a really good idea of resources in the genre. 

Are there any organisations to look into too?

I think it’s also worth drawing attention to another organization I work for called ‘We Are Here Scotland’, which is basically all about amplifying voices of creatives of color in Scotland and we do various things. We’ve been working on a creator fund, so artists of color in Scotland can apply for £500 bursaries for things like equipment or studio time or something like that. And I think it’s been a really good resource so far because as well as the fund we offer mentorship. I think mentorship is one of the most important things for people starting out. 

“Hip Hop is not just a genre of music, it’s more than that. It’s a cultural movement.”

That sounds incredible, having even 1 person in your corner can make such a difference.

Absolutely! And not just for people who are just starting out, but even people who are further on in their careers. Just being able to speak to people who’ve made that step or done what you’re looking to do. It is just so important that you’re getting the advice from somebody that has already been there and done. It can be totally valuable. 

Tell us a little more about We Are Here Scotland.

We Are Here was founded by Ica Headlam, and the project was initially funded through crowdfunding and now has received Creative Scotland funding to support the next round of people and it’s just been so great so far. The first round of people who got the funding, that was a little while ago, they’re all in their process of using that money and doing the mentorship and stuff and it’s really cool to see. £500 isn’t a huge amount of money to some people, but for somebody just starting out when you’re looking for materials or you’re looking to even just pay yourself to be able to do a project, it can be so important.  

We’re just trying to demystifying things a bit and help people that maybe think that they don’t belong in not just the music industry, but the wider creative industries. We want to really show that there is a place for them. And there’s people here to help. 

That’s really incredible. How do you feel about Hip Hop in the UK right now?

I’m honestly so proud of where we are at the moment when it comes to hip hop in Scotland. Hip Hop in the UK is always traditionally revolved around London and that’s makes sense because it’s kind of where it started in the UK. But there’s so much going on beyond London and the levels of talent that we have in all regions is just insane. I feel like hip hop & offshoots like grime and drill etc. are thriving. We can’t just look to London automatically as the place to find the best of the next big talent. Nova winning the SAY Award, I think that meant a huge amount to the Scottish music industry and just to the industry taking hip hop seriously and even beyond Scotland this. 

You know it is a hugely respected and really popular genre. There is a statistic in my book, I think it was from 2020 or 2021 that states, hip hop accounts for over a fifth of all UK singles consumption, which is like a sixfold increase on 1999 and that’s huge. 

Before you go Arusa, why don’t you share what’s in your playlists at the moment? Who are some of your favourite artists right now?

In Scotland I love BEMZ, Washington, Clarissa Woods and The Honey Farm. Elsewhere, I love Lil Simz and ENNY as well. If anyone is interested in just hearing more hip hop generally in the UK and I made a playlist that goes along with the book, at the moment it’s over 8 hours long, but I keep adding to it as things come out!  

Check out the Flip the Script Playlist here.


If you would like to find out more about the culture of hip hop and rap performance AMS are running a series of short courses across Edinburgh & Glasgow in June. Classes take place across a variety of weekdays and run from 10am-4pm.  We are also running a weekend online Women in Music short course across 3 Saturdays and Sundays from 11th June until 26th June with classes running from 10am-4pm. You can find more information about all our courses below.


Wallpapers for Forms

Meet Scotlands Audio Designers Ahead of The Music & Sound for Games Short Course

Our Music & Sound for Games free short course sets out to allow sound designers to gain experience and learn the essential transferable skills needed when working within this globally recognised sector.

From ‘Grand Theft Auto’ to BAFTA winning ‘Crackdown’, the Scottish game sector has made indispensable contributions to the global games market. The sector is made up of a strongly connected network of freelancers and companies set out to create immersive gaming experiences for each player.

The Academy of Music and Sound looks forward to opening opportunities for people in Scotland aiming to access the sector, and support students as they take their first steps towards a potential career in music & sound for games. 

The online Music & Sound for Games course is free to all Scottish residents over the age of 14. You can find out more information about the course and apply below.

Purple visuals that read ‘free short course, Music & Sound for Games'

We wanted to give a direct insight into working in the games sector ahead of the course. We managed to sit down with two of Scotland’s’ own sound designers, Luci Holland and Kenny Young to discuss working in the games sector. Kenny and Luci have both spent a great deal of time building up their skills and network within the games sector and have worked on some outstanding projects.  

Luci Holland smiling while holding an instrument. Featured interviewee ahead of the music & sound for games short course

Meet the audio designers

Luci not only composed the dynamic score for Blazing Griffin‘s multiplayer-stealth game Murderous Pursuits, but she has worked as a freelance composer and sound artist across games, film and interactive sound installations for over 10 years. She also runs her own UK game show, ‘The Console’ on Scala Radio along her freelance Programme Manager position within Glasgow’s own, Tinderbox Collective. While Luci enjoys working on all types of music for media, it was playing games like LoZ: Ocarina of Time, Broken Sword, and The Secret of Monkey Island as a child that first hooked Luci into music, and music & sound for games especially. 

Kenny Young, music & sound for games specialist

 

 

For Kenny, his combined interest in how sound and the moving image worked together, and games and technology made audio for games feel like the best fit for him. Considering a career in both film and gaming, the latter won due to the nature of the film industry being less appealing than that of sound design for games. Kenny has worked on an impressive variety of projects. From running the audio department of Media Molecule for many years and developing sound experiences such as ‘LittleBigPlanet’ and ‘Tearaway’, to working with Sony Japan on Astro’s Playroom, Kenny may be part of the Scottish industry, but his work truly reaches the international market.  

When asked if there was anything in particular that interested them in audio for gaming, they had the following to share:  
Luci

“There are a lot of things that I find fascinating about games audio, but I find just the puzzle of making interactive experiences quite inspiring – for example the process of figuring out what role the player has when interacting with the game, and how the sound is shaped to respond to this in interesting and immersive ways.”

Kenny

“It’s challenging to create an interactive audio experience, so if you enjoy working with and wrangling technology then that’s part of the draw. You definitely need to have good problem-solving skills, and a love of technology absolutely helps.

There are other tangential benefits that come with the complexity of making games such as the need for teamwork, and the industry is therefore intrinsically rather collaborative, relatively flexible and often quite meritocratic in nature. The audio community has a reputation for being welcoming to newcomers, perhaps because it has always had such a high percentage of freelancers and so the support and social networks tend to be strong.” 

They also shared their pathways into the games industry. 
Photo Credit: Scala Radio
Luci

“I’ve probably been more largely involved in the games industry for about 5 years now, working as a freelance composer for studios and independent developers. Outside of games though I’ve been working as a freelance composer and musician for around 10 years.  

My path has been a big mix of work but with a focus on composition both in and out of games – I’ve worked on creative commissions and collaborations, recordings, performances, with local arts organisations, some teaching, and various other mixed artform projects.  

Within the games world as I have built a portfolio of work and gained more experience, I’ve connected and built more relationships with more game developers and other creative studios, both locally and further afield.” 

Kenny

“I’m originally from Edinburgh and had a musical background, playing violin and guitar as a kid and student. I decided not to pursue performance and went on to study Music Technology at Edinburgh Uni, before going on to study a master’s degree in Sound Design at Bournemouth.  

Outside of my studies, I spent the year of my MA really focusing on researching the industry and trying to get a job in games, and I was fortunate enough to go straight into a junior sound design position with Sony London Studio in 2004. I left Sony in 2007 to start up the audio department at Media Molecule, which is when I began writing and contributing more music in addition to my sound design and audio direction duties. 

I decided to go freelance in 2015 and moved back to Scotland at the end of 2020. So, geographically speaking, I’m absolutely part of the Scottish industry now, but my work is international, and I haven’t worked with any Scottish developers yet. I’m sure I will one day!”


the best work comes not from talented individuals but from talented individuals collaborating. Collaboration has shaped and informed my career. - Kenny Young

As we are launching a new educational pathway of audio for games, we were curious to hear Kenny and Luci’s opinions on education in their specialist field.  
Luci

“It’s great to see more local institutions exploring and teaching more in this field – I would love to see game music composition and audio become a thriving creative hub here in Scotland, showcasing the importance of these roles and helping to continually advance both games audio and games themselves.”

Kenny

 “Outside of learning bread and butter topics, I think the most important thing I got from my studies was inspiration. Not just in terms of studying the best of what had come before, but also the context in which it had come to fruition – the understanding that the best work comes not from talented individuals but from talented individuals collaborating has shaped and informed my career. 

I think it’s important for students trying to get into the creative industries to know that nobody is going to hire them based on a qualification they have. The point of studying is to learn new skills so you can level up and apply yourself in a relatively efficient manner. The trick is being able to show the fruits of that to prospective employers or clients. So, your portfolio is crucial, and you need to take every opportunity you can to add to it and make a real effort to work on projects with other people rather than just personal projects because this will help you to grow the collaboration and communication skills that are necessary to succeed.”

We all have a connection with games in one way or another, whether it’s a memory from a long time ago or a current favourite hobby. We were keen to know the first use of audio in a game that really caught Luci and Kenny’s attention and what their favourite soundtrack / score or use of audio effect is now.
Luci

“One memory that comes to mind is a simple one, but it was probably the first time I really took notice of reactive music – it was while playing Pikmin and noticing the interactive musical layers shifting as you explored the level! Different instrumental layers play based on whether you are near treasure, or enemies – very satisfying.  

In terms of favourites, that’s such a tricky one to answer as I have so many and it’s also constantly changing! I’m a huge fan of these scores:  

  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (Jessica Curry),  
  • LA Noire (Andrew Hale & Simon Hale),  
  • EverQuest II (Laura Karpman),  
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (Mikolai Stroinski),  
  • Kingdom Hearts (Yoko Shimomura),  
  • The Last Guardian (Takeshi Furukawa) and 
  •  Hollow Knight (Christopher Larkin) 

Those are some regular favourites I constantly return to.” 

Kenny

“I have fond memories of PC games in the 90s – Doom, Sim City 2000, X-Wing, Wing Comander III amongst many others. Messing about in Doom level editors was my first introduction to game engines and design tools. But Deus Ex stands out as a particularly formative experience – it really sucked me in with its branching story line, use of gameplay as narrative and Alexander Brandon’s wonderful, evocative music. 

Ah, there’s so much good stuff! Off the top of my head, I’d say my favourite soundtracks were Monkey Island 2, the Portal games, Martin Stig Andersen’s amazing work at Playdead on Limbo and Inside, Austin Wintory’s music in Journey. All great scores but, more importantly, all great games with the audio experience contributing significantly to the end result. 

 And that’s a key point – the job of the composer is not to “write music” it’s to contribute towards the music experience as part of the wider player experience. It’s all too easy at the beginning of your career to focus on the technical side of writing music but writing music that fits an experience is a whole other skill and you need to develop that muscle and understanding too.”

__________________________________________________________

Make sure you check out what Luci and Kenny are working on at the moment over on their socials.  

Luci Holland

 Twitter | Facebook | Website

Kenny Young

Twitter | Facebook | Website

 

Apply now for the Music & Sound for Games free short course.


Many Hats with Chloe Heatlie, producer at Adelphoi Music

Many Hats with Chloe Heatlie, producer at Adelphoi Music

Welcome back to Many Hats. This week our Edinburgh centre manager Alyssa got to sit down and catch up with her old pal Chloe Heatlie, producer at Adelphoi Music, a Music Agency based in Central London. Chloe has a set of impressive music qualifications including a Masters in Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music and since joining Adelphoi, she has worked with a range of high profile clients including Nike, Armani x Hypebeast, Zara, Walkers Max, and Google Cloud.

Their conversation spans all things music production, as Alyssa gets all the details on what Chloe’s fascinating role involves, and her commitment to music beyond her day-job including her lockdown-inspired Podcast ‘A Little More Conversation’. Alyssa and Chloe also chat lockdown tips and the impact of this ‘toxic productivity’ we’re all feeling just a little bit right now. Read on and discover all…


Hi Chloe! Tell me a bit about yourself! What do you do and how did you get where you are today?

I live in London and I work as a producer at a music agency [Adelphoi Music].  Before that, I studied musical theatre in Glasgow at Motherwell College and then moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. After that I worked as a performer before I decided I wanted to work in the music industry. When I decided that, I started to work hard to gain experience, so temped on reception at places like Universal Music, I volunteered for Sofar Sounds, read a ton of books, wrote a music blog and eventually (after a couple of years) I got a job at Adelphoi. And that’s where I am now!

 

Tell us a bit more about your role at Adelphoi?

I’m a producer – we work with creative agencies, production companies and brands to either find or create music and/or sounds for advertising campaigns. We have a team of composers who work for us but we also work with freelance composers, musicians and artists to create compositions! We work with record labels and publishers to brief out searches if we’re looking for a specific type of track for a project, we’ll work with them to find tracks that are in-line with what we want and are licence-able for the budget we have.

We also do audio branding, so that’s working directly with brands to find a specific sound to represent them. For example we worked with Norwegian Air to create a sonic identity for them and they use it on board all of their planes, we also revived Gillette’s existing audio identity for use globally across their advertising. We also do sound design to picture too.


What’s a typical day in the office for you? – Pre-covid!

A typical day pre-COVID! [laughs] Our office is in Covent Garden, there we have studios and we have a production room where we all sit and work together. We usually have production meetings, so all the producers get together and we talk about projects we have. We also talk about sales a lot, part of our role is new business. So we’re reaching out to producers, creatives and creative directors, to tell them about the company and try to get them to think of us when they next need music on a project.  We have sales catch-ups in the morning, then during the day we’ll just be working on whatever projects take priority. A lot of the time our projects are a very quick turn around, 1-2 days to make a composition for an advert, so that’s doing demos, working on them and then delivering, so getting them mixed as well! [We’re] sometimes in-and-out of the office for industry events too.

 

And how have things changed with COVID this year?

It’s quite different yeah… So all of the ‘nice’ bits of the job – getting to meet people and socialise and attend events and screenings – are all non-existent! [laughs] There are a lot of online events which we are trying to attend more and more. But yeah the sad thing is not being able to meet people and chat face-to-face and do all those things which are the big perks of the job really! But yeah we’ve been working remotely since March, everybody, all our composers and producers.


Has your job been effected by the impact of COVID on the music industry?

We’ve noticed [it] in terms of the types of projects that we’re getting. We’re getting a lot smaller budgets this year, so brands just don’t have as much money, or they’re choosing not to spend as much money on music so we’re getting a lot of back catalog searches and library music searches. Rather than brands spending £50k on a composition job, they’ll spend £10k on a piece of library music that maybe isn’t as special but is cheaper and does the job. So we’ve definitely noticed some budgets being slashed, but there’s definitely still work out there so we’re still working which is nice!

 

That’s good – it’s a bit doom and gloom and we’re having to adapt! But musicians are used to being versatile?

I think that’s true. Most people I work with have some kind of ‘side hustle’ whether that is DJing or being part of some sort of collaborative group, or volunteering, they do have things they do on the side. Definitely agree.

 

When you graduated from RAM, how did your degree help you to get where you are today?

My degrees did help me in terms of the musical knowledge you need to get my job. Everyone that works for the company is a musician or a DJ or is totally involved in music in some way, shape or form. So it’s really important. And also to be able to give feedback to performers, if you don’t understand music you’re not really able to give that feedback. It’s something that adds value to companies like us. You get agencies coming to us and saying things like… ‘I want music that’s happy’. Okay, what kind of music are we talking about here? So it needs to be happy, is that all you can give us? [laughs] So it’s kinda like translating what people want into music – which is essential. 

“For my job I have to have an understanding of a range of genres. Our briefs can be anything from opera to 80s disco! It could be anything.”

I also think, with my degree in musical theatre… It wasn’t all about the music, it was more about your confidence and your character.  I think it was those things that really helped me in terms of getting up and being able to talk to people or being able to approach somebody you don’t know and say, hey look at what we’re doing over here, do you wanna hear more about it? It’s also those skills that are really valuable!

 

So from graduating from RAM to where you are today, what experience did you gather along the way?

I had to have passion for music to get my job, you had to have experience in music. You have to have an understanding of a range of genres – our briefs can be anything from opera to 80s disco, you know! It could be anything. So you have to kinda understand a lot of different styles, or at least have an awareness of it. 

I was also doing loads of voluntary work at the time too.  In those 2 years where I was looking for a job in music, I was applying for jobs like mad! There’s paid internships down in London but they don’t really pay you enough for you to actually do them, unless you’re living with someone and not really paying any rent or student loans or bills. I didn’t do an internship, I just needed to get a job! And I think Adelphoi did take a bit of a risk.

I think it’s important to note I didn’t have experience in the job, I just had passion and I had degrees and I had knowledge. I was teaching myself, I read so many books all about the music industry and I was volunteering at live events, doing all sorts of things from artist liaison to making sure people at the events were safe and comfortable. And I was blogging as well!  I was constantly looking online to find artists that weren’t signed and I was blogging about them, just writing ‘check out this song, this is really cool, and she’s from here, and she’s this old, and this is the kind of music she does or he does.’ So yeah, a big part of me getting the job was the company taking a chance, but also proving I was passionate.

What about the best thing about working in music?

The best thing I think is the people. We get to meet so many people, not only is our team so nice, we have a good family feel! But there’s just so many interesting people. As I said before, aside from the day-to-day projects we might be working on, you might not be really passionate about making an advert, or what the advert is about, but a lot of the people have things that they believe in and they’re part of things outside of work they get involved in. That might be charity projects… The other night we went to an online… What do you call it when it’s like naked drawing? [laughs]

Anyway! It was an online naked drawing [life drawing] event for Breast Cancer Awareness and these girls from an agency were like, we’re gonna do an event with naked drawing and you pay £8 for a ticket, all the money goes towards Breast Cancer Awareness and you have a bit of fun! And there’s loads of those sort of initiatives which I really like. So definitely the people. 

 

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job or working in the industry?

One of the challenges actually is getting through all the music! So everyday we each get 10s and 10s of emails from sync companies, publishers, record labels, freelance composers and artists – we just get sent so much music! And we’d love to listen to it, and we do try to go through as much as we can but we can’t sit and listen to music all day, so that’s the sad thing, we get a sent a lot of great stuff that we might miss because we just don’t have the hours in the day. But we do always try to reply, especially if it’s someone new that we haven’t heard from before just to say thanks, I’ll take a look, and we’ll keep you in mind and if something comes up maybe we can work together. But yeah, that’s the day-to-day trouble for sure.

 

What advice would you give students or graduates who want to get into your line of work?

Yeah, passion! If you’re not, why are you in the music industry really! That’s a given. But for this year obviously it’s really challenging for everyone in terms of working, there’s been a ton of redundancies all over the place especially in the live sector, I think just don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t happen straight away. It took me a few years to get a job in music, and I think just do your research! 

If you’re passionate about something, just learn. Watch YouTube videos, read books, email people, add them on LinkedIn, just say hey, I’m really interested in your career, would you be up for having a coffee or a zoom and just chatting. Maybe find a mentor as well, somebody that’s willing to give you advice or check over your CV. But I think passion will definitely help you on the way!

 

And what’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received? 

I think for me I’ve always been quite driven to the point where I just want to get things done and get to the finish line. It can be a really good thing, but it’s important to take your time sometimes and enjoy the moments… And not always be pushing for the next thing. Just taking it a bit slower sometimes would probably be the best advice I’ve had. Not that I always listen to it! [laughs]

Especially during the pandemic…

There was that saying which was like, if you’ve got out of bed in the morning and made your bed, then you’ve done something, you’ve achieved something.

 

That’s a good way to look at it. There’s so much pressure on achieving stuff during this time – I’m not in the mood to do anything creative, just trying to get through it.

I think it’s totally common. Obviously everybody is different and everybody is dealing with it differently and has different situations, but I don’t think it’s a time to be putting pressure on yourself and stressing out about it. You know, do what you can do. If you can make 10 albums this year then go for it – it doesn’t really matter, but just make sure when you come out of it you’re in a good place. 

 

That takes me to my next question… You’re working on a podcast that covers mental health in the industry, is that right?

Yeah sure, so the podcast is called ‘A Little More Conversation‘ and it basically came up during coronavirus. Me and a colleague Lacyn were thinking how hard all this was, and we bet there’s other people out there who are really struggling, but there’s actually nothing for people – in advertising especially – to turn to. There’s a charity that provides counselling but that’s all really. So we decided to start a podcast that talks about mental health in the advertising industry. It’s been really popular so far. We’re going to talk about things like the pressures of sales, the pressures of creativity, job sharing, working from home, returning to work after paternity or maternity leave, things like that. Anything that might be presenting challenges for people in the industry and openly talking about it. It will hopefully give people in the industry somewhere to go and listen to other people’s problems, which they can probably relate to!

It’s good to feel you’re not alone in the way you’re feeling. A lot of what we’re seeing is the highlights of people’s lives on social media.

Yeah it’s true – it’s not real what you see on social media – but it’s the same in the industry, you might have a company saying ‘we’re really busy, we have so many projects on..’ but they don’t! They’re just saying it because they want people to think that they’re busy, which is their prerogative really. But actually I think this year especially it’s fine to say, we’ve had a hard year, you’ve probably too, is there anything we can do to help each other out?

How would a budding artist go about approaching you to get their tracks featured in one of your projects?

So there’s a couple of ways. If you have a publisher, the publisher should be pushing out your music to people like us, not just for advertising but for film and TV as well. But not everybody has a publisher, so if you’re doing it yourself, just research companies – companies like us, music production companies. You’ll also find on LinkedIn lots of freelance music supervisors. They want to be sent music, you know, we want to be sent stuff, we need to know what’s current, what’s cool.  And also if you’re an artist, there’s some really interesting reasons for a company to work with you, one it’s supporting up-and-coming talent, which is huge, hugely important. And 2, it’ll give you good money for you to go and make more music! 

Also it often works well for lower budget projects, or projects that are maybe more creative. So I think there’s definitely good opportunities. Our emails are on the website, just go around, do some research, send some emails. Make sure that when you present your music you do it in a good way. So don’t send too much, maybe send a couple of tracks and just explain who you are and what kind of music you’re making – and that’s it!

 

And one last question – what’s the most exciting project you’ve been involved in at work?

Oooo… I’m actually working on one at the minute, I actually can’t tell you what who brand is, it’s a luxury fashion brand, but we’re basically mixing an old out-of-copyright classical piece of music with very modern, ugly sounds, an so it’s going to be a total mash up of beautiful classical music and really ugly, industrial sounds! And the film is really cool, it’s got loads of dancers in it and the people are beautiful and hopefully it’s going to come together in the end!


Sounds interesting!

Yeah it’s bold definitely! I’ll send it ya!


You can read Chloe’s blog here, and listen to her podcast A Little More Conversation on Spotify.

Find out more about Adelphoi on their website

~

Interview: Alyssa Renwick
Photos: © Adelphoi Music


susan montgomery resonate confernece many hats interview glasgow scotland

Many Hats with Resonate's Susan Montgomery

For the next instalment of Many Hats we sit down with Susan Montgomery, Project Manager at Glasgow’s annual Resonate Music Conference, and Senior Music Publicist at Publishing Company 23 Precinct.

Susan has been working on producing Resonate for 4 years now which usually happens in Glasgow each year. This year, like everyone, Susan and her team are having to adapt to the strange new conditions we find ourselves in, so this year, Resonate 2020 will be taking place virtually in November. Susan talks us through her experience – from starting a biochemistry degree to following her passion for music by going back to college to study music, and subsequently kick-starting the impressive career she holds today! See below for wise words, hot tips and some impressive anecdotes…


What are your current roles? What do they involve?

Right now I work as the Senior Music Publisher at 23rd Precinct Music, which is first and foremost a publishing company, so we represent songwriters, composers and music creators, and we also have 2 in-house record labels – so I wear many hats in that role!

I also Project-Manage Resonate which is a music industry conference, which normally happens physically, but this year it’s happening digitally. It happens in November every year in Glasgow, and we host a series of panel discussions, one to one sessions, workshops, seminars – a whole bunch of things! We’ve really worked to grow that over the past 4/3 years to be a sort of calendar – staple – event in a lot of Scottish music-people’s lives I think now, and that’s really where we’re at!

 

Amazing! What key skills do you use in each role?

At 23rd Prescient as a Publisher I have to be great at communicating. I have to be really forthcoming with ideas, pitching to labels and management companies. So if I’ve got a writer that writes a song I have to find a home for that song, so I directly pitch to management companies, not just here in the UK, but all over the world. 

I do a lot of pitching for Sync as well – Sync is when you put music to a moving image, so that could be a game or trailer, advert, whatever else. Basically I organise all the catalogs, all the new music that our writers are writing. I have to then process it on a platform – so being organised is a really important skill. Being able to self-motivate is really important and being able to prioritise your tasks. You know, if I get a briefing for a Sync and it’s urgent I have to drop everything I’m doing and respond to that. 

And in terms of Resonate, I think being a good team leader – hopefully I am a good team leader I don’t know, I’ve not had any bad feedback so far! [laughs] – but being able to manage and delegate tasks is really hard, especially if you’re a control-freak, but it’s just about overcoming those challenges that you face with just growing up I guess!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job/s? 

From a publishing perspective, that’s really where my passion lies.  I really love songwriting and just think it’s such a magical thing. Seeing someone get a track picked up by a big label, or maybe I’m working with a vocalist who’s just produced an acapella and I get a producer to bring that track to life, I love that. And if you manage to sign it to a big label, or it doesn’t even have to be a ‘big’ label, but just the feeling of accomplishment, and knowing that you’ve helped that writer or vocalist [is great]. 

We’ve work on a long term basis, so when we sign people we sign them for at least 18 months, maybe 2 years, so it’s really rewarding seeing those writers progress and develop and grow in confidence. Being able to say, “I’m going to go into this session, and I’m going to smash this” or “I’m not going to feel overwhelmed in a studio with people with 20 years experience” – I think we can all suffer from that anxiety sometimes– so that’s definitely one of the most rewarding parts. 

And on the conference side, the rewards are just seeing people learn and talk to each other. I think a lot can be said for people communicating and networking, there’s no better feeling! Making friends… Remember when we used to go out and meet friends! [laughs] I think on an employment level, it really is just seeing people develop and grow – that’s really rewarding. 

 

What experience did you need for the role/s you’re currently in?

Well I started out studying Biochemistry – I dropped out of that because I realised I didn’t want to be a scientist and really I just went to college – that can seem like a bit of a step back sometimes, or society has a dim view if you change your mind or your career… But I went back to college, and my lecturer was actually signed to the company that I work for now, so basically it came to fruition that he suggested me for an opening at the company. So in that sense going into higher education did benefit me.

Was it a music course?

Yeah yeah, a HND in Music Business!  I went from cutting up rats at uni to learning about something I had always been really, really passionate about [laughs] – but maybe skeptical, about a career there. And I think this series will probably point out that there’s so many avenues that you can open your eyes to – music publishing, record label management, being an artist, working in the live sector, working in sync, – there’s such a handful. There’s industry bodies, there’s so many opportunities out there, which I really opened my eyes to when I was at college.

And from there, I was just doing the crappy jobs like working the door and doing the cloakroom at gigs, and just really getting my face out there. I happened to meet the manager of a band [from that] and then I was a tour manager for a little bit – I don’t think I really qualified to be tour manager [at the time] but it it was definitely about learning on the job. it was really cool, I got to travel to all parts of the world, and it was a really cool experience. 

 

What was the most challenging aspect of first starting out in the industry? 

I think it was just overcoming that anxiety that I think you have when you’re surrounded by people who know a lot more than you – or that you think know a lot more than you. You can feel a bit sheepish sometimes, asking questions. And I think because I was a little older, I was maybe 20/21 when I was first getting into this, I was just thinking ‘it’s now or never’ (even though it wasn’t) but you’ve just got to have that confidence. And if you have a question, just ask. I think for a long time I was sort of like, oh man I can’t ask that person, they’ll think I’m dumb… But really you never experience anything like that, it was always that everyone was really up for helping. 

I’ve actually ended up speaking at Academy of Music and Sound classes, and reflect that onto the students there too – just don’t be afraid to ask questions. Its challenging getting your foot in the door, but definitely it’s important to believe in yourself. And there are gaps in the market, so start a company that fits that gap! I would recommend people do that, just being innovative and inquisitive – innovative and inquisitive! There you go [laughs]

 

Was your current job always something you wanted to do?

I found out about [music publishing] at college, and music publishing is basically just looking after songwriters and producers, and pitching tracks to labels… So not everyone that writes music is going to perform it, so those that are writing the tracks, I’m going to try and get those placed with labels or management companies or in advents. That really pricked my interest when I was at college, I did my own research on it… But up until that point I had no idea that job existed! It’s a sort of mythical area of the music industry that not a lot of people seem to delve into. But I thought it was really interesting!

In terms of the event side of things, I used to put on events and gigs myself a lot, so had a tiny bit of experience with that – nothing on the scale of a conference. But still, it goes back to having that ground knowledge of a lot of different areas. I think is really what the pertinent benefits are from going into music and studying music – you get a piece of every sector. Its a good time because you sort of find ‘your crowd’ as well – I hate that phrase actually [laughs] – but finding out what it is you want to do with your life. When people ask 14 and 16 year olds what they want to do with the rest of their life, they don’t know – and of course they don’t know! So I think going to college and finding that time where you can discover what you’re interested in… Whether that’s a sound engineer or a songwriter. That’s the time to find out.


What about your music education? How has that informed your skills and experience?

For sure! I went to Glasgow Kelvin College and one of my lecturers was in the band The Bluebells, which were a really big band in Scotland in the 80s. And he was really good at getting the best out of people in his class, getting people to come out of their shell and creating opportunities. Like, we went and saw Stereophonics at The Hyrdo in Glasgow and being there and physically witnessing what was happening… Those physical elements to the course where you weren’t just sitting and looking at a computer screen I found really valuable. I was able to talk to people and we were able to network.. And nobody likes networking! Anybody that says they like networking are lying! [laughs] But you just have to find your own way of dealing with it and making it comfortable for you. That was a good experience being at college, and sort of learning those tricks. And don’t always hard sell yourself – have an actual interest in the person you’re talking too. 

I did that course for 2 years, and actually moved down to London to complete a degree at the University of West London, but that fell through and I moved back to Glasgow and just stumbled into this job! So I was really, really fortunate. But definitely having that bit of paper that says you have a qualification in music helps, it’s really valuable in terms of getting your foot in the door and it just lets people know that you have a steady and ground knowledge of music and the music industry, so it’s really beneficial. 

 

Even networking through music education itself can be really helpful as well? 

And I know through the Glasgow (AMS) branch, they have a lot of guest speakers come through as well. So myself, but they also bring people from all over the UK, and it’s just about going up to that person at the end and saying ‘thanks for your time’ or making yourself memorable in some way, or just letting that person know, if you’re a manager or artist or whatever, just going up and telling them. And if you need to email them 6 months later, they’ll remember you asked the person who thanked them for their time.  Just little things like that, they can seem so menial, but they really are important.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received throughout your career?

It’s quite hard to pick out one valuable bit of information… But I think just knowing that you’re doing what you’re passionate about. I think if you’re not passionate about it, maybe you should reconsider? I think I’ve always known that music is my passion and I feel like I’ve got a connection to music… I always sort of felt like I’d end up here. I don’t really believe in all that sort of stuff, but I think, just know that you’re following your passion. And know that it’s going to be hard working in the music industry. There’s quite a lot of people fighting for very few jobs – it can be that case in a lot of sectors – but you have to be committed and you have to be driven. I think that would be the takeaway quotes – driven and committed!

 

And finally, what advice would you give to current students starting out in the industry right now?

I think just spend as much time as you can learning… I think if I was to try and think of one positive thing that’s come out of the COVID thing – which obviously there isn’t much – but the opportunity for e-learning as improved, there’s lots of things going online. Following things like BPI which is a governmental body for UK music and they have lots of programmes available for free. And we have a conference obviously – shameless plug here! [laughs] – and we’ll have lots of events on throughout the day, so really take the opportunity to expand your knowledge! 

And in terms of employability, after this whole thing ends, particularly the live sector is decimated right now, but we’re all working together as a community and there’s lots of great campaigns to get involved in like #LetTheMusicPlay and #WeMakeEvents – even societal things like Pride and Black Lives Matter – music has had a huge impact on all those movements (and vice versa), so it’s still a really good time to get involved in music. Maybe not in the way you would hope to right now, but there’s still lots of things happening in society and with movements that hopefully once this is all over, will set you in good stead for getting a job – setting yourself apart from others applying for a position for instance. 

My best bit of advice would be to just be yourself, don’t try to be anyone else, and be committed to whatever it is you’re passionate about, if it’s events then be committed to that, if you’re passionate about being a [sound] engineer be committed to that! I know how hard it is to get your foot in the door, I would definitely just say get out there, don’t be afraid to email don’t be afraid to message on social media – whatever medium you see fit! And don’t be afraid!


Resonate Conference 2020 will be held virtually on 26 November. You can purchase tickets here.

Resonate is an annual music conference held in Glasgow’s east end. Now in its 4th year, we’ve built the event from humble beginnings and now is considered a staple in the Scottish music calendar [we think!].

This year we’re making the move online and hosting our event via Hopin. You can expect the same top quality panels, 1-2-1s, workshops, demonstrations and more all from the comfort of your home. Tickets are on sale now!

We’ve build our event upon 4 key pillars; collaboration, creativity, accessibility and development. These are key objectives that we try to apply to all the activities within the programme. We’ve worked with local venues and event spaces to open up our programme to accommodate technology workshops, one-one advice sessions, group activities, presentations and panel events. Although we won’t be able to utilise  those physical spaces for the same purposes this year we’re still as keen as ever to have a diverse range of learning and networking activities for all our virtual attendees.

 

Follow Resonate for updates:
@resonatescotland | Facebook | Twitter

 

_______

Words & Interview: Isobel Trott
Photos: © Resonate 2019


becky grinham many hats interview exeter academy of music

Many Hats with Becky Grinham

This week on Many Hats we’re joined by the lovely Becky Grinham, who, after leaving the Academy of Music and Sound Exeter at 18, has developed her name in the local music network as an aspiring session vocalist and keen-bean in the events scene. Having crossed over into a range of dicipines and roles since she started her course including performance, PR, marketing and writing for publications such as GROW Magazine, she’s now establishing herself as an impressive session vocalist. Basically she’s turned her hand to an impressive range of roles since school – and we wanted to hear all about it!

We chat tips of the trade as Becky tells us how she cultivated experience and skills in the Exeter scene. While it’s taken her some trial and error to find the area of the industry that suits her best right now, she’s also refreshingly open minded – she tells us how she discovered her current passion for session vocals, but also how she’d be up for trying new roles in the future. A DJ perhaps, or songwriter. But moreover, Becky gets to the bottom of how important it is to cultivate your own path – and create your own job. Read on to unravel these such pearls of wisdom…

 


What are you up to at the moment then Becky?

Well there’s never just one job! [laughs] So at the moment I’m working in a cafe to keep funds up, which is good transferable skills. But mostly right now, I am just a musician – I’m a singer and bassist. I would usually perform in a couple of bands, but I’ve had loads of recording work over lockdown, which has been amazing! I’ve learnt loads of new skills with that, so I’m doing a lot of remote recording at the moment. 

And then I help occasionally – less so now – with a bit of writing, marketing and press stuff too. I recently wrote for a magazine called GROW, which is an East Devon/Exeter based, positive news magazine. And I did a GROW Playlist for them each month – the lovely Hannah O’Brien (founder of Exeter Uncovered) has now taken that over. But I’m still regularly proofing stuff and helping my partner with his press kits and stuff like that. At the moment that’s kind of it, but I’m hoping to get out performing live again soon!

Yeah, hopefully things pick up again soon! And you’re Academy alumni, is that right? 

Yeah that’s right! I did the BTEC in Music performance, when I was 16-18!

 

What skills do you use in your current roles on a day-to-day basis? 

Having an outgoing personality definitely helps! I’ve spent a lot of time building connections and friends – it doesn’t always have to be solely work related. But just wanting to be that person who is approachable but also wants to approach people, so a lot of my work has come through word of mouth and meeting people. Definitely being somewhat social – I know that some people would disagree with that sometimes, but I find that in my line of work it’s a lot of that.  And generally just being reliable, turning up on time and having everything ready to go.

And then I guess – I don’t know if having flair is a skill –but maybe trying to think outside the box and be creative with it. Obviously it’s a creative role, so thinking  ‘what are you going to do that stands you apart?’ There’s quite a lot of skills involved! But I think that’s it in a nutshell! And being confident as well, that really helps.

What experience did you need to have prior to your current roles to help you within them?

Being outgoing was one of the main things that contributed towards getting more experience – I studied music in school and at college, but the majority of it has come from being thrown in the deep-end and just wanting to do it as well! For instance, I was doing a bit of writing at the time when I was 18, and a friend of mine just said to me; hey I’ve got some friends who are going on tour and they need someone to basically keep their sh**t together, manage the overall logistics of it -some PA stuff and deal with some of the financial stuff like invoicing – and they just asked if I wanted to do it!

I had no experience in that whatsoever, besides a bit of admin.  So I got stuck in, but made them aware that I didn’t have the strict experience so they knew what they were buying into. But you know it worked really well, and they were really happy to have someone younger, and give it a new lease of life. A lot of trust was needed but it definitely worked for the better. My experience has generally come from being recommended a lot of the time, and just rolling with it, being really confident, doing my research, preparing as much as I can, and then hopefully just pulling it off!

 

A lot of learning on the job?

Yeah totally, and I’ve tinkered with a lot of different parts of the industry. Events work too, and again there’s a lot of passion behind that work – I really love doing all that stuff. I’ve done a lot of work for free just because I love doing it.  I guess that’s maybe why now people come to me as a person they can trust and recommend for jobs. Yeah, it’s taken a lot of hard work and free work to get here!

 

I hear you! And is this how you fell into the marketing and writing side of things? The necessity for bands and artists to promote themselves? And for you to promote yourself as an artist too?

Yeah, so I would always do my own socials and stuff anyway and help my partner with his too. And I really enjoyed doing that, seeing the end product and its reach. Then I met the Co-Founder of GROW at an event, and I basically just went up and had a chat! I just said I loved the magazine. I knew a lot of young people who read it, and I suggested it would be good to see more creative stuff in there – like music. There’s so much going on in Devon. And [I said] if they ever needed someone to help contribute, I’d love to do it. So pretty much just put myself straight back in there. And the next month, he got back asking when I could send in my submission!


Amazing stuff.  It must have been hard first starting out working in music though – and trying to first find out what you wanted to do? What was it like?


[When] I finished college I was really happy and I didn’t think at the time that I wanted to go and do a degree – it wasn’t really something that interested me. I thought ‘I have plenty of time to decide if I did want to go back’. I knew lots of people who had done degrees and I wouldn’t doubt it for a second, but I just didn’t feel it was right at the time. So I started working over the next year, doing all kinds of jobs –bar work and events, stuff like that – and creative projects alongside. Then I got into writing and then the Tour Manager job came up.  I put gigs on hold for a couple of years, but then – I’m very indecisive! [laughs] – I started working on events.  

I suppose the tour stuff really inspired me to see behind the scenes – seeing how front-of-stage all comes together. Then seeing everyone’s reaction to a gig, all the passion that goes into it.  I started working at a few little events and festivals – a bit of stage managing, with Academy at Bearded Theory for instance.  I put performing on the back burner for a bit until the end of last year. I had a bit of a downward spiral, I was struggling a bit with mental health, so I thought lets strip everything back and see what exactly it is I enjoy doing, and what I’m good at.  It’s taken me all this time really to find that performance is exactly what I want to do! And I recently discovered session work (being a session vocalist) and I think now that’s the route I want to take. Obviously I still really enjoy all the event work, but as a supplement now to performing – hopefully!

So it’s taken me quite a while to get to this point – and performance isn’t the only job, no way!  I would definitely recommend a process of elimination and seeing what works for you, what you’ll feel happy in. I don’t like being in the limelight, I prefer being part of the ‘big thing’ and contributing towards the making of something – I prefer being in the background.  I couldn’t imagine being like, I don’t know, Dua Lipa or someone – centre stage! I’m not like that [laughs] – but I love working with musicians and with the technicians and working behind the scenes. But who knows! In 5 years time… Who knows! We’ll see.

Exactly – there’s plenty of time to try different stuff and find out what suits you. As well as the benefit for being freelance – to try lots of different stuff. That’s great.

I would just say don’t ever not do anything because you’re worried about something or it doesn’t pay – you have to put in the hard work and the hours, so just do it, get on with it, you never know you might just want to keep it as a hobby or you might want to pursue it.

 

What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of working in music? 

Definitely from a performance point of view, seeing people connect with your music. Maybe that’s a generic answer, but it is just something that you can’t really describe! It’s really fulfilling and you just feel that your hard work is really paying off… I know I said I don’t like being centre stage, but people do notice your worth and what you’re doing still which is really fulfilling. 

And I guess [also] having people reach out to you. I’ve had people reach out to me via Instagram and stuff for recording. It’s really nice to know that people have been out there watching and listening to you!  Yeah it’s really fulfilling to know that people are there listening and they’re like, ‘yeah, cool yeah get her on board’!

 

How about the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received?

A few years ago I was in London at a family party and there was someone there I spoke to who had an array of clients that seemed massive to me! So I just struck up a conversation with him and basically asked him the same thing – what would your advice be?  He said that I should just always be energetic – give it energy and passion and you’ll never not be in work. He said you can have a degree or not… But basically passion and energy always wins over skillset or anything else. If you have the whole package then brilliant! But if you just go for it and have genuine passion, then you can’t lose. It might be quite a long return, but someone will hear you! That’s probably the best bit of advice I’ve received.

I [also] did a roundtable with the Academy for the 25th Anniversary (at Exeter Phoenix).  I was part of the roundtable with a great bunch of people; John Waddell, Sadie Horler, Emma Twamley (GlasDenbury Festival), Laura Wright, Ben Green (Pattern Pusher) and Kate Graham. We were all just firing great advice off each other! John has such a wealth of experience, and then there’s Emma who’s been running events and a festival or as long as she can remember! And then Sadie who’s just on the scene constantly. All those different walks of life in once place, and having great advice from them was amazing.


How did your music qualification help you get to where you are today, or help you in past roles?

I chose The Academy when I was at school because my music teacher was strongly recommending it! And knew one of the tutors, and told me he thought I’d really click there, and [the local] college was maybe a little… Less performance based let’s say. I’m not the most academic person, and with theory and stuff like that, I did want to tighten up and improve that side of things, but I didn’t want it to rob my performance experience, and the fun for me. So it was that good balance of theory, and performance. And the LPW (Live Performance Workshop on the AMS curriculum) was my absolutely favourite part of the week, of course!  I loved learning all the new tunes and performing with a bunch of new people. But I think the best thing to come out of it was my vocal health and technique. 

Lianna Carnell was my teacher at the time and I can’t praise my teacher enough. She was witty, outgoing, reliable, and the most amazing vocalist! She gave me the confidence I needed. If something wasn’t quite right she wouldn’t shy away from telling me – and I kinda needed that. She’d just be like – ‘why don’t we try this, I don’t think it’s working for.. X Y Z’ – that kind of thing. And I really needed that push – the reassurance.

I can’t complain at all, everyone [was] lovely and supportive. Even now I can bump into people and they’re all still here for me which is really nice. It’s nice that you can move on from education but keep that support network. Which usually you wouldn’t get from larger education places, because it’s more formal.  I think there’s an abundance of opportunities outside of college now too, which is really what we all want to be getting out of education! You want the backbone and the theory side, but you always want to explore it literally! And I think that’s really paying off now.

Yes, having a college that’s connected locally is important! It helps bridge the gap between education and experience. On that note, what advice would you give current students starting out in the industry? 

I would just say don’t not do it. Try everything – if someone asks for a favour and it’s related, even in a small way to what you want to do, in music or arts or events, just go and do it. If you don’t enjoy it, at least you’ll have tried it and you can eliminate that thing, but you’ve done a mate a favour and you’ve hopefully had a fun day out, and met new people. 

Try and be an extrovert and meet new people and involve yourself. People aren’t going to come to you – if you want a gig at The Cavern they’re not going to come and find you! You have to go out there and ask – you have to be in there and chattin’ to them, you wanna be meeting all the people that go there, and the musicians that have had experience there.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help as well. There’s no harm in asking! Whether it’s a bit of advice, or if it’s to hop on or shadow someone on a job, or anything… I’ve only ever learnt things through the job, and I’ve only ever got on the job from meeting people. It’s as simple as that really…! Oh, and I’d also recommend anyone starting out to read the book Don’t Get A Job…Make A Job: How To Make It As a Creative Graduate, by Gem Barton. It’s fab!

 

Right – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Yeah yeah totally! I’ve always kind of had that mindset anyway. I’ve always been quite independent and known if I want this i have to go and do this, this and this!  I actually had a really interesting conversation with John Waddell about this, because he’s quite London[-centric] I guess. He really celebrates it and the opportunities there, and he is right, but I also want to be able to…. rather than fit my career into a place, be able to fit my place into my career. It would be really nice to see people in Devon create and have more opportunities for themselves, and now that a pandemic has hit, it’s a good time to jump on that. If you’re out of work then that’s really shit, but what can you do in the meantime? Try and make opportunities for yourself, don’t just sit around and do nothing.

 

So true! That was my next question actually – what do you make of the current situation, and what advice would you give people in the current climate?

It is hard. It’s difficult because you might not have equipment at home. Places like AMS have got it all and at the moment it’s not accessible, so if you’re fortunate enough to have equipment at home, learn to use it and make the most of it. And just – I don’t know scroll through YouTube, watch tutorials on how to use Logic and Ableton and things like that! But if you don’t, then it could be a really good time to reach out to new people online a bit more, if you’re a writer try and take inspiration from the situation – I bet there’s going to be a bunch of ‘pandemic’ songs that we didn’t realise are about that in 5 years time! 

“I don’t like being in the limelight, I prefer being part of the ‘big thing’ and contributing towards the making of something. I prefer being in the background”

True! The art will reflect the times won’t it…

One hundred percent! And of course at the moment with everything going on with the Arts Industry, it’s all really soul-destroying but at the end of the day, you can’t just dwell on it too much, because we’d all just be sat here crying constantly! And I am definitely someone who can be emotionally affected – it’s had its toll on my mental wellbeing for sure. Being in Lockdown, hearing everything on the news… My goal this year was to have loads of gigs under my belt and become completely self-employed, but that’s all gone! It’s really rubbish, and lots of people aren’t fans of working from home, but we’ve just got to do what we can and make the best of it. 

And yeah, just reaching out to people, spending time working on ourselves is also really important! I’ve been so much better vocally now. I had my first rehearsal since march last night, and I just felt so on form because I’d had the time to work on myself! Whether it’s eating habits, or exercise, or just being out in the fresh air even. I know it sounds so cliche but it really has helped.

 

Absolutely – just looking after ourselves during these times is super important. 

Yeah, really important. I hope students aren’t too affected by it at the moment – I hope they’ve found a way to work on themselves and take from it – and the tutors – everyone! 

 

I guess it’s even more important now too for musicians to be able to promote themselves digitally through social media. Now could be a good chance to tighten those skills? 

Yeah I’ve done loads of webinars, about marketing tips or about the music industry as a whole – and no one had the time for that usually! It’s really good that that’s happening, there’s so many – The Roundhouse are doing stuff – loads of places. People should definitely utilise that too, one hundred percent.

One positive thing from all this! What about for you, are there any other roles in music that you’d maybe like to try one day further down the line?

I would love to sharpen up my songwriting skills. I always shyed away from writing songs when I was younger because I was embarrassed and super unconfident, but now I love it! A handful of songs I’ve written are set to be released over the coming months, that’ll all be revealed on my socials. Also I have always had an interest in DJ’ing too! When I was little I’d throw bedroom discos and play a bunch of songs (on CD’s, obvs) that I thought would really bring the house down (Britney Spears is a dancefloor filler, prove me wrong…). Still now I’m obsessed with finding new music, collecting vinyl, discovering samples is so much fun for me – I’m a big fan of Disco and House/Dance music – and sharing feel-good tunes with people. So who knows, maybe I’ll find a way of becoming a vocalist, bassist and DJ live haha, I do love a challenge! 

 

Sounds amazing! Gotta love some good disco. Any final words of wisdom? 

I just think with stuff like education – the thing is, you can always come back to it. And utilise online education platforms too. I think that a lot of people who have gone to Uni, do have some more opportunities in a way, because they’ve utilised that network and social circle.

 

And finally, what’s next for you?

So before COVID I actually had a couple of students – I never used to have an interest in it all, but after a few workshops in schools and stuff I really enjoyed it, so I started picking up a few students and teaching them vocals. And recently – last week – I was offered a trainee role as a music leader through Daisi which is an arts charity – that’s Devon based as well.

And I wouldn’t have gotten that if I didn’t have a range of experience, like teaching but also confidence and experience in performing, having a passion for community and an existing network of people – I think that really stood out for them. But yeah, I’m really excited to see how the next year pans out!

 

Yes, hopefully positive things for 2021!

We can only hope!


Follow Becky on socials for updates:
@BeckyGrinham2 | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify 

Words & Interview: Isobel Trott
Photos: © Rhodri Cooper (2019) + Benjamin Conibear (2020)


karlyn king academic many hats blog scottish women inventing music

Many Hats with Karlyn King, pop music academic & lecturer

Welcome back to Many Hats. Round three of our blog series features the immensely knowledgeable and all-round pop music guru Karlyn King. Whilst also being a performing artist, Karlyn is a lecturer here at AMS, and a dedicated music academic and researcher in her own right. Currently working towards her PhD in popular music, her specialism lies in Vinyl and Record culture, making her the go-to voice on everything rock and pop music related.

Why ‘Many Hats’ you ask? Well, we thought it fitting as it was a term that cropped up in almost every interview we did for the project. People working in the biz we call music often adopt ‘many hats’ during their careers, balancing and trying out a range of jobs and skills whilst also crafting their passion – we think that’s fab and totally under-appreciated in the wider world of work!

In today’s competitive world, it’s vital to have a range of skills under your belt.  Academia is a popular option for many musicians, and can open up a whole set of new opportunities! Especially in today’s crazy world.  Keep reading to find out exactly how and why Karlyn King’s passion for music led her down the research path, and get some tips along the way…


Thank you for joining us for our career blog series! Can you introduce yourself and what you do? 

I’m a freelance popular music academic and researcher, my current role involves mainly lecturing, teaching, assessing and curriculum and course design, across various independent music colleges and universities. I have a specialism in genre and culture, artist development, PR and vinyl record culture as well. I mainly roll that out from diploma level right up to Masters level.

 

Cool, and you’re currently doing a PhD is that right?

Yeah, that’s right! So I’m getting into the final hurdle of my PhD now… It focuses on vinyl records culture, in terms of how it went away and came back and why that is. I’m asking questions like, “How do we consume music?”, “How do we purchase and put a value on records over things like streaming and tapes?”

Interesting! So, what’s the best thing about working in the music industry? 

I would say – and it’s not an easy gig that’s for sure – but finding stuff that you love, whether it’s an artist, track, performance, some sort of meaning behind music… Finding something that really resonates with you and has meaning for you individually, is definitely the best part. 

And that can be something from way back! Some of the stuff I teach is about the 60s and 70s and the evolution of rock and roll for instance, and there’s things within that that people have never thought about, in terms of how we look at music now. So yeah, looking at how it all links together, and discovering brand new artists that are doing something new and interesting and that has a really good message for today. 

How did your music degree help you get to where you are today?

For this type of job, having a degree and postgraduate education is really, really vital. I actually did a Masters in Music and that helped me by giving me a real focus in terms of realising that this is the industry I want to be in, so you commit to it full time! 

But also the network you make – and I would say that is true of any music course – the people on your course, your peers, classmates, they’re your best asset.  I still communicate with my Masters class now and again in terms of opportunities and research, asking them if they can tell me about this-and-that. We still help each other out now! Forming a network in your class is vital at any level!

 

And what did you study before a Masters? 

So my honours and Undergraduate degree was actually in psychology! But all the time I was doing that I was playing in bands, even the night before my finals I was out playing gigs in Glasgow [laughs] – probably quite naughty, but yeah I always knew that was what I wanted to be doing more than anything. I was really interested in psychology, but it wasn’t the path for me. 

 

Do you think your degree in psychology has helped in your career today? 

Oh definitely. In terms of my PhD stuff, and also looking at genre and culture, I do like to look at it from quite a psychological angle. And Music Psychology is such a large area of research now, it’s a really interesting developing area, so I definitely try to bring that into what I study and teach now.


What experience did you need in order for you to do your current job?

They will always, always ask for some sort of level of degree study, so that was essential. Whether that’s a Masters, or more commonly now PhDs. 

Another pretty big factor is actually knowing people that can get you a foot in the door.  It was literally by chance that I got my foot in the door through someone that I know who needed a lecturer on a module, because the person who was doing it had decided to move to Berlin! Knowing people who make the decisions on who gets to teach on what, and having the academic background to back it up is really important.

 

What advice would you give current students or graduates wanting to get into your line of work?

Definitely stick with your studying, even if there’s modules that you’re not that interested in, you still have to do them, you still have to engage and try to do well. You might not use them afterwards, but make sure that you stick with it and you get the most out of it, because it will help you further down the line. 

The reality is you need to have so many strings to your bow now that it’s no longer a straight-forward, ‘oh i’m going to be a singer, and that’s what I’ll do til I die’, it’s not like that anymore. So you need to be able to do all aspects of the music industry, and all the things that it demands. So my advice would be to get as many things under your belt as possible, and just engage with as much as you can!

 

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Something that’s really stuck with me is from waaay back… I was actually doing my Highers in Scotland at the time, and one of my lecturers told me simply that, “there is nothing to be scared of”. He was actually a psychology lecturer, and he said being scared is just something we create, it’s an illusion, that goes all the way back to biology and our survival instincts. 

He said never be afraid to put yourself out there and take risks – and I definitely did that when I switched from an undergrad in psychology to a masters in music! It’s not really a common thing and it was a big step. But yeah, I was able to take that risk and it paid off! So definitely take risks and don’t be scared. 

 

What’s your favourite aspect of your job?

I think I enjoy working with the students the most, and the students getting something out of my teaching is always great. I had a hilarious bit of feedback last year from some students saying, thanks for introducing us to the music of Rage Against the Machine! [laughs] We were looking at the evolution of Rock music and they really enjoyed that, and that’s a band that they’re really super fans of now, who got this new resonance now in this world we live in.

So yeah, introducing them to things that could be life-changing in some ways, and getting them to rethink music and see it in a different way is really enjoyable!

And how about the most challenging?

The most challenging aspect is sometimes if students just aren’t that engaged or can’t see the value in what they’re doing, and they maybe just don’t have that initial passion for it, that’s difficult because you can only do so much in that case. 

For some people it’s just not for them, they’ll do a course and they’ll realise that actually, they don’t want anything to do with music – and that’s fine, but it’s always a bit of a tough nut to crack in terms of what’s holding them back – is it just fear or lack of confidence, or are they genuinely just not interested?  That’s always challenging, but once you get to the root of it, yeah you can work with it.

 

What advice would you give to those working in the industry today, with all the changes and challenges the pandemic has brought about? 

Now more than ever, we need people who can do everything [laughs]! We need people who are willing to act at the drop of a hat to do different types of roles and take on different responsibilities. You might have your heart set on being a songwriter, which is great, but actually in terms of surviving, you might also need to look at production, and PR and teaching and all different aspects. 

Definitely being adaptable and being an innovator as well is a huge benefit. We’ve seen some really interesting innovations in terms of how artists have adapted and reacted to the COVID situation – they’ve done things like live-streams, specialised merchandise, and even writing about the situation and putting into the actual content of their art is really interesting – and using technology in ways that maybe we didn’t before. Being able to think outside the box and adapt and be open to it, I think is vital for today!


Find out more about Karlyn King and her experience on her website and on socials: Twitter.

Words: Isobel Trott
Interview: Alyssa Renwick
Photos: © Karlyn King / SWIM

More Many Hats…

Read our first feature with SAMA’s Richy Muirhead here, and last week’s edition with Melisa Kelly.


richy muirhead scottish alternative music awards samas interview

Many Hats with Richy Muirhead, Creative Director & founder of SAMAs

Welcome to “Many Hats”! Our career blog series that explores the various tricks and trades of the music industry. First up, we had to chance to chat to Richy Muirhead, Creative Director and Founder of the Scottish Alternative Music Awards – or SAMAs as you might know it – for a the low down on how he’s crafted his career, how a music education has helped him along the way, and the ‘many hats’ he’s adorned over the years.

SAMAs has been supporting underground Scottish music talent for a number of years now, including the likes of an up-and-coming Lewis Capaldi, with its 2019 edition even awarding some of our own talented students! But it’s not been a clear-cut path for its founder, with a varied career under his belt, Richy reflects on how he’s got to where he is today.

Why ‘Many Hats’ you ask? Well, we thought it fitting because it was a term that cropped up in almost every interview we did for the project. People working in the biz we call music often adopt ‘many hats’ during their careers, balancing and trying out a range of jobs and skills whilst also crafting their passion – we think that’s fab and totally under-appreciated in the wider world of work! There’s so much to be gained from a career in music. But don’t let us do all the talking…


Hey Richy! Can you tell us a bit about the organisations you work with, and what your role involves?


Currently I am Creative Director of the Scottish Alternative Music Awards and an Advisory Board Member for the Scottish Music Industry Association. The SAMAs are an annual music awards based here in Scotland. We celebrate multiple genres like hip hop and rock, plus live and newcomer categories. It’s always a diverse shortlist of artists featured and we work with a range of creative organisations – from Creative Scotland to Academy of Music & Sound and Drygate Brewery. The whole purpose is to identify artists that do amazing work and shouting about that through events, social media and marketing. We also host events with Liverpool Sound City and we have our own music festival in Paisley – a two day music bash and really good fun!

Some award winning artists you might be familiar with from SAMAs include Lewis Capaldi through to The Ninth Wave, Be Charlotte, The Dunts, VanIves and many more. This year we’re moving into the virtual space which is going to be interesting! It’s an opportunity to attract a larger audience – a global audience – and we’re working with some great partners to make sure it’s delivered to a high standard. It’s a chance to learn about different genres bubbling in Scotland, a little bit about what’s going on up north, and to embrace a new challenge.

 

What is day-to-day work like at the moment?

Day-to-day I typically look after the majority of things! Because it’s all virtual at the moment, it’s a lot of meeting with partners via Zoom/Teams and ensuring our social media campaign is in place and going to be effective, as well as looking at new issues that could arise because of corona. 

We’re planning stuff for next March and it involves a lot of careful monitoring of what’s happening right now and how to mitigate possible risks. It’s also about making sure the event is as strong as it can be. So, talking to people in the industry to get feedback and generate some ideas that might separate SAMAs from other music awards and develop its identity and tone. Yeah, there’s a lot going on! And it’ll be so nice to get back into venues, begin recording and work with a large team again. We’ve been having so many great conversations with people, even in the current climate, but it’s still relatively lonely on the ground! Usually the role involves socialising, going to gigs, checking out new music and so on.

Great! So loads of responsibility then. When did you first launch SAMAs? It must have been an exciting new challenge!

When I was in education, about 11 years ago now – I’m getting old! [laughs] – I went to the MTV Music Awards in Berlin. I was lucky enough to be invited in some way or another and came back feeling really motivated and inspired about how great it was that music could bring people together from different backgrounds and cultures. I had to do a creative module in university, so I decided to create a national music award! A lot of people laughed at the time, and I completely understand why. We started things slowly, we worked it into the module, with outcomes, a lot of bullet points… And gradually we improved it every year. I started hosting other events and grew confidence, learnt who our audience were and developed it ever since!

Many artists are celebrated at the SAMAs and it gives them that platform and boost of confidence to grow. Whether that’s touring nationally or locally, collaborating with other artists or reaching new listeners, there’s that sense of achievement or award and community offered by being involved in SAMAs that I’m so proud of. I think I landed quite lucky with that university project!

 

Amazing! Has it always been a full time role?

I’d say in the last 4 years it’s really started to become full time which is nice. In the past I was juggling all sorts. As someone who currently works freelance across the music and events world, I do still find myself wearing a range of different hats and offering your skills to do a range of different things. And that’s a really important thing to be able to work with other groups of people and share skill sets – to learn from other people and teach others.

Recently I’ve worked on a  project with BBC Scotland producing content which was really good fun, but mainly the focus has been on SAMAs and it’s been fun and challenging to turn that into a full time job. Because for that we had to grow, so we had to think about showcasing outside of Scotland and hosting events we hadn’t done before, being ambitious with funding, and just upping our game that little bit every year – so far so good! Hopefully we can continue growing and hopefully when it’s safe, we can return to live events, because that’s really where we thrive!

 

One of my questions was going to be ‘what experience did you need to get the role you’re in now?’ – I guess you crafted your own experience as you grew SAMAs rather than go through the usual interview process?

Yeah, exactly. When I was in education we were always encouraged to try new stuff and given time where we were allowed to make mistakes and be adventurous.  The module project was a big part of how I began to hone my experience. But I also began to run smaller club nights, so I was learning the basics of how to run an event and what people’s expectations were  (from artists to the public) and getting an understanding of the various aspects of what needs to come together for an event – from ticketing, to what catering is needed for events and what a technical rider is.

Some things I enjoyed, other things I didn’t perhaps love so much. I learnt pretty early that I’d have to hire people who can do [the stuff I didn’t understand]. Things like web design are essential for marketing an event but I’d need someone to create it in the beginning and do all the technical stuff. But having the time and freedom during education to try stuff, and take internships when I could afford to, that was really important. 

 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job – or working in the music industry?

I really enjoy the fact that everyday, listening to music is such a big part of the job. Whether that’s programming or curating an event, having to listen to a playlist – I could do that from here, I could do it on a train, out running or cycling – there’s no limitations. Always being immersed in listening to music is my favourite thing about the role.

Obviously, when we put on events there’s that extra wow-factor and it’s a memory and a really good moment for a lot of people. For me, how I like to operate being self employed and organising my hours and when I want to do things, choosing who we work with and how we do things, I really enjoy that responsibility. Plus the amount of streaming via Soundcloud and Spotify is outrageous! And it’s great when people send me music, I always try to get back to people – they don’t always expect it [laughs] so it’s always nice feedback! 

What was the most challenging bit of starting out in the industry?

It was – and still is sometimes – a lot of self doubt. Sometimes I don’t put enough value on what I do and I kinda imagine that other people think what I do is terrible – but it’s all just in my head! I think you can overthink things and that was one of the hardest barriers to overcome. It still can be! What I do tend to find is that when one door closes another one opens and more opportunities will come. But when you’re starting out you have to really go that extra mile, so it’s tough. And if you start to lose those skill sets doors can start to close as well, so if you want a career in music I think you really have to commit yourself, embrace it, go to events…

With many events moving into the digital space, now is a great time to visit other international events. Last week I went to Tallin Music Week virtually, which was cool! With events online they’re easier to attend and often cheaper. Plus the amount of people you can meet in a Zoom chat box is pretty cool! And if you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to be doing, you can spark up a connection pretty quick. There are opportunities, and it’s very difficult at the moment, however it’s always been difficult, it’s always been about your attitude and skill set and finding out exactly what you want to be doing.

 

Tell us a little more about your music education – what made you want to pursue a music degree? What did you learn?

Music was always part of me and my family, it was always on in the house so from an early age it was always what I wanted to do in some way. My parents weren’t fully committed to that – they wanted me to do something a bit more ‘secure’ maybe. However I wanted to really give it a bash. Going into education and having the opportunities from learning and meeting people in class who were like-minded, and then applying for voluntary internships allowed me to grow though that. 

And I even ended up wanting to study more! So I went from a HND in Sound Production, through to a BA in Commercial Music, which was more of an open book. You could decide if you wanted to work in the industry or if you wanted to be a performer. By that time I’d kinda figured out I wasn’t that great as a music player, so events were where I began to really find my feet.

Then there was a new Masters coming out about music entrepreneurship, so I wanted to jump on that. At that point it was great because there was more business development and more chance to look a bit more 360 at what you do instead of project to project. It was great to spend a year immersed in that working with some amazing people in the classroom and the lecturers too. I think there was a lot of important education, and it was so vital for  me to be doing what I was doing, but I was also very lucky to have gone to that music event in Germany. I realised how special it could be if a music award was delivered well, and had the right mentality.

So there was a lot of luck, and there always has to be luck, but there was a lot of patience too while going through education, when a lot of my friends had jobs and were earning a lot more than me and I was working part time in bars and so on… But if you want the career you’ll find a way to make it work. It taught me a lot of great skills and helped me find the opportunities I needed to get me to where I am today.


What advice do you have to give current music students, or those just starting out in the industry? 

I think my advice has to change a little now because of corona. I think there’s some generally essential skill sets that are gonna be here for a long time, stuff like social media and digital marketing, which don’t on the outside sound like ‘music jobs’, however they absolutely are! Whether it’s for a creative law firm that needs music for campaigns, or musicians and artists who need this support. So my advice would be to look at the current situation, think about which skill sets you can bring to the party and what could you begin to learn that could increase your visibility and increase your skill set. There’s  a load of digital tools out there for you to learn from. 

And if it’s events that you really want to get into, head along to stuff like Focus Wales, Wide Days, Resonate, Tallin Music Week, because you never know who you’re going to bump into in the chat box and it might just open up some opportunities. We’re now in a world where we can work from home, it’s certainly a lot more acceptable than it was 12 months ago, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it if you can be disciplined and still deliver your work to a high level. A lot of the businesses in the creative industry have a much more lenient approach. But it all comes back to reliability and being able to deliver on the goods, you need to be the real deal I think! 

 

Great advice! Now finally, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received during your career?

Not sure if I have one specific piece of advice… But I think the importance of building networks and relationships is something that’s stayed with me. Someone who supports what you do, whether it’s a peer, or a sponsor or another artist, you can build a relationship and pat each other on the back and watch each other grow. I think that’s a really good thing and a way to get ongoing advice and lift each other up.

There are people and organisations who have been involved in the SAMA’s from the beginning and share the same passion, and that is something really special!  And we’ve worked with some great, dedicated partners along the way.  That respect goes a long way and gives you the confidence that you can really deliver. It fights away that imposter syndrome. I think everyone has a sense of that in one small shape or another… And that’s definitely heightened by social media mentality too. In truth, it’s all totally fine, just get on with it! [laughs].


SAMAs will take place virtually this year.
Check out the festival on their socials for updates:
@officialsamas | Facebook | Twitter 

Words: Isobel Trott
Photos: © SAMAs 2019.