I enrolled for the Music Industries degree with a background in community music.
During my undergraduate studies at the University of Aberdeen, I had spent all of my academic and working life striving to take the formality out of making and experiencing music which I thoroughly enjoyed and continue to pursue, but as soon as I graduated, I was ready for a new challenge.
I knew I loved working and communicating with people, but I was also desperate to get immersed in the live music sector that I have been a loyal consumer of since 2005 when I got dragged by my parents to my very first concert, Franz Ferdinand, kitted out with ear protectors bigger than my head, and saw Björk above the crowd from my dad’s shoulders at the 2007 Connect Music Festival in Inverary. Yes, I wanted to be involved in making core memories like these for others.
Understandably, as I started the weekly readings for the degree, I was hit with a sense of imposter syndrome. I had bundles of experience working with children and amateur musicians in informal music settings, but how could I capably work with, or for, “real” musicians when I did not consider myself as one?
This is a question I was able to slowly dismantle as I embarked on my time working with Glasgow-based music promoters 432 Presents.
January 2022 was a simultaneously exciting and scary time to be getting involved in live music. Though COVID restrictions were gradually lifted, it remained a major headache for touring acts, audiences and, inevitably, promoters.
Working with 432 Presents, I soon found out that the live music industry’s comeback was not as slow and steady as I previously thought, and everyone shared my frustration about the stagnation of events and were eager to get back to live music as soon as possible.
The state of the live music industry seemed to parallel my placement experience in the sense of being fairly uncertain and very chaotic.
I arrived open-minded and expressed my interest in learning about all aspects of the company as I had no previous experience and, before embarking on the Music Industries degree, did not even really know what a music promoter was! However, I explained that my specific passion was for engaging with artists and being involved in the events themselves.
Amid the general chaos of the period, it took several weeks from my initial conversation with the company director to having my first day in the office, due to a combination of staff sicknesses and the company being incredibly busy rescheduling the backlog of gigs due to happen in 2020 and 2021 as well as organising new ones. Understandably but frustratingly, the nature of the business and small number of staff made it difficult to take control of my project as I was reliant on others to offer me tasks to complete.
For the first two weeks I shadowed different members of the company, including the director, bookers, and production team, to learn what they do. For every team, this turned out to be reading and replying to an infinite stream of emails.
Then it was my turn. I was tasked with various administrative jobs, emailing venues around Glasgow and Edinburgh back and forth, finding out information about their venues to forward onto the production team to forward onto artist managers (via email of course).
Each day in the office as I sat at my desk glued to my laptop, I had flashbacks to my 21-year-old self proudly declaring that I would never have a 9-5 office job, and my friends saying that eventually I would have to grow up and accept it.
Then around midday on 1st April, I received an unexpected call from the assistant to the director. She told me that they had an emergency, a member of the production team who was meant to be working at a gig (corto.alto at The Rum Shack) as their gig rep was in A&E with a leg injury and they needed someone to take over last minute.
In a rush of adrenaline, I accepted the job and was sent over information regarding the gig and the duties I was expected to carry out in less than three hours’ time. In a state of panic, I turned up to the venue and immediately realised that I had nothing to be worried about. I welcomed the artists and assured them I was there if they needed anything, and meanwhile offered assistance to the sound engineer, with a disclaimer that I had no experience in working with equipment. Although I may have been of little practical help, the sound engineer was appreciative, saying that, in all his experience, no rep had ever offered him any help. This was when I realised that my experience in the technical aspects of the live music industry, or rather lack of, was less important than the personal skills and passions I possessed for communicating with and supporting people.
After a successful gig, I was invited to the band’s after party in which my imposter syndrome was reiterated by a jam session in which almost every member of the party picked up any instrument they could find and start playing together. As I sat quietly sipping a beer in the corner of the room, I had never felt so untalented in my life and wished I had picked up my saxophone to practice more.
However, I reflected that the live music sector could not function with only musicians. While sitting at a desk in an office or doing a booze run for a band may be less glamourous than performing on stage to thousands of fans, everyone involved is still an integral part of the creative product. Although I felt like studying the music industries and doing administrative tasks from my laptop was sometimes a drag in comparison with hands-on experience, this contextual work was incredibly valuable in allowing me to appreciate the entire process of putting on a live music event from beginning to end.
I had the opportunity to rep two more gigs during the timescale of my project and each time I was able to not only become more fluent in the duties required of me for the specific job, but also further develop personal qualities such as communication skills, self-confidence and remaining calm under pressure which is something that I have struggled with in all aspects of my life, and also professional skills both specific to the music industries and in working life in general, as both working in the office and as a gig rep has forced me to work with technology which has historically been my enemy.
On completion of my project I was offered a job as a regular gig rep for 432 Presents and have since worked at events including the Great Eastern Festival in Edinburgh, Real Lies at Nice N Sleazy, Baby Bushka at CCA and The Bug Club at The Hug and Pint which has continued to allow me to develop professionally and gain experience working at a range of music events while fulfilling my passion for supporting artists, which I have ambitions of eventually transferring to music festivals. Through this experience, I have been able to accept that I cannot be good at everything, but I am good at being empathetic and supporting people, which is valued by those I have worked with during my project and beyond. Not only has the practical experience affected me, but the theoretical knowledge I have gained in the Music Industries course and working with the teams within 432 Presents has extended my awareness of professional possibilities within the live music industries and creative industries in general.