A timehop reminder has alerted me that it’s 10 years this week since my first paid pop music writing assignment was published and I’m feeling hella nostalgic.
My career in the music biz was kick-started when Ed Sheeran and JLS were coming up, too (I have interviewed Ed three times (we stan a modest legend) and 1/4 of JLS with the PR handing the phone from one moving taxi to another).
Not unlike the aforementioned pop legends at the time, I found my career transforming while also learning a few lessons along the way – no copyright lawsuits or competing Sony boybands for me though… Here are 10 reflections on a decade in the music biz proper, in part to remind myself what I’ve achieved, tbqh.
1 Aim crazy high
My first paid music writing work was published on the MSN UK homepage this week 10 years ago. I got that gig with luck, timing, humour and after sending hundreds of speculative emails following dropping out of Uni. Sign out of Hotmail and that landing page was one of the Top 10 most visited in the UK – it featured my article in the main carousel and included Craig David, natch.
2 Ask and you might well receive
After a number of assignments at MSN, I asked my editor if I could accompany him to an interview and got the choice of Robbie Williams or Katy Perry – those who know me know my choice. I’m a chatty person but found myself speechless as I sat with Rob for a pic (thanks, editor James). Such a rookie but I grew to be less shy as the years went by.
3 Track your highlights
I’m lucky to have had lots of highlights but have failed to track them along the way. I’ve internet searched to find my early work gone, there’s material across three laptops (one with a cracked screen), all my audio interviews are somewhere on a certain music mag’s server and my brain is pushing out info as more goes in. Be better than me – file, list, hyperlink and screenshot it all.
4 Just talk to people
One of my recent clients came from a serendipitous chat across the dinner table at an awards do (ftw!) These events are somewhat daunting, especially when flying solo, plus being ignored or intercepted is common. Think Dr Pepper ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and just talk to people. Dave at MW calls me a ‘networking demon’ – I built a love of industry parties but always try to make valuable connections and execute the all-important 24-hour follow-up.
5 Some people are sh!t
As a young-looking, petite female I have been patronised, belittled and inappropriately addressed. It is rubbish. We need to create a better environment for each other, so be nice, look after your colleagues and call people out on their sh!t when you can. Working with students and younger people coming into the industry really made this hit home. We are all responsible.
6 Saying ‘no’ to things is powerful
There is an awesome Lady Gaga talk in which she speaks on the power of saying ‘no’ and the right to curate your life. It really resonated with me as I quit Uni, more than one job and a few toxic relationships that were not serving my progression or well-being and I’ve ultimately been better off for it. I’m privileged to be able to take this stance in my freelance career and work with a select number of brilliant music industry clients on interesting and exciting projects.
7 You’re always learning
Everything you do is an education. Know about Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers? I quickly clocked up 10,000 hours as a kid, listening to chart radio and endless CDs, reading the inlay sleeves in full. I am a human Shazam of sorts – a skill that led my team to victory at my first Music Week Xmas party. Those Smash Hits mags I devoured… ended up being in a Guardian photo shoot in my living room in 2019 (!)
8 Know your worth
‘A job in the music industry is for other people/ the wealthy/ industry family connections/ performing arts-ish grown-ups,’ I used to think. I cracked it and have racked up years of experience working with some of the best in the biz. I know I’m good at my job but imposter syndrome is ever-present. Knowing and remembering your worth is vital.
9 Be thankful
We are privileged to work in a ‘cool’ industry, have special access to talent, tickets and preview listens. Twelve-year-old me still can’t believe it. 33-year-old me had a little too much rosé and cried her eyes out on a comp ticket at SpiceWorld 2019. Have gratitude, be thankful, pay it forward.
10 Never stop being a fan
Work in music like a professional, crush on it like a love-struck teenager. I channel my late 90s Spice Girls fangirl energy and ‘having a natter’ with my fave songwriters, producers and popstars has brought me some of the funniest and most memorable moments. There are so many but notable ones include: my first ever print interview in Music Week containing 10 F-words (the result of a very hungover and honest Plan B interview at the Jack Daniel’s ranch), chatting with a glowing Melanie C after interviewing Leona Lewis and not-talking to her about the forthcoming Spice Girls appearance at the London 2012 Olympics, and finally here’s the picture Michael Bublé drew of us holding hands. LOL
Here’s to 10 more years! – T