How to become a music publisher

How to become a music publisher

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Career title:

MUSIC PUBLISHER

Full-time/part time:3 days a week (now)

How long have you been doing this: 20 years exactly

Qualifications and/or training duration:

I got a degree and abandoned a PhD but a friend of mine at the time shared the money she had saved from a shoplifting career so I could go on a typing course… and it was typing that got me first into the music business

For work experience I did bits of clerical work, then worked for one of the UK’s major music copyright societies for 8 years then struck out on my own

Skills:

I like music, clubs and most drugs

Salary:

About £35,000 a year plus perks

If you’ve set up your own business, what’s the damage financially?

I started on my own with £3,000 of my own money only but I was selling music business expertise so I didn’t have any overheads initially except a phone, a fax and a typewriter

Job perks:

You get to do what you want with people who are really cool

What made you want to go into this profession?

I just drifted into it. When I joined the music copyright society, I thought it was just another clerical job and it seemed like months before I realised I was in the music business. Once I realised that, I decided I wanted to stay and run my own thing

How physically or mentally demanding is the job?

Sometimes there are long nights out and there is always the risk of losing the plot drug-wise! Most people I work for prefer a relaxed business environment… and that makes for relaxed work

Long hours?

It was initially, when you have to get your face about and during that period when you have too many clients for one person yet the money does not yet justify staff costs

A flexible/bunk-off early job?

More tidal than anything. Augusts used to spook me in the early days because the phone would just stop ringing and I thought no-one wanted to do business with me. But that’s just August in the music business. Other times, it seems you never stop. If you’re a clock-watcher, don’t start your own business anyway…

Highlight of your career:

I think it’s probably yet to come but creating a company from scratch that, 20 years later, is still running! Still respected! And still at the cutting-edge! That’s a slow highlight but it qualifies. Oh, and I meet loads of cool artists – drum and bass, reggae and underground dance outfits. Also, I get on the guest list to loads of gigs and clubs and get to hang out in the VIP lounge and hob-knob with dance music luminaries at after parties

Downside of the job:

The dominance in the music business of the majors and the fact that, in the last 15 years or so, they seem to have abandoned any idea of an organic business to go for big bucks with rubbish music. Occasionally, also, I start to dislike music, but I soon shake that one off

Most hideous career moment to date:

Messing with property and having the thing go out of control. Steer clear of property speculation unless you know what you’re doing… The good thing is my most hideous career moment didn’t involve the music biz in any way.

Do you meet interesting people and if so, who was the most interesting?

We work a lot with classic Jamaican producers, and old-style Jamaicans are SUCH GOOD FUN. They are just totally renegade. People like Bunny Lee, Niney the Observer, Max Romeo, Derrick Morgan. The names won’t mean much except to reggae lovers but these people brighten my life. And of course all the other dance music artists I do work for (see above). But I’ve also met popstars like Sporty Spice (pretty) and Ginger Spice (ragged-looking) and DJs like Fabio and Grooverider and Bobby and Steve and producers like Goldie. And John Peel used to phone me every now and then for advice. He was a nice man. Some muzos hang round celebrity venues but I don’t. I prefer to go where the music is rather than where the brilliant and empty people are.

Danger factor:

I’ve been threatened with being shot twice but that was just yardie big-talk. I met one of the guys who threatened me (on the phone) a couple of years later and he looked such a psycho that I was glad he didn’t take me up on my offer to come round to my place to prove he had the nerve to shoot me

Sexy uniform?

Whatever you like, really, from heels to scruffy trainers

Opportunities for travel/work abroad with your career?

I’ve been abroad a bit but our work is mostly with the UK underground, so that’s where I tend to stay. I still go to dance music festivals in a work capacity, like Sonar in Barcelona and the Miami Winter Music Conference, but I’m just as happy with smaller independent festivals. We went to a great 2-week festival on the beach in Southern Italy this year with the Unsound (sound) System

Do you meet fit, clever, solvent blokes in your line of work?

It’s the UK underground music business! Nice, nice people but poor as church mice

Can you still see yourself doing this in 20 years time?

No!

What advice would you give young women who are interested in this career path?

Be self-starting. Spot your niche and dive into it. Love music because if you work at what you love, the gods will always look after you. I saw Anita Roddick (founder of Body Shop) on television the other day. She was saying that the government is spending too much time and money on training people in business techniques and methods when they should be trying to encourage entrepreneurism and initiative. The music business is currently swamped by people who have been on music business management courses and they are all looking for jobs that no longer exist. If you want to get your foot in the door, apply to the three main music copyright societies (MCPS, PRS and PPL) because they employ hundreds of people. But you need flair and initiative and bollox if you’re going to make it in the music business


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