If there’s nothing you love more than soaking up the music, atmosphere and party vibes of a music festival, you’ve probably fantasised about working in music festival production more than once. But how well do you understand what a career in music events involves? At The Ambition Plan, we firmly believe that you can’t choose your ideal career path from a position of ignorance – that’s how you end up working your ass off to get a dream job, only to discover it’s not what you thought it would be. To help you avoid this scenario – and also to introduce you to some jobs that you may not realise exist – we’ll be running a series of dream job profiles for the rest of the year. And we’re starting with Alana Leggett: head of marketing operations at the global events pioneer Broadwick Live (the company behind festivals like the jaw-dropping Barcadi Triangle and Festival No. 6)
TAP: Your job sounds like a dream job for any music or festival lover. Is it and what exactly does it entail?
AL: Thank you! I can’t lie, it is really fun. I’ve always wanted to work in music, so getting to work on events and festivals every day is great. We have 18 festivals in our portfolio and I work across the accounts to make sure our marketing is running efficiently. I work on the operations side of marketing, which covers everything from launch planning and managing a large marketing team to best practice, systems and workflows.
TAP: How did you get into working in music festivals?
AL: To be honest, it was completely by accident. I actually wanted to work for a record label, that was my initial dream. I did work experience and internships to try and get some experience, but it’s a very competitive business and back then most roles were unpaid – making it pretty difficult to sustain. I was looking for full-time roles and came across one in Leeds that was in the music industry, but within the events and festivals side of things. I went through the job spec online and thought it sounded amazing. I had one of those ‘I could do that!’ moments, so I applied and never expected to hear much more. In the end, I moved from London to Leeds for the role. I loved it so much, I never looked back. I guess that’s the funny thing about goals and ambitions, it’s great to have a clear and specific idea of what you want but sometimes things take you by surprise and the journey you end up on is so much better than anything you could have ever planned yourself.
TAP: What are the opportunities like for anyone trying to get in this field? Is it highly competitive?
AL: Any role in music is highly competitive. In fact, any role in the creative industries is competitive. People want to work in music because it sounds fun, exciting and glamorous. The truth is that it’s not in the slightest bit glamorous! If you love music and you’re passionate about creating something, then it’s great and you’ll manage to navigate all the difficult bits because of your genuine love for what you do. But it is a lot of hard work, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door and it can be even harder to navigate a path for yourself. It’s also highly pressured, with long hours and high expectations. The key is to pick something you love, work hard and be nice – this is an unbeatable combination. People who go the extra mile will always cut through the noise and there will always be opportunities for people who truly want it.
TAP: What type of experience/skills are looked upon favourably by those in your industry?
AL: I would say common sense (you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked), organisation (it’s absolutely needed because of the number of things going on at any given time!) and being proactive. These are the key skills or traits I look for. The proactive part is really important – you want to be the kind of person who’s motivated and a self-starter.
TAP: What advice would you give to a career changer who wants to break into the operational, rather than performance, side of music?
If you don’t yet have the experience you think you need (yet being the key word!), work out what you can do now to demonstrate the skills and experience listed on that job spec. There are plenty of freelance and contract roles out there (just Google ‘freelance festival staff’) that you could start with, and there are events like Oxjam and other community projects that allow you to get involved with larger scale events. You could start a blog, social media channel, vlog or do part-time/volunteer work to demonstrate your passion for music. Apply for a short-term internship (sometimes you have to step back to take a leap forward) or find small artists or labels who might need part-time help. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
TAP: A lot of fun creative jobs are badly paid. What can someone working in music festivals expect to earn?
I’ll be completely honest and say that most of the time you’d earn a lot more in marketing at a large financial company then you would working in marketing in the live music sector. But that’s not to say you can’t make it work or that the salaries are bad. There is a lot of room to grow and the higher the position, of course, the better the pay. There are a lot of other unpaid perks, such as access to gigs, events and festivals that are thrown in also. My advice is to work hard and show people what you can do. This is the best way to move higher up , and take on more responsibility, which leads to a higher salary. Make sure you research the company and also keep an eye on market rates and salaries.
If you feel your salary does not match your value after several years, it may be time to start negotiating a higher salary or looking elsewhere. No matter how creative or fun your job is, your wellbeing and security are important too. I spent a year at the start of my career sleeping on my sister’s sofa and working three jobs, so I know first hand how difficult it can be – persevere though because things get hardest when the break you need is just around the corner. One of my favourite sayings is “The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does”.
TAP: Can you share three resources that you think are invaluable for breaking into the music industry?
1. Set up a Google alert for festival/events/music news so you’re up to date and on top of developments and what’s happening in the market. Understanding the market is an important factor and this is really easy to monitor.
2. Find a piece of training to set you apart and give you a bit of a boost. Google Squared, Hootsuite Acacdemy, Facebook and the Chartered Institue of Marketing (CIM) all have relevant courses you could look into. If you’re struggling to fund them, Facebook, Coursera and many others offer free courses.
3. Start shadowing some people that are already doing what you want to do. They’ve already got a few things right and have run into many of the problems you might not have encountered yet, which means that you can learn a lot from them. There are a lot of mentorship opportunities available now – I work on one with The Hoxton Hotel, for example. The Big Music Project has a wealth of online resources. She Said So also has great resources, support and mentorship possibilities for women.
TAP: What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
AL: That it’s easy. It’s 100% not easy. It’s actually a lot of hard work, but if you’re willing to get stuck in and music is your passion, it’s really rewarding – I promise!
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