What was the first gig you ever attended?
My first ever live gig was Texas at the MEN Arena when I was 17. Not very hip I’m afraid, but it was brilliant. It was right after they’d released Inner Smile and Sharleen Spiteri was doing her whole Elvis thing. Superb stuff.
What made you want to work in venues and how did your career start?
I hadn’t specifically wanted to work in venues, it just kind of happened. I’m glad it did though.
My background before working in the music industry was first in IT and software development stuff, then later supported housing and youth work. There was also a healthy dose of gig organising and festival promoting in my spare time, alongside running a small indie label from my dining room. The gigs and label were more a hobby really, and not something I ever expected to get an income from or do as a job.
By 2014 I really needed a career change, so I went back to college and then university to retrain and really, just to flex my brain muscles a bit. I did a Diploma in Music Industry Management at The Manchester College, and then an MA in Music Industry Studies at The University of Liverpool. The MA ended in 2017 when I was 37 – this is career number three for me.
When I left uni, I pretty much applied for anything I could that looked interesting and was music related while doing freelance writing work to pay the bills. Luckily, 10+ years experience of IT, youth work and managing homeless shelters meant I had plenty of transferable skills to make up for a lack of paid work in the music industry, and I had a load of very near misses with good jobs.
Eventually, in summer 2018, I was offered a brilliant role managing the three venues I look after now, and here I am.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt whilst working in venues?
The most important things I’ve learned since being in this job is just how vital it is to be organised. Having only dealt with venues as a newbie promoter or band member before working in one, I don’t think I fully appreciated the level of detail that has to happen behind the scenes in order for even small shows to happen.
In my job for example, I need to keep on top of ticketing, listings, advancing, staffing and social media for up to 28 events a week, and that had a steep learning curve. I never expected that being an information systems nerd with an unhealthy love for spreadsheets would be such a valuable thing, but it’s pretty much the only reason I cope with the amount of information I need to keep track of on a daily basis.
What’s the funniest moment you’ve had at a venue you’ve worked in?
It’s really hard to pin down one particular moment over the last year or so (I’m still pretty new at this venue management thing). There are loads from my wayward career as a semi-serious gig and club night promoter though, ranging from being denied entry to clubs I was DJing at, to realising half way through a night that someone had pee’d in the smoke machine and falling off the stage in front of particularly large festival audiences. I don’t really drink when I’m working or performing, so I can’t even blame the excesses of promoter life for these.
In your opinion, what does the next 5 years look like for live entertainment venues?
I certainly think we’re in for an interesting few years. There’s so much uncertainty at the moment and so much stuff like visas, freedom of movement for touring European bands, peoples’ disposable income and the regulatory frameworks we have to work under are all potentially changing. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen – certainly for us, we’re just carrying on as best we can until we know for sure how everything’s going to pan out.
As many big, headlining legacy bands are reaching the end of their careers it’s going to be exciting to see the next waves of younger bands and artists coming up to take their place, and to see how the live music scene in particular evolves to accommodate the shifting trends in music consumption and entertainment in general.
They say that turbulent times inspire great art, so on top of all that, I’m expecting lots of quality new music too.