This week, I (Rachel) decided I'd like to address a very common feeling I've come across in the music industry recently - that 'I just don't qualify'. Last year, I wrote an article for Everyday magazine about just this, and have re-visited this to share today.
Going through high school I was only ever really interested in studying science, so it was no surprise that I applied to and began studying Anatomy and Human Biology at University. I studied for three years, including a semester in Australia, and following this, I went on to study a Master of Research in Biomedical Sciences and Translational Medicine. At the time of writing this, I have just started the second year of my PhD in Neuroscience, studying genetic interactions in Huntington's Disease.
Now, you are probably reading this and thinking, ‘well how come you’re writing an article on artist management, PR, and the music industry?’ That question is the premise of this entire article and why this article is titled what it is...
In 2012 I was setting up the PA for a church service – I was a worship leader – and heard ‘He ain’t the leaving kind’ by Rascal Flatts. It went straight home and began researching the band, as well as others, and as such, discovered Carrie Underwood. I asked my Father to take me to watch her performance at the first Country2Country Festival (the UK’s largest Country Music Festival) at the O2 Arena, London [March, 2013]. Other artists on the line-up that year included Leanne Rimes and Darius Rucker. Having grown up being a part of a choir or a church worship team, and having a very talented Father, I always had an appreciation for good music. From this point, my attention was turned from the weekly top 40 to the Hot Country and A-list country playlists on Apple and Spotify. For the next few years, country music became my ‘go-to’ for any circumstance. Whether I was in the gym, studying in the library or travelling, country music was there, and every year I made the trip to London for Country2Country.
In 2017 I made that same trip to Country2Country on a much-needed break before my final degree assignments were due. It was the first year that I had decided to take the financial hit and attend the entire weekend – Thursday night songwriters’ event, three nights in the main arena, merchandise, the lot. Saturday morning came, and I was stood in one of the smaller venues and got talking to some UK musicians who, just like me, were there for the music, but also looking to begin writing and releasing music in the country genre. This was the start of my music industry experience.
I decided that during my spare time from studying, I would help with setting up social media platforms, contacting venues for shows and promoting the music - this also gave me an opportunity to discover the UK Country Music scene which in all honesty, I didn't know existed. Off the back of the release, I found myself organising festival appearances in San Diego, New York, Philadelphia, Nashville and across the UK. I was organising venue hire, ticket sales and tour support on a very non-existent budget, in addition to BBC and local radio interviews. For a couple of those dates, I had 5 band members sleeping on the floor of my one-bedroom studio flat in University halls. Whilst the band slept in and saw the sights of the city before their interviews and sound check, I would sneak out at 8 am to attend lectures and finish assignments in the library, before meeting them to organise the venue for that evening’s show. It is fair to say, I'd become a manager.
If I am completely honest, I was petrified by the thought of this. I was a 20-year-old girl at University, studying a subject utterly unrelated to the music industry, and with no business qualifications. I was definitely ‘unqualified’.
I am sure to many, travelling around the country is quite an exciting thought. However, there were many bumps in the road. I'm sure i'm not the only one to say that i've experienced venue owners and festival organisers look at me as if to say, ‘you don’t belong here’.
To say that I was exhausted by the end of this period would probably be a complete understatement, but nonetheless, I was on top of the world. Somehow, I had managed to accomplish something that I never considered possible. I have founded my own company [Scarlet River Management], managed artists who have been nominated (& won) awards both nationally and internationally, worked with artists on #1 UK country charting single and album releases, AND I was nominated for International Promoter of the year in Atlanta and Management of the Year in Holland!
Although I have received overwhelming support from many people within this industry - many who have become my great friends - a considerable part of this story has been learning to overcome fears and believe in my own ability. I do not say this for people to turn around and congratulate me. I became part of the music business because of a desire and a passion for helping one artist succeed. I was determined to help them build their vision and turn goals and dreams into a reality. I do not have one single business qualification. I didn’t know anyone in the music industry, and I certainly didn’t even know what the role of a manager was. It took endless emailing with no response, an incredible amount of ‘no’s’ and a lot of unanswered questions, but, eventually, all that effort and motivation started to build something worth pursuing. I felt like I may just qualify after all.
You may hold inside a passion or the tempting idea for a career in an industry that you’d love to be a part of, and to that I say, GO FOR IT! It starts with you taking that leap of faith into the unknown. You can do anything that you put your mind to. If you have the passion and a motivation to succeed, you will! And, I will be rooting for you, just like so many people in the industry that you are going to meet on your new, exciting journey.