5 January 2015

Music | Women in the Music Industry With O2

The night before I headed off to Australia, I was invited down by O2 to a question and answer session with five key employees, followed by dinner and then to check out Foxes performing at their Shepherd's Bush Empire.

After a minor panic in the taxi, I finally arrived (a little late) to find Sheree and Cheyenne tucking into some nibbles, having a natter in a room full of O2 memorabilia. I was followed shortly by Lily and Zoe and we were ready to begin. 

We then introduced ourselves to O2's women of wonder, who then in turn introduced themselves to us. PR manager Justine Fancy completed an MA in Popular Music Studies, as well as working part time at Academy Music Group before landing her role. Natalie Gardiner is AMG's Digital Content Executive, responsible for planning and co-ordinating email market communications across the academy. Jessica Hurst oversees the set up and sales of tickets as O2's Venue Assistant/Duty Manager. She works alongside promoters and their ticketing departments to ensure that each event is handled to the high standard possible as well as acting as a front of house presence. Running the shows and booking the performances is Becky Pratchett, O2's Technical Assistant Manager and Helen DeVille, Assistant General Manager. Lastly, we were introduced to Caitlin Mogridge, the house photographer.

Lily: What shows get you excited about putting on? What's the best show that you've seen?

It's hard to pin down to one show as some things are exciting in a production kind of way; there are loads of lights or something really special going on on stage but then other times just the artist themselves can be exciting. Some people might have nothing on stage but give a spine tingling performance. It really depends on the music and the artists.

Sheree: Behind the scenes, obviously there are a lot of artists that come through - are any of them huge divas? 

Millie: Are you involved with handling artist's riders?

There are some people who have some quite special requirements. We have very little to do with the riders. If there is someone who has large demands, the only part we play is just getting a heads up on it really and people asking what they can do. So, occasionally someone might bring in their own furniture. They might fit out the room in white drapes and make it look beautiful - slightly ridiculous things like that. We once had a carpet put down in the corridor outside of the dressing room and it was supposed to be down for a day but I think it's been down now for about four and a half years.

We've had dwarfs requested a few times. It's just something silly that they put on the rider to check it properly. 

Zoe: I've seen that! A request circulated on the internet and it had something stupid on the Internet and it's just so they check it properly. Or maybe they do just want dwarfs! 

I'm quite interested in the booking process. In terms of who you book to play, is it quite exclusive, do they come to you? 

Promoters come to us largely. If someone came with an artist that we thought was wholly inappropriate to play here - maybe because it wouldn't sell, if we thought something was really going to struggle we might say you might want to think about not doing that here. We're not taste makers. We don't say what's cool when we take bookings. 

Zoe: How have you guys had to adjust now tickets aren't just physical? Has it made it more difficult or has it been an easy process?

It depends. As technology moves on it's whether people can keep up with it and the more technical it gets the more things can go wrong. People say they haven't received the links to their tickets and then have to be issued with new ones. In terms of speed, it makes things a lot quicker. I think people still want physical tickets as memorabilia but there's a lot of people who prefer to have things on their phone. With every option there's ups and downs. 

Louise (agency PR): You mentioned about interning before. I know myself and Charlie both went through quite an arduous interning process, is that something that is common in the music industry? 

I think the conditions are getting better as interns are getting paid. I had to do a year unpaid as it was the only way to get in. People don't hire people who don't have any experience. Most people have had to intern.

We don't take interns for a long period of time. Just for a few weeks. We don't want to just use people and not pay them!

Millie: Does anyone ever get employed off of the back of an internship?

Yes! Pretty much everyone we've ever had has got a job. Not necessarily with us but they've all gone on to get one. 

Sheree: What kind of person do you look for and what makes them stand out?

Firstly, we interview them and I guess its passion but you can only properly tell it from interviewing. If one person says "Oh, I want to meet the band and sit backstage all day" then they're a no. If they just talk about guest list then they are a no. Even if they are interested in music but not interested in PR then there's no point of them coming into the press office. If you have a media background or a degree then that's good or if they've done work experience at a newspaper and want to see the PR side of it then that's also good!

It was a great opportunity to find out about the running of the O2 Academies and we had a informative and insightful chat for the best part of an hour with the sounds of Foxes sound check in the background!

Next we were whisked off for supper followed by returning back to meet our O2 angel for the evening who would look after us during Foxes' performance. We got settled into our beautiful blue room at the side of the first floor and our O2 angel brought us drinks, then explained to us how O2 customers get priority booking, getting their mitts on tickets 48 hours before everyone else, just by texting 'priority' to 2020. In such opulent settings, which can also be booked as an O2 customer, that was all I needed to hear to be completely convinced - where's that new phone contract?! We headed out to our seats as Foxes came on, sporting sparkly pink joggers and a crop top, proving with each song her status as the UK's ultimate pop princess. 

All in all, it was such a fun evening in the company of some great blogging pals - thanks O2 for having us!

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with O2. Check out my previous collaboration with O2 over on their Youtube channel.
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