Universal comes to Goldsmiths

Leading people from Universal Music gave a talk at Goldsmiths yesterday, giving students the chance to ask questions about the industry and how to get into it.

The speakers, from left to right: Jim Chancellor, Sarah Boorman, Ross Anderson, Niamh Byrne. Image: Xixi Zheng

The speakers at the event exemplified how diverse the roles at a major record company can be.

Niamh Byrne, the Head of Creative Content Strategy has a whole range of responsibilities, from overseeing projects like the Music Matters campaign and being involved in the redesign of the Brit Award.

Jim Chancellor is the Managing Director of Fiction Records, which is home to acclaimed artists like TV On the Radio, Elbow and Kate Nash and started out as the label that broke The Cure.

Sarah Boorman, the Marketing Director at Island Records, is in charge of finding the right campaign for the artists on the label, including Amy Winehouse, Jessie J and U2.

Every campaign is tailored specifically to the act, whether it’s about the guitars they play, or which TV show they perform on.

The speakers. Image: Xixi Zheng

Ross Anderson, Creative Director at Polydor Records, looks after music videos from the first draft to the finished product.

For him, coming to a place like Goldsmiths is about finding new talent. “I work in a visual place so coming to an art college is perfect. Hopefully by doing things like this and opening the door, it means that they know our name and someone they can send their work and their CV to”, Ross Anderson explained.

Above: Ross Anderson speaking to Eastlondonlines

Jacqueline, who studies for an MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, was very impressed with the range people who work at Universal Music. “I’ve been trying very hard to network with these people and find out more about the industry, so it’s a great networking experience”, she said.

The Music Industry Forum was part of the college’s effort to inform students about job opportunities.

And there was obviously no lack of interest in music industry careers among the audience: students queued up to talk to the visitors when everyone went to the Amersham Arms for drinks after the talk.

Angela McRobbie, professor of Communications at Goldsmiths, thinks that hosting a networking event like this is not only a new way of discussing careers but also a political issue:

“On the one hand, the government is breathing down the backs of these big companies in the creative sector to talk about employability. But I also think there’s a genuine desire to open up the industry”.

Jim Chancellor agreed that there are a lot of misconceptions about the music industry and saw the event as a way to give students an insight into the decisions and processes that make stars sound and look good. He said:

“It’s good to help demystify what we do in record companies and who we are. How we make some of the decisions we make and where we’re coming from as people.”

Above: Jim Chancellor speaking to Eastlondonlines

Jim Chancellor’s advice for people who want to work in the music industry is to “follow your heart, have a go and don’t give up”, because, as he added: “There are a lot of people out there trying to do it. And if you’re not very good at taking the hit, it’s probably not the business for you.”

Students listening to the music industry presentation. Image: Xixi Zheng.

The students seemed to be particularly interested in the salacious portrayal of female popstars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga in their videos and the message this sends out to children.

This didn’t surprise Angela McRobbie, who thinks that events like these could be a reality check for students and an inspiration for industry representatives. She said:

“I have a certain degree of empathy for people coming in from an industry and then being faced with a bunch of people who have done nothing but read queer theory or post-colonialism for the last three years. You cannot do that when you’re in a world of work. So there’s a bit of a missing link there. There should be a way wherein people in the industry are able to refresh themselves.”

Above: Angela McRobbie speaking to Eastlondonlines.

The last question to the panel, however, had nothing to do with slinky singers or queer theory: a student wanted to know when the new Amy Winehouse album would finally see the light of day.

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