By Ellen MacAskill
Hands up who has ever wanted to work in the music industry? Thought so. Listening to new music and scouting out talent for a living is, pretty much, the dream. We are very excited to have a seminar at Futures Fest from someone who has 16 years in the profession, Yvonne McLellan. We asked her some questions in anticipation of the event.
Currently embarking on a new Scotland-based venture as co-director of Native Publishing, a music publishing company, Yvonne says: “It’s a relatively new venture between myself and my business partner Alan McCusker-Thompson, so it’s still at that exciting stage of getting everything up and running. I worked for myself some time ago but after years of working for others it’s great to be back in the driving seat where you have more control over the direction of your work.”
Her long-lived career has seen her work as an A&R at the prestigious Island Records, as well as V2 Music and Rawkus Records. She says the best piece of guidance she can give can be applied to any industry: “Learn your trade, work hard, keep informed with up-to-date information and be nice to people whilst your at it.”
What about the music business specifically? “Get into the habit of reading your trade magazines and websites; for music you want to focus on Music Week and things like the CMU daily. Plenty of people may say they want a career in music but those who have been able to make a living from it are probably the hardest working people I’ve ever came across.”
Some sacrifices have to be made to make it: “It’s not your typical 9 to 5 job, regardless of what you end up doing, which can often result in you working unsociable hours and sometimes very long days. But with all of those who I have came across that really want to work within music, when they put the hours in it usually pays off.”
Yvonne advises to make the most of opportunities for experience as a student. “If going to university make sure the projects that you embark on are executed to be the best they can be, not just to pass your course. These can often end up being a gateway to what you end up doing.”
We all know that Scotland is a tiny country where sometimes everyone seems to know everyone. This leads Yvonne to reiterate her key point: be nice! “Most people within the music industry are generally really nice and there is nothing worse than having to work with someone who has an inflated ego or bad people skills. It’s a relatively small industry, especially in Scotland, and you’ll find that most people know each other so word gets around pretty quickly if you’ve been horrible to someone, but equally if you’ve done amazing work it also gets noticed.” Good wisdom for life, we reckon.
Yvonne has worked with a diversity of musical legends including Mos Def, Eminem and Oasis. She also had a hand in the success of acoustic favourite Ben Howard. What should unsigned bands and artists do to impress industry folks? “Firstly the songs have to be great, to create music that people can connect with on a personal level. It’s also important to be skilled in your instruments and have a strong work ethic. Then it would be a matter of getting yourself organised, out playing shows and mixing with other bands and those who can help you. From there everything else can take shape.”
She shared her hot tips for music in 2014. “I completely love Model Aeroplanes at the moment and can see this being a good year for them. Also this year sees the long awaited comeback of Vukovi, and the Garden of Elks are a great wee live band.”
As well as working as an artist scout, Yvonne has covered a whole spectrum of jobs in music. At her Futures Fest seminar, she will share her career story. “I will be covering my journey within the music industry from starting off as an intern at Sony ATV Publishing and education, to working with labels such as Island Records, V2 Music and Rawkus Records, to running my own record shop and being a lecturer in music business.”
Notepad at the ready…
Follow Yvonne on Twitter @YvMcL. Fancy yourself as an A&R scout? Share your music tips for this year @scotcampus and on Facebook.