How to be a Music Promoter & Festival Manager

Jennifer McDermott
Feb 15, 2015 · 4 min read

This post originally featured on KQ Magazine, which I co-ran

We’re still focused on great careers here at KQ — can you tell? If you haven’t had enough choice already, this week we bring you Nick, who is a music promoter (although I think the title doesn’t do his job justice, as I’ve been lucky enough to work with Nick in the past), and more recently, a festival manager to boot.

Nick promotes music out of the diverse West Yorkshire city of Leeds. He helps musicians by releasing records on his label Dead Young Records and by providing mentoring through Leeds Music Hub. He also organises the live music at the small but infamous Oporto bar and venue and runs 2 small festivals between occasionally eating and sleeping.

Firstly, please explain what you do?

Well, in short, I suppose I act as a conduit for talented people’s art. I try to do this with as much integrity as possible, which apparently is a surprisingly rare thing. The music industry has a bad reputation for ripping people off, both consumers and artists and I feel very strongly about providing an alternative, I love what I do, I get great satisfaction from seeing people enjoy themselves.

How did you get started in the industry?

Enthusiasm, and a little creativity. I wanted to go to gigs when I was a student, but I couldn’t afford to, so I found other ways of getting in. I suppose I could have taken the seedier route but doing merch for bands, flyering and doing the door for venues/local promoters sat better with me, ha! Once I’d gained some trust I was asked to do more and more until I had the skills and confidence to do my own shows.

What made you decide to start your own record label & festival?

The label was with a friend I worked with in Sheffield, our marketing manager, at first I was working on the launch shows/tours for releases but he lost heart (things rarely go as planned!) so I took a more central role and have continued since. Festivals are something I’ve always wanted to be involved with, I love them, the right festivals are kind of how I wish the world was all the time, open minded, enthusiastic, positive and fun, with a great soundtrack too.

What challenges did you face (if any)?

There’s a lot of competition out there, and it’s increasingly hard to be heard above the noise of advertising. There’s only so many people out there and the market is saturated but what we’ve tried to do is offer alternatives and ensure the greatest quality of experience with everything we do, whether that’s a beautifully packaged vinyl record to compliment the sounds within or the stunning setting of Lake Windermere or a Grade 1 listed church for our festival main stages.

What are you most proud of?

Every successful event gives me that kick still, record wise The Witch Hunt EP is the finest thing we’ve produced so far. I couldn’t have been much happier with how our first High & Lonesome festival went, the turn out and response were both staggering, for a core team of just 2 people do pull that off in the first year was great and now we’re going from strength to strength with a string of stand alone shows and booking for this November.

What advice would you give to someone coming into music management?

My advice would be a juxtaposed mix of fully immerse yourself and take it slow. It’s very easy to get carried away and grasp at every opportunity like it may be your only one but speak to as many people as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions or for advice, the confidence trick can only get you so far, honesty and experience is what counts.

How did you come to own a music festival?

Fell Foot Sound was a happy accident, I jumped in a car with a band (the ace Post War Glamour Girls) and went to an event they were playing in the Lake District, I had no idea what to expect and I was blown away by the site and the general feeling of the area, the only problem was it wasn’t busy. Through a series of coincidences the owner got in touch with me a few months after and asked if I’d consider becoming his partner in it, we get on well and our skills compliment each other well and since it’s gone really well, selling out in advance the last 2 years.
High & Lonesome Festival came from an idea myself and musician and friend Harry Ridgway had to fill a gap for a large event centred around more downbeat music, from working together on Communion events and our collective festival experience we thought ‘why not’ and here we are!

What is the best thing about your job?

People, you meet so many interesting and inspiring people, both artists and punters alike.

Who inspires you?

Well I suppose I have to say people now, but also music of course and the drive to make a better environment for people to express and enjoy the music I love in. And to a certain extent myself, I don’t like pouring my time and effort into something I don’t care for, I want to make create things that can be enjoyed by myself as well as like minded people, the only other motivation is money, and as The Beatles said ‘I don’t care too much for money…’

What’s next for you and your projects?

Growth. I’ve got enough plates spinning at the moment, I’m keen to make more of what we have built with the festivals, gigs and label. We have a release being prepped for a garage duo called New Woman we’re all very excited about and we want to make the festivals better, not necessarily bigger, but never rest on our laurels when it comes to the experience.

jennifermcdermott

Product Owner. Previously SEO & Digital Marketing. Northerner in London. Favourite pastime is eating, followed by learning new stuff.