Music is a difficult industry to get into right? Wrong, actually. There is no one set path, and there are plenty of unexpected ways to make it in music, if you know where to look. So we started searching for answers at The O2 recently (where some of the best world-renowned artists have played; Foo Fighters, Metallica, Ed Sheeran, Stereophonics) and found out that the route to music success isn’t actually impossible…

We went behind the scenes at The O2 and had a super exclusive tour from the wonderfully knowledgeable Barney (the Communications Director at The O2 – who was fantastic). We saw the dressing rooms, the artist entrances. We heard from extraordinary people whose journeys into music definitely don’t fit the regular stereotype; from sponsorship teams to event planners -  there are so many unexpected ways to make it in music that we have to share with ya…


Here are the superstars who were kind enough to share their inside info with us!

  • Barney Hooper – Communications Director, The O2
  • Christian D’Acuna – Head of Programming, The O2
  • Sam Slee – Sponsorship Manager at O2
  • Lauren Tones – Partnerships Manager at AEG Europe
  • Dom Hodge – Managing Partner at FRUKT
  • Kate Joyce – O2 Events Manager at The O2
  • Nicola Parsons – O2 Events Manager at The O2

And here’s what we learned about the unexpected ways to make it in music…

Be passionate

(OK, so this one isn’t really that unexpected. But come on, we couldn’t not say it. Gotta have passion.)

There is no point in doing things half-halfheartedly, when it’s the music industry – your passion has to be 100%.  Christian D’Ancuna  says how much he was driven by his genuine love and passion for music. He played in bands, he looked after bands and even took a music industry course at university! With experience spanning work with record labels, publishers and collection societies – it’s clear that Christian definitely lives and breathes music – and you should too if you want a career in that industry.

His advice was all about finding your passion; hone in on exactly what it is about music that you’re in love with. Once you know what it is then get involved – no excuses! Then throw yourself in however you can – whether it’s experience with a radio station, a club, or a label. Let your passion drive you, is what he told us.

Find another route, and build those transferable skills

Though Christian’s route into music was driven by his unwavering adoration for music, the rest of our guests entered the industry in very unique ways. Dom, from FRUKT, studied business at university, Kate from O2 was an O2 Angel and Nicola from O2 was a DJ. Lauren Tones who works at AEG initially trained as a journalist, specialising in live music. Through this, she met a bunch of important people and has been in live music for 10 years.

Sam from O2 started in advertising where he picked up hardcore advertising skills, and then went on to work in the Sponsorship team in O2. He reapplied all the skills he gained in his advertising career to his passion for sports and live experiences – making him a great asset for any team.

Sam also stated how important music is within O2, he said: “We do work across and within the music industry, even though O2 is primarily a telecoms brand. Some brands have credibility within the music industry even though they might not be explicitly part of it.” So be sure to look out for these brands – they could be a great way to really connect to the music industry. Sam says O2 are into Music because they recognised it was a key passion point for fans and it allows them to really connect with their customers, engaging them even more with the brand. Find out what other companies that do this, and get in touch with them, these are companies that really want a unique experience for their customers and hence would probably be a great company to work for.

Lauren tells us that AEG’s mission is to “give the world a reason to cheer” – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?! AQ5A6999

If you can’t get experience, then MAKE your own experience.

Any young person knows the catch-22 of employment – to get a job, you need experience, but you need a job to get experience, so, what the hell are you going to do?

Well, Christian told us there’s a way around this: “If you want to get into venue booking – promoting – put on your own shows at uni or college.”  If you are in university or college – you have a valuable resource, a learning hub where everyone around you is young, engaged and looking to have a good time. He told us that the people he knows as agents now, were the bookers in their universities; they built up contacts with local bands, started representing them and developed from there.

Kate from O2 fell in love with events and put on her own cabaret event after university. Though she dealt with a fair share of setbacks (the venue pulled out last minute) she told us that doing things on your own terms and using your initiative pushes you to being the best version of yourself.

Even huge companies do this! For the Wear The Rose live event at The O2, featuring Take That, it was new territory for O2. For the first time, they got to be the promoters, really get involved in the music side, market the shows and curate the content. It was a combined sponsorship with the England Rugby team and The O2 – a union of two of O2 biggest sponsorships.

Still sound daunting? Nicola from O2 has a fantastic solution. Put on a charity event to raise money for a cause you really care about. And, the nice thing about charity is that it makes people feel good to get involved and volunteer their time. If they can’t donate cash then they’re usually more than willing to donate time, or a skill. Have a friend that can sing? Get them to do entertainment – it will mean exposure for them. Have a friend that can cook? Design logos/posters? Someone tech-savvy that could design a website?

Plus, Nicola tells us that people tend to be way more forgiving when/if things go wrong with charity events. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, you’ve raised money for a good cause, given people a great night and bagged some great experience – all on your own terms.

Hustle, hustle, hustle

Dom from FRUKT explained; “Promoters are hustlers”. They hustle, they get out there and then learn about the market. They anticipate future trends because they realise they have to.

Disruptive innovation is something that affects the music industry (and every industry, in fact). You know the iPod? Although it wasn’t the first MP3 Player invented, the nifty little device changed the way we listened to music forever. Start spotting disruptive innovations (email, cloud computing etc). We asked Christian what he’s most excited about regarding the future of music “VR – it’s exciting to think of how it will affect live music. The key is to look at trends that are small but bound to blow up and relating that to your life, your role and ultimately, your industry! Observe, plan and HUSTLE.


Get outside of your comfort zone

Let’s face it, the music industry is shaped by the public, so you have to be tuned into what people listen to, and what excites them. Christian said he would “rather go to a gig than buy an album” and Sam encouraged us to listen to some music that isn’t our favourite genre to broaden our horizons. He explained that he went to see Iron Maiden when he was 12, where he “had the time of his life”, even though it wasn’t exactly the type of music he liked. “Ideally you go to the gig and like the music but even if you don’t, you enjoy the experience. Our job is to make it as good as it can be, he said. According to Sam, the reason The O2 is so successful is due to “personalisation”. He explained; “It is a living and breathing venue that talks to each fan on a personal, relevant basis.” Think of a job in music as an all-round experience and get to grips with every part of it.

Dom told us about relating to people through the power of entertainment and said: “If you can entertain customers – they’ll love your brand  – it’s incredibly powerful.” According to research that FRUKT have recently undertaken, he also noted that;

  • 71% of consumers believe that entertainment is the most effective way for brands to connect with them
  • Entertainment increases brand trust. 77% say they are more likely to trust a brand that helps support the growth of the music they love (who knew, eh?)

And let’s not forget how much networking plays a role in EVERYTHING.

Nicola told Go Think Big that networking is simply a case of building relationships, and meaningful ones at that. Don’t forget that managing good relationships is a two-way street. Sam called this a “value exchange” explaining that it creates “established mutual benefit for every party involved”. Start thinking about what skills/advice/experience you can share with the other person and you’ll automatically receive more back from them, too. As Lauren explained; “every job I’ve ever had has been through a friend or contact…go out and actually meet people. Connect on LinkedIn because it puts you in people’s minds, but still go out and meet people.”

And keep coming to Go Think Big events, obviously.


Is it all worth it? Absolutely.

As Lauren from AEG said: “Everyday in the industry is different, one day you’re talking about Wi-fi. And then the next day it’ll be a piece of signage in the foyer. Then, before you know it, you’ll be talking about what artists you’re going to get.”

Like this? How about:

7 music industry insider tips from our music-unlocked event

Advice on getting into the music industry

How to make money in music