Digital Music Industry
Leanne Sharman, Vice President and UK General Manager, Napster
How did you get into the job? I studied a degree in European Marketing at Leeds University, which helped me 100%. It was a very practical course and I learned about subjects like business law, accountancy and marketing. Put all these things together and it's what happens in the outside world of business. Everything I learned has proved very relevant thereafter in the business world.
Job history: My career has been varied but it's followed a marketing and commercial path. I started out at Disney, and who could ask for a better company to teach you marketing and branding? I then moved on to Fox Kids which was a newer brand and it gave me the opportunity to grow and apply my existing skill set. I helped to launch channels across Europe and then moved to the interactive division, which was great because it was the heart of the new media world. After travelling for six months I worked for mp3.com as I decided I wanted to get into music. When the company was sold I came to my current role to launch Napster in the UK.
Best/worst bits: You are constantly comparing the progress of the company to what's going on in the rest of the digital and online world, but what's great about that is you never get bored. Technology is moving so quickly and there are so many exciting new ways to consume music that who knows where you'll be in five years' time. To be at the heart of a developing and emerging industry is great fun. There's never enough time or resources, but if you have drive and ambition you can really make things happen.
Advice for wannabees: Persevere, believe you can and you will. That's what I've followed. You will get knock- backs, which is fine, but learn from them and get back on your feet again. I think that success is about knowing who you are and making sure that you're in an environment that's right for you, and one that you can excel in.
CV essentials: Showing your personality through your CV is important; give a flavour of what you're about with a short introduction about yourself. It's the first point of contact so it has to be tightly written and well structured with no mistakes. Presentation and attention to detail are very important.
This is a very competitive industry to get into. It's still very small and there aren't many openings so you won't find heaps of job advertisements or recruitment companies dealing with this industry. A lot of the time your lucky break will be based on who you know, or being in the right place at the right time. So, you'll need to use your own imagination, passion and persuasion to get your foot in the door. Leanne got her job at mp3.com by setting up meetings with the major record companies and selling herself and her skills to them.
"People always want to be working for cool, funky brands, but you shouldn't lose hope because there is always the need for good people in every industry," says Leanne. "If you are trying to enter in a junior position you need to show that you can study to a certain level and then the higher you get, the more it becomes based on experience."
You can enter at any level - as a PA, assistant, marketing assistant, web developer, customer services officer - it depends on your main interests and skills. All the traditional departments still apply but be aware that you might not find different divisions and huge teams; they work in a much smaller organisational structure.
"My job involves marketing, programming and working with the labels, business planning, setting targets, running the existing operations and putting partnerships together to drive forward new initiatives," says Leanne. "Other people in the company take on the project management of new services."
You have to be aware of - and interested in - what's going on in the world of technology. As it's a fast-paced world it also helps if you are reactive, can make decisions quickly and have a sense of urgency about your work and projects.
As Leanne stresses, a passion for music is essential. Knowing your artists and bands is important, but go one step further to prove your commitment. Spend your spare time managing a friend's band, setting up your own (legal) music website or work at a music venue so you've got that extra gem to sell at the interview.
Some knowledge of the online world will be desirable, but as this is a fairly new industry you can also trade on any appropriate skills that are transferable. According to Leanne, it's not all down to qualifications - she works on the assumption that the right person should have an equal balance of the right skills and the right personality.
Personality/Who would it suit
"If you are a gregarious person you should not be sitting in a quiet law firm - personality fit is key, especially in this industry," says Leanne. "I would say 50% of the job is cultural fit: fitting in with the rest of the team; having the right approach; and having the drive and ambition to add value to the company. If I meet someone with the enthusiasm to say: 'I can see the potential of digital music and I really want to be part of this company,' then that's great. I'm looking for that passion when I recruit."
As already mentioned, this is a new industry that is still small. The UK music industry as a whole only employs around 130,000 people, and digital music only makes up a small proportion of that. However, it is growing quickly, so if you are lucky enough to get a first break there is potential to move up if you get in early and learn the right skills.
Pros and cons
by Hannah Jolliffe