interviews

Rising Star: Meet Lost Ones digital marketing manager Abigail Adeoti

This week, we meet, Abigail Adeoti, founder of online platform Roniebond and digital marketing mananger at Lost Ones... How did you land in your current role at Lost Ones?  “In 2016, I started Roniebond, a female-focused media platform turned creative ...

The Aftershow: Butch Vig

Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Garbage, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins... Butch Vig’s worked on classic records by all of them. As his group 5 Billion In Diamonds return with their arresting second album this month, here the legendary producer reflects on his stellar career. And failing to make an impression on Pete Townshend... I never decided I was going to become a record producer…   “It just sort of happened. People would say, ‘Hey, man, will you work with us on this record?’ and they started giving me credits as a producer. I guess I realised later that a producer is just someone with an opinion that the artist trusts. I’m lucky because I’ve been making records for some 30 years and I’m still doing it!”The thing I love about 5 Billion In Diamonds is… “It’s a different sensibility than if I’m producing the Foo Fighters, Green Day or whoever, where I have to be an objective producer: it’s not my record, it’s their record. In Garbage, I’m in a band with three other equally opinionated people, but in 5 Billion In Diamonds? I like the really loose collaborative nature of it, it’s a mosaic of everybody’s influences. On tour, I’ll be playing whatever I feel like. I might play Moog, acoustic or guitar, I might just bang on a tambourine – the possibilities are wide open in how we could interpret each song live!”  When Nirvana were recording Nevermind... “L7 came by so I told the runner to just get a huge spread of barbecue food and he got enough food for about 30 people. There was so much food and Kurt picked up a sausage and goes, ‘This looks pretty gross.’ He threw it against the wall and everybody just started taking the barbecue and throwing it around, smearing it on their faces and eating it, too. It was funny and horrible and bizarre.” I have a hard time listening to Only Happy When It Rains... “And it’s one of Garbage’s biggest singles. We finished mixing on a Friday and we were scheduled to fly Monday morning to New York to master it. On Sunday at, like, 6pm I went in the studio and recalled Only Happy When It Rains to tweak it because in my head it didn’t sound quite right. I remixed until three in the morning, slept like three hours and flew to New York. And you know what? We didn’t use it! Sometimes I get fixated on things that don’t matter...” I had no idea Dave Grohl was such an amazing guitarist...  “I mean, in off time on Nevermind he played guitar in the studio so I knew he could play, but I don’t think he wanted to show off. But after Kurt died, I heard he was working on a record and when I put it on I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing!’ Dave did everything on [Foo Fighters’ self-titled debut] in three or four days. It was just a powerhouse of hooky songs, I loved it. Dave had to step away from Nirvana and say, ‘I’m a singer in a band now; I’m a guitar player’. Now they’re one of the biggest bands in the world, but for him to go and do that in the first place? That was tough. It’s kind of amazing to see that transformation and to have been part of it.” The new Garbage album is a dark record...“Even though Shirley wrote a lot of the lyrics a year and a half ago, they fit the time and temperament we’re in right now. Some of it’s really beautiful, some of it is quite haunting and some of it is quite jarring. I feel it’s a mutant cousin to Beautiful Garbage because every song is its own thing, it takes you on a roller coaster ride.” I totally blew my chance of meeting Pete Townshend…  “Garbage were in New York doing a show and we were staying in a hotel. I got in the elevator heading down to soundcheck and the door opened and Pete Townshend got in... I should have said, ‘Hey, Pete, I play in Garbage and I’m a massive Who fan, it’s an honour to meet you!’ And I just completely choked... I looked down at my feet and twiddled my thumbs. I didn’t say anything and we rode in silence down for 10 floors. He got off. I still kick myself. I was an idiot, but I would have probably stammered and he would have thought I just sounded like an asshole...” 5 Billion In Diamonds’ new album Divine Accidents is out now via Make RecordsPHOTO: Bo Vig

Meet new UK Music boss Jamie Njoku-Goodwin

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin left his role at the heart of the UK government to become the new chief executive of UK Music. But he’s not expecting an easy time of it. Music Week meets the man who will represent the music industry in Westminster and beyond…   The young Jamie Njoku-Goodwin looks at the stage in wonder. He’s already sat through a Beethoven string quartet (“Really boring”) and a Brahms string quartet (“Really, really boring”), but now an ensemble is tearing through the atonal work of avant-garde modern composer György Ligeti. And Njoku-Goodwin – a 17-year-old kid from a council estate, here on a trip with the local comprehensive school – is suddenly hooked. “It was the sort of thing that most classical music obsessives would be a bit like, ‘Ooh, not too sure about that’,” he grins. “But it completely and utterly blew my mind and, at that moment, I decided I wanted to go to university to do music and learn everything I could about it.  “That completely changed my life and – not to make it sound too grand – but in many senses it saved my life. Lots of people who I went to school with ended up in very different circumstances to me. It gave me a completely different trajectory – I don’t know where I would have ended up otherwise.  “So I’ve seen first-hand how music can change people’s lives and that’s why doing everything I can for music and the music industry is a personal mission for me, not just a professional one.” As a sales pitch for why Njoku-Goodwin, now 29, has just become one of the British music business’ most important and influential executives despite no direct music industry experience, it’s a persuasive one.  Njoku-Goodwin is an accomplished musician himself, albeit a ‘failed’ one according to his old Twitter bio. He has a degree in music and sits on the advisory boards of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera, but his career has been mainly in politics. He has worked for controversial election strategist Sir Lynton Crosby, as a political advisor to the Conservative Party and as a special advisor to the government at the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and, most recently, to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, at the heart of the government’s pandemic response. In comparison, sorting out the music industry’s problems might seem relatively straightforward, but Njoku-Goodwin is not expecting an easy ride, what with fighting for government support over the coronavirus pandemic and helping the biz through Brexit being just two of the major issues fighting for his attention. Nonetheless, he’s in high spirits as he settles down for his first interview with Music Week around the launch of the Music By Numbers survey, declaring that he already “absolutely loves the job, despite having to work 24/7 from my kitchen”. Thanks to the ongoing lockdown, he might not get to walk the corridors of power – let alone party at music business awards – for a while yet. But he can still fire up Zoom and fill Music Week in on his big plans… Is swapping the government for the music biz a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ – or the other way round?“I don’t know, but there’s definitely a lot of heat! Fortunately, it’s heat from an industry I really care about and want to do as much as I can for. When you’re under the cosh, it’s much easier to be doing that for something you’re really passionate for and personally invested in, as well as professionally invested in. It was a relentless, high-pressure time at the Department Of Health and it’s no different here. I have fond memories of my time in government but let’s just say, diplomatically, that I’m delighted to be here now.” How much did you know about the music industry before getting this job?“As an industry, I engaged with it quite a bit when I was at DCMS but, when you’re working in government, you only have a surface layer understanding. You get three bullet points in a briefing and that’s all you’ll have to understand those issues. Then, when you come into the industry, you can really dig in deep and work out what’s driving what. The thing I’m hoping I’ve got the ability to do is, understand how that stuff gets understood by government. If you need to distil [an issue] into three bullet points to get government to agree to it, how do you do that? It’s fascinating, partly because I’m so interested in the industry, but it’s a real intellectual challenge as well; how do you take the needs of the sector and translate them into a compelling argument that’s going to appeal to the government?” Does the government take the music industry as seriously as it should?“Well, I’ve got nothing against the fishing industry at all, I’m not dissing it, but in 2018 I think the fishing industry was worth £1.4 billion [to the UK economy] and supported 25,000 jobs. Right now, the fishing industry is the sticking point for Brexit talks, it’s seen as this hugely important industry for the UK and something we should be dying in a ditch over. But the music industry is [worth] £5.8 bn and supports close to 200,000 jobs: this is a huge national asset for our country. And it’s not just the economics, it’s the wider benefits. There’s a huge ecosystem which the music industry is at the heart of and there’s a really compelling argument we can be making going forward, not just in the context of Covid but generally, about just how important the music industry is. It’s one of the key parts of our economic and cultural fabric.” What did you make of the row over Rishi Sunak seeming to tell people in the arts to retrain as something else?“I’ve known Rishi since he became an MP in 2015 and he is passionate about music and the music industry. People will have their different interpretations of what he said, but I don’t think he said that musicians need to retrain. But actually, you should always judge people on what they do and what they deliver rather than what they’re reported to have said. One of the things I found most encouraging about the Culture Recovery Fund is, we have been one of the few industries to have sector-specific support. One of the reasons I think that we were able to win the case for why we should be getting £1.5 bn to support our industry over this pandemic, was because the government sees the world class creative talent we’ve got in this country. People say you only really understand the value of something when it’s gone and all of us have seen just how valuable our music industry is by its absence over the last nine to 10 months or so.” But music is one of the UK’s only truly world-beating sectors. Surely it should expect respect?“Yeah, completely. That is mission critical for me and I see that as my primary job as the chief executive of UK Music. Covid-19 is an existential challenge for our industry but I’m confident we’re winning the right support from government. But winning that argument, about the music industry being a key national asset, is the primary long-term challenge for UK Music and myself. If you look back at the last 100 years, there’s a whole load of once-proud British industries that have fallen into decline. And often that decline comes at a point where the government doesn’t really think they’re a valuable, beneficial industry. So I want to be winning that argument into government every day. We’ve got an amazing product here and I want government to be an investor in our product.” Doing everything I can for the music industry is a personal mission for me Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, UK Music Is it just about the economic contribution?“No. At the Department Of Health, one of the things we were working really hard on was social prescribing; if you’re going to be prescribing pills for patients why can’t you prescribe music and cultural activities? There’s a whole bit of health and well-being work that the arts and particularly music is hugely beneficial in. Look at Paul Harvey, the composer with dementia. Drug companies spend hundreds of billions of pounds to try and tackle dementia – and four notes on the piano did more for that guy than a whole load of drugs. That’s amazing – and an argument we can be making into government about just how valuable the music industry is. My challenge to the UK Music team is, find me the department that doesn’t have a vested interest in the music industry being a success. A successful music industry is good for every area of government and the country as a whole.” You worked in government until recently. How important is it that you can pick up the phone and talk to policy makers?“I should say it’s vastly important. But it’s not. The thing you really need in this job is an understanding of what the mechanisms are, a sense of strategic vision and purpose and most importantly, knowing the arguments that will work. There are lots of people in various trades that will dine out on having this connection with that person, but picking up the phone to someone, there’s only so far you can go. If you don’t know what the arguments are that will persuade them, the situation they face or the agenda they’ve got, you’re not going to get anything done. If you have the right argument, a compelling narrative and a clear campaign, you should be able to deliver that without picking up the phone. That’s one of the reasons I’m so thrilled to have this tag-team partnership with Tom Watson.” You and Tom are clearly quite different politically. How does it work between you?“People will point out that I’ve come from a level in the Conservative government, he’s coming as deputy leader of the Labour Party and between us we have both main bases covered. But the thing I’m much more excited about with his chairmanship is his campaigns experience. Me and Tom come from very different political backgrounds, but I acknowledge he is one of the best political campaigners of the past two decades. He’s got a whole lot of expertise and experience and knowledge of how to deliver action and change. Having that experience at UK Music is hugely beneficial for our industry. Some people might think it’s unusual to have a chair and a chief exec with a political background, but there’s no better time to have that combination because now, more than ever, UK Music and the music industry as a whole needs to be relentlessly focused on selling our messages to the public, getting asks into government and making sure we’re delivering those meaningful wins for the industry.” Neither of you have any music industry experience though. Does that matter?“You tell me! [Laughs] I see myself at the crossroads of the music industry and politics. I come from a musical background, I was a music graduate before I came into politics and I’m especially passionate about the music industry. I understand a lot of the dynamics of the industry and the way it functions. But, most importantly, what I can offer is working out how to translate that into government. The thing industries can struggle with is, they can know their industry inside out but they don’t know the government inside out and they don’t know to translate it into government. I’ve had a really positive response from people throughout the industry in my first month. One of the most beautiful things about the music industry is I speak to people who’ve been in it for 30 years and they still say they learn new things about it every day. It’s a complex, wonderfully organic ecosystem. So I’m not coming in pretending I have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything in the industry. I want to hear what people’s problems and issues are. I’ve made it my mission to talk to as many people as I possibly can in my first month. Because the thing I can do is take those issues, agendas and objectives and work out how to land them into government and turn them into clear wins.” The DCMS Committee investigation into streaming is likely to see some of your member organisations on opposite sides of the debate. How will you approach that?“I see my role as to help grow the industry as a whole and do what we can to make sure that the industry is protected. So while I completely recognise there are a lot of very strongly held views on this issue, I hope it’s a debate that we can have as an industry in a grown-up and courteous way. We should never forget that, as an industry, we’re… I was about to say stronger together, but I won’t get into rehashing old campaign slogans! But I would appeal to the industry to make sure that, as we have these debates, we always remain focused on making sure we are united as an industry. There is a lot more that unites us than divides us.” But do you personally think that streaming needs to be fixed?“Well, this is exactly the reason the select committee has called the inquiry. I’ve been rapped on the knuckles enough times by Parliamentarians for pre-judging results of Parliamentary inquiries! We’ve seen a huge growth in the streaming market over the past few years. And it’s important to make sure the streaming market works for the whole music industry. I won’t get drawn into the individual debates and points of view and with good reason, because we’re trying to make sure that, while there will be different views, we’re doing everything we can to nurture the music industry and see that growth going forward.” What are your other priorities?“Diversity is a key one for me. It’s not just about boosting representation, it’s about ensuring no one should face barriers because of their background or certain characteristics. It’s important people aren’t prevented from succeeding in the industry because of their class, disability, sexual orientation or, importantly for me, their geography. Politics and the music industry are probably quite similar in this respect. I was able to get into politics despite being mixed race and from a council estate, because I lived in London. I was able to do the internships and unpaid work because I was lucky enough to live near a hub where there were lots of opportunities. Lots of people from what might be perceived as more privileged backgrounds than me actually find themselves having fewer opportunities because they’re not in London, Birmingham or Manchester. If we want to tell the story of modern Britain, we need to look like modern Britain. That is especially true of ethnicity and gender, but also of class, geography and disability.” So, where do you want to be in a year?“I want to get to a situation where government isn’t doing something because the industry is asking it to, but the government is thinking, ‘What’s good for the music industry?’ The government should be going into discussions and policy debates thinking, actually, the music industry is a key national asset, is this going to impact the business? It’s a long road and not one that necessarily has an end. But making sure that we are positively championing the benefits of our industry, the value of our industry and the importance of government action to support our industry, is incredibly important and that’s where I want to be in a year. I want to hear it emanating from every corner of our industry.”

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