A&R manager/artist and producer manager at Big Life Management and owner of label Little Cousin Records, Sam Denholm takes stock of her career so far...
How did you get into music?
“I’ve been musical since I was young, so when I heard I could study music for my degree it was a no-brainer. I didn’t know anyone in music outside Scotland, so after my degree I tracked down the names of heads of labels that I was into and sent colourful A4 letters. I thought these would stand out a bit more than sending a cold email and they did. Not long after moving to London, I was offered a marketing internship at Virgin EMI, but after a couple months they noticed I was much more suited to A&R since I was at every gig possible. I’m now at Big Life Management working across publishing and management and I recently started a singles/EP label, Little Cousin Records.”
Why start a label in lockdown?
“It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and in lockdown I found I had more time to focus on it. Working with artists, writers and producers at Big Life Management, I saw how much new great music was getting made by unknown artists during this period and, with there being a pause on live music, these acts need some help to get their music noticed. It’s a time when labels like Little Cousin Records can make a real difference to an up-and-coming act.”
The heads of music companies have a responsibility to actively hire diversely
What’s the best part of your job?
“I’ve now worked in a few different areas, from major and indie labels to management and publishing. Throughout it all, my favourite thing has been meeting and working with artists on a creative level. I have a background in music technology so I thoroughly enjoy being in a studio with artists and discussing mixes. No day is the same, and that’s the most exciting thing – you are always learning, there is always new talent and opportunities to discover.”
And your pet peeve?
“The boys’ club mentality that surrounds the creative side of the industry. There is a lack of female A&Rs, producers and mixers. They do exist, but women are not given the same opportunities. It’s maddening that they aren’t involved more in the process of music making.”
How can the industry get better?
“It needs to become more inclusive for the working classes. A ban on unpaid internships is a good place to start, they make it near impossible for somebody from outside of London to get started. The heads of music companies have a responsibility to actively hire diversely. The industry still has a long way to go to full representation and inclusion.”
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