In the new edition of Rising Star, Music Week meets Jade Johnston, who realised she wanted a career in live music after a chance meeting in Ibiza. Now, she's working as a marketing manager at Chess Club Records. Here's her music industry story...
Where did your journey in the music business begin?
“In my mid-teens I was convinced I wanted to be a music journalist, and even did work experience at Kerrang!, but the dream didn’t stick. It wasn’t until I was 18 and living in Ibiza that I had my lightbulb moment, after meeting a girl who was working as an event manager at Ibiza Rocks. It made me realise that there were jobs where I could get paid to be around live music. After getting back to the UK, I did an apprenticeship assisting at Believe’s in-house label and then moved to AWAL, working in community support and later artist and label development. Now, I have my dream job at Chess Club working on the coolest artists.”
Why is Chess Club your dream place to work?
“The label’s whole ethos is to find and sign artists before they’ve even started releasing music and to develop them through their entire career. Working with artists so early on, you witness their confidence grow as their artistry develops. It makes the job so much more gratifying, especially when they start getting the attention they deserve. I’ve also never had so much access to artists, we talk to them every single day. It makes marketing so much easier because you know, understand and care about the human behind the art. Recently, L’Objectif were added to the BBC Radio 6 Music playlist for the first time and just knowing how over the moon and grateful the boys are makes it all worth it. They received the news the day after their Year 13 prom too.”
Did you have any preconceptions of what the industry would be like?
“I thought that there would be fewer emails! And that, somehow, just by working in music, the degrees of separation between me and Taylor Swift would instantly disintegrate and we’d become besties, which I’m still waiting for.”
There’s an incredible feeling of community in the indie sector, even if we’re competitors
How does a typical day unfold for you?
“A core part of my day-to-day is overseeing label operations, ensuring our physical records and digital products are getting out the door on time. I’m across all areas of artist marketing; audience development, managing global PR teams, crafting social plans and content ideas, refining our digital ad strategies, sourcing creatives for videos and photo shoots, creating social assets, planning events, pitching artists for all kinds of opportunities... and more! ‘That’s not my job’ isn’t a phrase we use – we all get stuck in. No day is the same, you are always learning and your hard work is so tangible. Working in the independent sector is so special because there’s an incredible feeling of community, even if we’re competitors. There’s a sense that we’re all here together doing it for the love of music and having fun. There are loads of pints, too!”
What do you think you’ve brought to Chess Club so far?
“Banter and TikToks! But also, training up our awesome label assistant Liv White, who is now such an important part of the team. I’m super-proud to have led projects to put our catalogue on Bandcamp for the first time ever and launching our D2C store. Landing Sinead O’Brien a spot on Later... With Jools Holland before her debut album and without a TV plugger, just by pitching ourselves as an in-house team, was an amazing moment and we all screamed. Bringing my creativity, experience and the understanding that comes with being a super-fan to each release and seeing it pay off has been wicked.”
Finally, what’s your ultimate career goal?
“To continue to help artists express themselves, find new audiences and make a living through their art. To leave a trail of happy, successful artists in my wake will be awesome. Also, with Will’s (Street, co-founder) approval, to sign Taylor Swift!”
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