Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Amanda Maxwell, manager, UK Music Futures, Freelance Queens, BPI

Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Amanda Maxwell, manager, UK Music Futures, Freelance Queens, BPI

During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted game-changing industry executives (including one posthumous award) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok.

They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who have been selected since the awards began in 2014. The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are trailblazers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.

Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.

Amanda Maxwell became chair of the UK Music Futures Group in 2020.

Throughout her career she has taken on an array of different positions. She has been the co-director of the London Chapter, a community member of Shesaid.so, a regular contributor to panel talks on subjects relating to inclusion, representation and equal empowerment within the creative industries, and, alongside these various roles, she currently sits on the Equality, Justice & Advisory Group for the BPI.

Maxwell has her own collective, Freelance Queens, a community for freelance, predominantly Black, Asian, Middle Eastern and minority ethnic, LGBTQIA+ and women in music. It is a place for sharing of job roles, advice and amplifying one another, as well as being a place for businesses of every size to source candidates for their job role. 

She also independently manages the DJ and radio host Ellie Prohan. A leading name in the music industry, Prohan has been previously inducted into the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour, nominated for DJ Mag’s Best Of British Best Radio Show, honoured as a Brunel Alumni, and last year hosted TikTok’s first Live UK Rap & Culture show, Oi TikTok. She has secured a number of brand partnerships with the likes of Spotify, Rio Ferdinand Trust, Apple, Nike, Gay Times, among many others, and is the new ambassador for the YUAF [Young Urban Arts Foundation] Charity, alongside Big Zu. She formulated a charity event series, Ellie Prohan & Friends, to promote intersectionality within music, which has seen them raise over £10,000 for YUAF, Brunel Black & Ethnic Minority PHD fund, Samaritans, Crisis, Women’s Refuge, Hammersmith Foodbank, Anxiety UK and many more.

Throughout her work, Maxwell has secured bookings at festivals and events internationally including K-Trap’s tour, ArrDee’s mixtape launch, Reading & Leeds, Glastonbury, Wireless, Boiler Room, O Beach Ibiza, Boardmasters and, throughout her work, she continues to empower and amplify all voices. 

How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?

“It is literally just that, an honour! Friends, family and peers know the last few years have personally been a rollercoaster for various reasons and I know I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment, so I’m really blown away by this and so incredibly grateful.”

How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?

“I still feel like I’m in my early years of getting into the industry and still have a way to go. But from where I started to where I am now, it’s been a journey. I left university and was going for London, the ‘Big Smoke’ and moving in with my best friend, my Grandma, but life had other plans. My mum had heart failure and so I moved back home to look after her and my little sister. I got a job far away from my 2:1 Media Culture and Communication degree, working at Volkswagen looking after the service department. I did that for two and a half years and then when my mum was better and on her feet, I moved to London. 

“I sadly lost my Grandma and a lot of other people during this time frame, so I decided to go all guns blazing on my dream to move to London. My first job was handing out toothpaste at the ExCel centre and then I got a job at an ice sculpture business. After a lot of tea making I had enough and a friend from work put me in touch with her housemate who worked at Vice Magazine. I went for a free internship and got it, but it meant getting a second job to pay my bills. After six months, I got promoted and didn’t have to do 4am bar finishers and run on four hours sleep. Boiler Room were in the same office at the time and asked me about joining them, and my career in music went from there! I had my full circle moment at BBC Introducing at the ExCel centre and I was on a panel telling my journey, and it was like, ‘Wow, you’re really doing the things you dreamed of!’”

Did you have a mentor at that stage? 

“I didn’t have an official mentor back then, but I had a big sister [figure] working at Boiler Room, Halina Wielogorska – thank you Halina! –and lots of people who supported me and saw something in me. That is why community is so important to me, the power of it is undeniable. I also think coaching is as important as mentoring and a huge supporter of me and my work is Nell Jordan-Gent who runs Creatives In Coaching, [and who is] already working with the likes of Universal Music, PPL and The Times. If you don’t know her, get to know her!”

When you spoke to Music Week in 2022, you said UK Music Futures came out of a feeling at UK Music that there was a lack of young voices in the industry. In your opinion, since then, has the business been doing more to support young professionals coming up through the industry? What needs to be done? 

“I think there is definitely more support than when I first started out, with internships now being paid, temporary work placements, lots of courses, talks and work experience opportunities too and some of those [with] wide age ranges. That’s the thing, it's not just about being young in the industry and finding your path, there’s always the opportunity to change your career, no matter what age, so I’d like to see more accessibility with that in mind too. In an ideal world, every company would offer the opportunities outlined above and if they can’t replicate them, then find a way to develop them with current companies such as The Zoo XYZ, Girls I Rate, Small Green Shoots, Social Fixt, Shesaid.so and Big Creative Education – to name a few – who have incredible talented individuals within their pools. For people to sustain themselves it relies on funding and mental health access, so if more companies can really invest in their staff and themselves then we could start to create a healthy ecosystem. UK Music futures is looking at initiatives for this for 2024, so watch this space.”

You are a member of the BPI’s Equity & Justice Advisory Group and use to be a Co-Director for the London chapter of Shesaid.So. Where do you think the industry is at in pushing racial and gender diversity? Have you had positive reception for your work promoting inclusivity?

“As a whole, I think the industry had a wake up call following the death of George Floyd. We saw companies pulling out all the stops, the pledges and the funds to look at racial diversity. Where we are now, a few years down the line, is that it feels like it’s all gone a bit quiet. The same can be said for gender diversity. Thank god for Ammo Talwar and Paulette Long, the UK Music Diversity Taskforce chairs, and their incredible work to create the Ten Point Plan and The Five Ps, which are simple and effective steps any company can take to incubate their company’s diversity, and how diversity to create it authentically and with longevity. I cannot recommend them more! The industry would be lost without the work of the communities I’ve mentioned and pivotal groups such as the Black Music Coalition and Black Lives In Music and award ceremonies such as the MOBOs, Rated Awards, Young Music Boss Awards and GUAP Gala.

“At times, the work I’ve done surrounding intersectionality has been questioned for [how] it goes beyond gender and racial diversity, [but that’s] because in life we all overlap and intertwine with one another. There are so many similarities from our own lived experiences that unify us rather than divide us which, as we lay our armour down, we’re realising more and more. 

“It took a lot to get to where I did to be Open Dance Floors programmer at Boiler Room, but it was possibly one of the most impactful work experiences I’ve had in regards to amplifying marginalised communities and voices, especially within the dance and electronic music scene, and all whilst working with some of the most talented human beings I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. There’s still so much work I want to do and things I want to see for our industry. Freelance Queens, a community I started with now over 200 female-identifying, predominantly black, Asian, mixed and minority ethnic members that span all creative disciplines, is a resource which can help businesses with their talent needs on multiple levels. We’ve worked with the likes of Nandos, Red Bull and MC Saatchi. I want to encourage more female-identifying talent to be their own bosses and to thrive doing so – it brings me a lot of joy!”

I’m still trying to follow my own advice but I guess I would say network and find your community

Amanda Maxwell

On top of all your other roles, you also manage Ellie Prohan. The role of a manager is constantly changing and evolving. How would you define it?

“First of all I do want to thank Ellie, we met at a Shesaid.so and Flexxx International Women’s Day event curated by myself and Jamz after a three hour coffee and it’s been one  rollercoaster of a journey. I appreciate her hard work, dedication, support, love and care in our teamwork and friendship – it’s an honour to work with her! The [role of manager] is hard to define but I approach my work in a very different way to most, [Ellie and I] wear multiple hats and it really is a collaboration. No two days are the same apart from the want to evolve and grow personally and professionally. There have been so many incredible moments and also some necessary learnings and spiritual alignments along the way. Our industry can be a colourful one to navigate, and everybody has an opinion about how things should be done, but I really just try to tune in and go for it. I’m really lucky to have had some incredible support along the way and I [want to] thank all those supporting mine and Ellie’s work!” 

Are there any misconceptions about being a manager that you would like to set straight? 

“Working with the right talent who respects and appreciates what you put in to achieve the milestones is the right sort of talent to be collaborating and partnering with. Anything less is not worth your time.”

What’s your biggest achievement so far? 

“I think it’s everything leading up to this point, because I wouldn’t be the person I am without all of the experiences – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, [which have led me] to be speaking with Music Week today. I’m really proud of myself for it all and look forward to what life has in store for me next.”

What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music? 

“I’m still trying to follow my own advice but I guess I would say network and find your community, invest in your community and build each other up. Take every opportunity to meet and learn from as many people as possible, don’t worry about the clout or what Instagram is saying or who is ‘cool’. What is cool anyway? Be your authentic self, be vulnerable, stand your ground if you need to, help people with no ulterior motive, dance at the awards shows, do the panel talks, push [yourself] out your comfort zone, find joy in learning something new and take photos, so you can look back at striving for greatness.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had? 

“My gran always said that if you keep your heart clean, treat people how you’d like to be treated, be honest and say sorry if you need to, it will always come full circle. That's some basic rules of life I carry with me, but I apply them to my work ethic too. I do my best and try to help people as much as possible where I can and if I can't, hopefully I know somebody else who can. It doesn’t need to be a favour for a favour, just help if you can – we are all human.”

Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry? 

“I would love to shout out Jennifer Geddes, the communications manager and secretary at UK Music Futures. Jennifer is incredible and I love working with her. Her passion, empathy, intelligence and humour are always present, we align on so many core values and she’s not afraid to speak her truth, it really is an honour to work with her. I’m excited to see what 2024 brings for her and I’ll be cheerleading as always from the sidelines. Thank you Jennifer for everything you have done for me and for Futures, we would be truly lost without you!”

Similarly, is there a young woman artist whose music you're excited about?

“I’m going with Amaria BB, Kenya Vaun, Mahalia, Cleo Sol, Jorja Smith, Raye, Little Simz, Cristale and Debbie, to name a few.”

What’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far? 

“That life can come at you real fast. It really is about the relationship you have with yourself and others to get through – it’s ok to hold your hands up and ask for help!”

Final thoughts… 

“I don’t take this opportunity lightly and I would love to say a huge thank you to Music Week, the whole team and to the Women In Music Awards [team] and the select committee. A huge thank you to Jennifer who I could not imagine doing UK Music Futures without, Sandie, Stephanie, Tom, Andy, Hannah, Beatriz and Jamie from UK Music, Paulette and Ammo from the Diversity Taskforce. A huge thank you to every member of the UK Music Futures Group past and present. Thank you for everything you do and contribute to our incredible group and the industry. Thank you to the members of BPI and EJAG, Freelance Queens, Boiler Room 2014-2019 cohort, Andreea and Shesaid.so, The Zoo XYZ and those who, when I stepped into the freelance landscape, supported me. 

“To Jamz who first introduced me to Ellie, to Nadia, Amelia and Ellen and to every single person who has given us support over the years there are so many and I won’t ever forget what you’ve done you have been a vital part to the journey. Nick, my sisters, my parents who have lived to see this after everything this last year, my family, my friends and my peers. I love you and you know I could not have survived without you – thank you for your unwavering support and making sure I didn’t lose myself completely. A huge thank you to Eva who is helping me in that journey.

“To those that are no longer with me, thank you. I'd like to take a moment to mention Yasmin Lajoie and thank them for being an incredible human. You had a big impact on me. To my dear Fi, thank god for blessing you in my life. You inspire me to be loving, kind, excited, grateful, strong and in my choice. To Shane – our laughter and Mariah Carey karaoke will forever live rent free in my mind.

“I’d like to say thanks to my grandparents and especially to my Grandma, who came from Jamaica to make a better life for herself and our family, she was challenged but never defeated in her lived experience. My biggest cheerleader and the reason I’m even here today.

“Thank you to every person who has booked me for a panel, amplified my work and given me the experience I need or given me a seat at the table and seen me.” 

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