Welcome to the latest edition of Six Questions With..., a regular short and sharp interview with a live music figure. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to take part or recommend someone for inclusion.
This week's Q&A is with Michele Phillips, venues area manager for DHP Family, and part of the team behind the Women In Music event taking place in Nottingham today (March 7) to address the gender imbalance in the male-dominated music industry, with the aim of creating a platform for positive change.
What was your first job in music?
I chose to go to university in Nottingham because of the amazing gigs at Rock City, as did many of my colleagues. A year after I started university, I applied for a job on the bar at Rock City and worked there throughout my degree. After completing my course, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career so I carried on working for Rock City - first joining the promo team, then Alt.Tickets until I was offered a Trainee Manager position.
Being part of a team that worked together to put on some of the best acts in the music business and seeing the creativity that goes into launching new club nights was exhilarating and that was when I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
How long have you been in your current role?
I have been the venues area manager at DHP Family for nearly two years but prior to that I was a general manager at Thekla for eight years, a former cargo ship moored in the Floating Harbour, steeped in history and a huge part of Bristol’s music scene. If you speak to all our general managers they will gush about their venues, but mine was the best. Not only an award winning venue it was also a boat and I was the captain!
After six years behind the wheel it was time for me undertake a new challenge and this is when I was very proud to be offered my current position of venues area manager, working across all DHP venues in Nottingham.
What is your favourite thing about working in the music industry?
I love seeing and experiencing people from different areas of expertise all working together for a common goal. Whether it is a live event or a club night every single person involved from production crew prior to the event to the receptionist welcoming you into the venue are all there to make sure that everyone has a great time. The feeling after a hard day of solving various problems seeing the crowd go wild when their favourite artist steps on the stage is indescribable.
What is the one thing you would like to change about the business?
For me, the perception. When people think of venue and night clubs they automatically think it is a man that runs them. On countless occasions when a customer has asked to speak to the manager they look at me in disbelief when I introduce myself. We have come a long way challenging gender roles in society, however this perception of a male dominated industry is damaging and shown by the lack of female applicants I get when searching for venue management.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The Thekla refurbishment and subsequent visit to dry dock. This was a very challenging time and something I didn’t have a lot of experience in. Not only was I trying to manage the refurb but I also had to take into consideration all the ups and downs that come with keeping a boat afloat! As you can imagine, the staff at the dry dock, the project management team, builders and painters were all men and I was definitely in the minority. The project finished a week later than we wanted, giving us 24 hours back in our mooring position to get ship shape and ready to open the doors for our launch party (which we did of course). During this 12-week period I learnt that I could achieve anything I put my mind to and that I had a voice, as loud as that of any man.
What is the best gig you’ve ever been to?
The Weeknd at Terminal 5 in New York in October 2012. The gig was a surprise present and I was totally blown away by the performance. I took a few tips from the venue back to ours in the UK. Events in our venues are great but I do enjoy a bit of an opposition report in other people’s, stealing ideas and feeling a little smug when I know our customer experience is much better!