YouTube Music and the Music Managers Forum’s partnership programme, Accelerator, turns five this year. To celebrate, Music Week talks to the programme’s alumni about their journeys into the industry, their careers now and the future of the management sector…
CHARLENE HEGARTY - Founder, Zero Myth UK/Talent development and projects manager, Oh Yeah Music Centre
Belfast-based executive Charlene Hegarty discusses her mission to make positive change in the industry...
How did you establish yourself in the music industry?
"I started at 17 and I got comfortable with making mistakes fast and learning from them. Since then, I've weaved my way through different facets of the industry including PR, tour management, labels, publishing and then into management and talent development. I've always been driven by the need and want to help artists forge a path. That hands-on experience really legitimised my path into management, a role I love that combines all these skills alongside a daily dose of innovation, disruption and industry development that means things are never stale or stagnant."
What excited you most about the music scene in Northern Ireland?
"Northern Ireland is full of great songwriters and visionary artists, it always has been. I'm based in Belfast, but there are incredible pockets of musical innovation all over the country in Derry, Downpatrick and Bangor. We have always had a strong 'punk' ethos and process in NI even for the non-punk bands. That essentially means we don't wait for others to do it or change it, we get it done even when things are stacked against us. That said, students in Northern Ireland still have no option to train in music business courses at university level, so we lose a lot of them to other cities with universities who do offer that option and that stunts our growth here. That's something I feel very passionate about correcting.”
So what led you to management specifically?
"I'd just turned 18 and I remember a box of promo copies of Real Gone by Tom Waits being delivered into the music PR office where I was learning the ropes. Quickly it became apparent that I'd be the one running the campaign, and being 18 and having no idea of the incredible importance of the task at hand probably helped me. But I wanted to do a great job and it went off without a hitch. I got to build relationships with some of the most influential media personalities in Ireland as they all made their pitches to secure a 20-minute interview phone call with Tom Waits. It was a brilliant start and I have kept chasing that feeling via various different projects ever since.”
You lead talent development at Belfast charity Oh Yeah Music Centre. What are your main aims with the work you do there?
"We arm local musicians with all the skills to carve out a sustainable career, supporting them creatively through studio work, producer partnerships, photography sessions and video production schedules. We meet weekly to unpack the various elements of the industry and, before they graduate, they understand the various sources of income, the mechanics of songwriting, contract hotspots and the components that make a successful, fan-focused career."
What's the most common mistake made by new managers?
“Working for free. I've done it myself and it's hard to build a sustainable framework if that is your starting position. I believe managers should get paid from day one and artists should have the ability to walk away after a reasonable time if it just ain't working for them. That's a healthier balance than some of the current practices where managers work for free developing artists who are too early in their careers."
Complete this sentence: the music industry needs to pay more attention to…
"Waste. Dressing room riders are mostly excessive and prone to waste. Venues and festivals need more support to be carbon neutral. I know there is a want to do it but the wealth isn't trickling down to the grassroots level. It's time for the big profits to be reinvested in the future.”
Click here to read our interview with YouTube's Lizzie Dickson.