Continuing a series of interviews with the 2021 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Paris Harding, promoter at SJM
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Continuing a series of interviews with the 2021 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Jenna Dooling, agent at WME in the UK
By IQ on 16 Sep 2021
The New Bosses 2021 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 103 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, entrepreneurs that make up this year’s list.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2021’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous 2021 New Bosses interview with Arjun Mehta, founder and CEO at Moment House in the US here.
Jenna Dooling’s path into the music industry began in her hometown of Liverpool, where she first began working for a club promoter. This prompted her to apply for a course at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), for a degree in music, theatre and entertainment management.
During her studies she also worked for various promoters and realised she wanted to be in London to pursue a career in the music industry, and just months after graduating she began working at WME.
Five years later she is an agent at WME having worked her way up from mailroom assistant in 2015. She is now handling all club bookings across the UK and Ireland for the agency’s electronic roster, while her own roster includes Black Coffee, Fatboy Slim, and Damian Lazarus (alongside David Levy).
WME’s mailroom programme is legendary. Can you tell us a bit about it and how it helped set you up for a path into being an agent?
Although my job title was ‘mailroom assistant’, I worked on the front desk so my role also included duties of a receptionist. You are the first and last person that anyone sees when entering the office, so you have to take pride in your role and present yourself in a professional way, with a warm welcome.
Whilst greeting agents and assistants from all departments and learning about the clients they represent, I started to picture my career path and formulate a plan as to how I was going to get there. My main focus was to progress into the music department.
Like any job, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. From answering calls, handling the mail, to tea/coffee runs, ordering cabs, you have to think of the end goal and that this is only temporary until you have proven yourself.
“Being a former promoter has given me a real appreciation of how hard they work in order to help deliver a successful show”
You had some experience working on the promoter side when you were younger – do you think that’s helped make you a better agent?
Being a former promoter, I understand what it’s like being on the other side of the fence. It’s given me a real appreciation of how hard [promoters] work in order to help deliver a successful show for our clients.
We’ve heard a lot about the closer collaboration between agents and promoters during the past year. What’s your experience of that been, and how do you see it benefitting your clients as the business reopens?
Throughout the pandemic I’ve built closer relationships with promoters by just keeping the conversations rolling, checking in seeing how people are, even when there were no shows happening that needed to be discussed.
We’ve all faced difficult challenges, so working together through these tough times has helped us put our best foot forward. By being proactive, we have implemented backup plans and been constantly flexible across the board with reschedules and cancellations.
One of the best things we have picked up from this is the sharing of information relevant to specific territories which has been invaluable. Throughout the last 18 months, we have built stronger relationships with our promoter partners that in turn will benefit our clients hugely as we work hand-in-hand to deliver the best possible shows and experiences for our careers.
“The most important aspect of the entertainment industry is building strong, long-standing relationships”
Your determination played a significant role in you getting your foot in the door. What advice would you give to others trying to break into the live music business?
The most important aspect of the entertainment industry is building strong, long-standing relationships. Attend as many events and conferences as possible, you never know who you will meet. There’s no harm in reaching out to people on email with a friendly introduction, asking for some advice etc. Don’t be put off when some people don’t respond, consistency is key, so don’t give up!
When I was at school, I didn’t know being a ‘music agent’ was even a thing – we didn’t get taught about all the creative roles in the entertainment industry. You have to do as much research as possible, but speaking to people that you look up to is the best place to start and never be afraid to ask questions! What has helped me through my time at WME is having a mentor, to be able to help guide me, explain things and just absorb information when sitting on calls, as you understand how that agent is thinking logistically and strategically.
What are the biggest challenges facing you and your WME colleagues as the industry starts to get back on its feet?
Diversity and inclusion have been and will continue to be major priorities for me. We continue to push for equality on line ups and open dialogue about how to have better representation.
“Logistically, one of the biggest challenges that we face at the moment is the congested schedule of festivals and tours”
Logistically, one of the biggest challenges that we face at the moment is the congested schedule of festivals and tours, with most artists having missed a full two years of touring. All of them are keen to get back on the road doing what they love best and playing for their fans. This is leading to limited availability at venues and festival slots with many having chosen to honour offers made for artists in 2020 and 2021.
What are you most looking forward to about the year ahead?
I can’t wait to get back to the office to be with my colleagues and friends. Since everything reopened in the UK, it feels so good to be back, attending gigs and festivals – what we have all been waiting (patiently) for and hoping it continues back to normal across the world.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Like any aspiring agent, I want to see myself continue to expand my roster with exciting new talent. Focusing on building a diversified roster, representing artists from the developmental stage to headline level both in the live space and electronic world. I want to look back at the end of each year and be proud of my clients and the team around me for putting together a great run of shows and headline tours.
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