Continuing a series of interviews with the 2022 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Kathryn Dryburgh, agent's assistant at ATC Live (UK)
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Continuing a series of interviews with the 2022 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Steff James, international tour booker at Live Nation (UK)
By IQ on 08 Nov 2022
The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous New Bosses 2022 interview with Steel Hanf, managing director of Proxy Agency, in the US. The series continues with Steff James, international tour booker at Live Nation (UK).
Welsh-born Steff James graduated from City University London with a BMus degree in music before beginning her Live Nation career in 2017 as a touring assistant. Having worked in the European touring team until early 2020, she then transferred to international touring, stepping into her current role as international tour booker under EVP global artist development Kelly Chappel.
Based in London, James works closely with the company’s local booking teams, coordinating and centrally managing international tours across the UK and Europe.
Leaving university to secure a job at Live Nation is quite an achievement. What advice could you offer to others who are trying to get a foot in the door of the music industry?
It’s always valuable to keep an end goal in mind but don’t get too blinkered by how you plan on achieving it. I graduated with a music degree heavily involving classical performance and never predicted being in my role now. The correlation between my degree and my job isn’t obvious, however there’s a lot that’s transferable, so take up every opportunity and every meeting. You never know how well they could land.
What are the biggest lessons that you learned during the Covid pandemic that you are using to help with your career going forward?
The pandemic offered a perspective that I don’t think I’d have gained otherwise. I’m not the most patient person and we move fast whilst juggling a lot, so it was easy to get caught up in problems that nowadays seem almost trivial. It’s been essential learning to take a step back and breathe, especially as we navigated unfamiliar ground with a significantly reduced team. It also serves as a good reminder that I’m still here doing what I love, especially when the pandemic altered that for so many. I’ve learned to be a little more grateful in that sense, too.
“We have such a fantastic network of young promoters across the world, and I’m lucky to have that community”
You have worked across numerous tours during your five years at LN, but if you had to choose, what would be your favourite highlight so far?
It’s tricky to choose a favourite as I’ve been very fortunate. However, a moment I’m really proud of from the last year was running CKay’s first show here in London. Working solo with the label to pull the show together in under a week was a challenge; however, the result was fantastic, the show was seamless, and he and his team were thrilled with the result. It felt like a great win.
You have a reputation among your colleagues for being able to spot emerging talent. How and where do you discover new music?
Streaming’s always the first go-to; it immediately offers the world in terms of what’s out there. It’s exciting when you find an artist with a hundred monthly listeners, play a track, and instinct tells you that you’ve found something great. That said, word of mouth is also a winner. We have such a fantastic network of young promoters across the world, and I’m lucky to have that community. Not only does it help us all get the job done, but it’s nice as we also share a lot in general, too. There’s a real love of finding new music to just enjoy.
“The pandemic has highlighted that mental health problems don’t discriminate”
As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
As an industry, we are making welcome progress in our approach to mental health. However, the historic ‘keep calm and carry on’ stiff upper lip is still very much present, and it needs softening.
That isn’t to say that such a mindset isn’t without benefit – our jobs aren’t easy, and the all-consuming nature of most roles demand a thick skin. However, the pandemic has highlighted that mental health problems don’t discriminate, so rather than being reactive, I would love to see the overall conversation evolve, in how we can collectively be proactive in building a healthier balance.
What’s the biggest challenge for you and LN’s international touring team in the year ahead?
The touring landscape is an interesting one to navigate at the moment. We’re working within a very congested market, so even down to something as simple as avails, it can be a puzzle. Working across the whole of Europe, we have to be mindful of local issues that could have a knock-on effect, whilst also ensuring the best possible outcome for the artist. The cost-of-living crisis in the UK affecting ticket prices is a prime example. It’s a delicate balance to get it all right.
“We’re working within a very congested market, so even down to something as simple as avails, it can be a puzzle”
What is your favourite venue and why?
I have a few but the London Coliseum is one that always springs to mind. It’s not one I’ve booked (yet), so I put it down to the feeling you get when you know you’re walking into somewhere special. It happens every time I go there. It’s a really beautiful space.
How would you encourage the next generation to choose the live music sector for their chosen career path?Articulating how fast, unpredictable, slightly crazy, and fun the industry and its people are is impossible in a few sentences, so I’d probably just invite them in for a couple days to see for themselves. If I’ve done my job of convincing them properly, they’ll turn up for day two.
See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.
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