The New Bosses 2023: Alfie Jefferies, The O2
The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 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 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous interview with Vladyslav Yaremchuk, programming director of Atlas Festival in Ukraine, here. The series continues with Alfie Jefferies, programming administrator at The O2 in London, UK.
Alfie Jefferies has been involved in the live music industry in various capacities since leaving education in 2012. Over the years, he has worked for a music education establishment (ELAM), teaching the next generation of young musicians about the options they have within the industry. He also fulfilled many personal ambitions and toured the world as a session guitarist (with Joel Culpepper), as well as forming a band (Glass Peaks) that took him all over the UK and Europe before coming to an abrupt halt when the world took a nosedive into a pandemic.
In 2022, Alfie began a new role within the programming team at The O2 and has impressed everyone with his dedication and work ethic.
IQ: Unlike most of your peers in the business, you have experienced what it’s like to tour as a musician. What advice would you give to people in the business to better look after the acts they work with?
AJ: Touring, especially as an independent artist, is so incredibly challenging, now more than ever. Taking the time to understand the individuals’ situations and reasons for doing the work they do is incredibly valuable. In my experience, musicians and artists choose that line of work because they find such great purpose in it. For a lot of artists/musicians, the choice to live in such a way that can be so exhausting and taxing on their mental and physical health is justified by the need to express their creativity and spread whatever message it is that they’re trying to get across in a meaningful way. I think by understanding that, encouraging open and honest discussion about things like finances, wellbeing and relationships can go a really long way.
The pandemic effectively shut down your hopes and dreams for Glass Peaks. Did you still play guitar, and can you see yourself going back to performing someday?
I had such a great time creating and performing with Glass Peaks, and I feel like we achieved so much together that we will always be proud of – it’s something that nobody can ever take away from us, which is a great feeling. That being said – it weirdly felt like a natural close to that chapter of my life. I do still play, and I think I always will! I feel like I got everything out of touring/performing that I wanted to. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone with ambitions to start a band/musical project to do so at least once in their life – it’s a wild ride. I’ll chat to the other members, maybe we’ll plan a special ten-year anniversary show at The O2!
“Touring, especially as an independent artist, is so incredibly challenging, now more than ever”
You worked at ELAM for a while: how would you encourage the next generation to choose the live music sector for their careers?
ELAM are doing vitally important work in nurturing the future of the industry – if you’re not familiar with them, I would encourage you to check them out and see if there is any way you are able to support! I think it’s important that young people are informed about all the different opportunities available to them – the live music sector in particular has so many different pathways to explore. Raising awareness of this through things like providing work experience placements, delivering masterclasses/workshops and mentoring can be really beneficial ways to encourage young people to choose the live music sector as a career pathway.
Is anyone else in your family involved in music – or do they all think you are crazy for your choice of career?
Not at all! I expressed an interest in wanting to learn how to play the piano from quite a young age, and fortunately, my parents supported that and were able to ensure I had instrument lessons growing up. They have always been so supportive of my decision to work in music in whatever capacity it has been in over the years! I manage two bands (Bollo Bollo and Another Sky) outside of my job at The O2 – they all think I’m pretty crazy for taking on so much – but it keeps me busy, and I absolutely love the fact I’m able to work with artists whom I admire and balance that with my day job.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Honestly, I hope to still be learning new skills and working alongside inspiring people. Since starting my job within the programming team at The O2 in October 2022, I have met so many amazing people and been lucky enough to learn from them, receive advice and apply it to improve the way in which I work. I’d like to think I’ll still be working at The O2 – it’s such an amazing venue and the teams I work with across the business are full of extraordinary people with exceptionally creative minds – I feel I still have so much to learn, and this feels like the perfect environment to develop in!
“I know that as a cis white male, I need to be doing more to understand my privilege and educate myself as to why that is”
As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
It’s difficult to narrow this question down to one thing, but championing diversity across the live entertainment industry is vital. The UK Music Diversity Report in 2022 highlighted a decrease in the total number of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse representation compared to 2020. I know that as a cis white male, I need to be doing more to understand my privilege and educate myself as to why that is. It’s important that we have what can sometimes be difficult conversations to determine the reasoning for this and take the initiative to action positive change. The same goes for highlighting imbalance across the gender spectrum, sexual orientation, and those with disabilities. Conversations need to be happening at every level as well as at the very top.
I’d also like to see more support for grassroots music venues. We all know the effects of COVID-19 saw the closure and awful struggles for so many small, independent venues (who already needed support before the devastating effects of a global pandemic). Far more needs to be done across the board to support venues at the grassroots level. A recent example of this was Enter Shikari committing to donating £1 from every ticket sold on their 2024 UK arena tour to the Music Venues Trust Pipeline Investment Fund. Much praise needs to go to them and their team, and I would encourage not only artists but also arenas themselves to consider ways in which they can show their solidarity and support.
Do you have any mentors you can turn to for advice?
Absolutely. I’ve been lucky enough to have met so many supportive individuals across the industry over the years. I owe a great deal to Sarah Slater (vice president of music & festivals at Ticketmaster UK) for assisting me in securing work experience for an artist management company many years ago and for providing advice over the years when I had been applying for various roles across the industry. I also need to make a special mention to Marc Saunders (senior programming manager) at The O2, who has been the most patient, supportive, and encouraging person I have ever encountered in a workplace. I feel very fortunate to work alongside him every day and know that I have a great deal to learn from him in the coming months and (hopefully) years!
“Far more needs to be done across the board to support venues at the grassroots level”
You’ve had a varied and interesting career path so far. What’s been your No.1 highlight so far from your life in music?
I feel blessed to have quite an extensive highlight reel from my life in music so far, but I genuinely feel that the last nine months since joining The O2 have been the most incredible so far. No two days are ever the same, and I encounter new, exciting challenges on a regular basis. I adore what I get to do for work every day, and whilst there can be curveballs and difficulties on occasion, these things have only served to improve my knowledge, build my confidence and allow me to improve my skills. I’m very, very excited about the future and cannot wait to see what is in store!
IQ 121 is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Stefan Lehmkuhl, BMG
The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.
The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.
To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.
Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Katherine Koranteng, marketing & campaigns manager at Festival Republic in London, UK.
The series continues with Stefan Lehmkuhl (he/him/his), freelance curator & live entertainment consultant at BMG/Ruined My Rainbow in Berlin, Germany.
Stefan Lehmkuhl grew up in Münster thinking he was the only gay boy in the village. I never learned anything proper after school other than live entertainment and a bit of music journalism. At least, I didn’t get any certificates or degrees, until today.
I worked as stagehand, security, cup collector, paramedic, music journalist, then festival booker (Melt, Lollapalooza Berlin), tour promoter (Robyn, Fever Ray, The xx), co-founder & CEO (Goodlive), curator (Theater des Westens), you name it. Actually, I always got the feeling I was the only gay boy in the village in my career [as well]. It’s been a ride.
Around the age of 40, I got sober, took a break after corona, and sold my company shares [in order] to reflect on what it is that I wanted to do in the future.
Right now, I programme a beautiful theatre (Theater des Westens) in Berlin on behalf of BMG, working with a wonderful queer team, and am in the process of starting a queer-owned company called Ruined My Rainbow with some amazing people.
Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
To have managed to set up a truly diverse team for the running of a new concert project at Theater des Westens. We didn’t manage to present a diverse enough lineup so far, but I’m proud to say that behind the scenes, from programming to production to stagehands to securities, we didn’t only go with the straight dudes that we all knew best. I wouldn’t say we excluded them, but they are certainly the minority on our payroll.
Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Cormac b2b fka.4ma.
What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Probably the same as non-queer young professionals: set boundaries, don’t do anything you’re not feeling comfortable with; practice self-care; [give] your opinion and leave when you get bullied for [it]; connect with other queer and young professionals and support each other; ask your queer elders [Feel free to get in contact!]. I only say all this because I didn’t do any of it. I only recently started and see [now] what I missed out on.
“From programming to production to stagehands to securities, we didn’t only go with the straight dudes that we all knew best”
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
After 20 years of working my ass off, I kind of earned my seat at the table of the top promoters in Europe, just to leave the industry when I got there. I would have seen that as a mistake if you would have told me ten years ago, but it was one of the healthiest decisions I ever made for myself. The job can be pretty toxic, and if I want to help and change things in the future, I needed to refill my batteries and reflect on my experiences.
In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
In the face of the Rammstein ‘row zero’ [controversy], bubbling ‘Me Too’ stories of industry legends, gender-balanced lineup debates, and ongoing white cis-male dominance in the business, I wonder when the time of the next generation in the industry will finally come and when the outburst within the industry will finally be louder.
How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
Sometimes I worry that we see the same phenomenon in the industry that we see in society: first there is a glimpse of hope that things will change, and then the alliance of gatekeepers gains momentum again. I’m terrified of what’s happening in Europe politically; it feels like America’s ‘Gilead’ tendencies post-Trump are undermining the progress of the last [few] years. It is crucial for the industry to forge ahead, refusing to succumb to regression and instead embracing genuine progress. To achieve this, the industry must cultivate a greater sense of courage and boldness.
“After 20 years of working my ass off, I earned my seat at the table of the top promoters in Europe, just to leave the industry”
Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
I’d love for it to become a truly diverse and gender-balanced environment, especially at management level. It will automatically turn into a less toxic and safer workspace that’s more attractive to work in for people.
Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
Quotas in all fields of the industry: lineup, staff, security, management… all fields! (I know ‘equitable’ isn’t the same as ‘equal’ but both go hand in hand for me.)
Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
Do you support any LGBTIQ+ causes?
Allout.org – at the moment, especially, [due to] the absolutely terrifying situation for LGBTQIA+ people in Uganda and potentially Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and for putting pressure on governments to issue humanitarian visas.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.