My name is AJ, I am a musician, singer-songwriter and I’m trying to flesh out my personal brand into promotion and educational content. I’m part of the Music strand of Ladders.
When did your interest in music begin? Was it a hobby, through music etc?
It was very, very early. I started out by being part of small choirs when I was still in nursery and as my Mum puts it, ‘I was put on stage and never came down since’! I’ve been doing various stuff since then at school up to university level like choirs, jazz ensembles, musical theatre productions – all sorts of stuff. But yeah, it sort of peaked when I started music school. In Lithuania, we have this concept of having a different school where you go after school. So I did 7 years of professional music education in pop music/vocals. It really piqued my interest and after about 4 years I decided that I wanted to pursue this as a future career. That sort of led me to apply for a music degree in Newcastle to build myself up.
Ah, so you’re doing a degree. Where?
So I’m in Year 3 of Jazz, Popular and Commercial Music at Sunderland Uni in partnership with Sage Gateshead. We’re unfortunately the last generation of the course they produce.
Well, it seems you have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the industry already. So what was it about Ladders that appealed to you?
I came across Ladders through Gloria, one of the people who work at the Sage on our degree. She usually just forwards stuff from anywhere she can get it. I had heard about it from its second year of running but it never really piqued my interest until recently when I realised I don’t have the basis and background in business. I have the experience and idea of where I want to end up but it was that in between that I was struggling with. So I realised that Ladders could actually help me with figuring out that in between.
How did you find the course overall?
It was really helpful. Sam introduced me to library music compositions (how to work with samples) and I feel like he gave me more knowledge on how the industry actually works from inside out. Through Ladders, I’ve realised that I have an interest in getting into music management and promotion instead of what I initially planned which was music education.
Interesting. So it has helped you explore different job roles?
Yeah. I think it was the networks I have built up through it as well that could potentially help me in my career path.
You’ve also been a part of these Enterprise Support sessions as well which is kind of a different aspect of the industry to explore. How has it helped you?
With being a freelancer in the music industry, I feel like it really helped explain how social media works and how best to present yourself. Even this recent branding workshop has got me thinking more about the visual representation of myself in the industry. I feel like it has really helped me understand the business side of things.
You also have met so many people along the way and it must be quite nice to meet these other creatives who are in a similar boat to you. Has it been nice to experience this with them?
Yes. Meeting Rebecca James, in particular, was an eye-opener. I’m in my last year of Uni and I’m not really sure of how I’m going to present myself as an artist or even make a living out of it. I’m always questioning ‘Is it even possible? Do I have to find a job?’ and so on. So hearing from Rebecca on how she manages to do it, even though it took her a few years to get to releasing her first single, empowered me to think that’s actually doable. It’s possible. And it doesn’t matter if I have to work for 5 or 10 years in a part-time job irrelevant to the music industry! It’s okay because I can work on my other projects too.
What are your hopes for the next couple of years? Especially since you’ve felt so inspired by Rebecca’s career path.
So for the next couple of years, I’m setting a goal to release an original EP, start gigging and putting myself out there as an original artist as well as maybe start doing a bit of promotional work for other people as well i.e. hosting my own gigs and trying to make those connections in the industry. Hopefully, this will lead me to become a fully-fledged portfolio musician.
And do you think in terms of building a portfolio, you want this to build in the North East? Are you excited about what Newcastle has to offer in the industry?
The potential of it is huge – it’s just sad that the potential is getting squashed as we see so many little venues shutting down and not many promotional companies/record labels exist in the North East. So…maybe. I want that part of the industry to come here because there’s so many artists that started here such as Sam Fender and The Pale White. I think that concentration of the industry being in the South should definitely come up to the North East in particular. And I hope to be a part of that.
Finally, would you recommend Ladders? Of course, we’re at the final cohort now but would you have ever recommended it?
I have recommended it and would still recommend it to people who struggle with bringing their ideas to life. This course really does that for you. Ladders especially has brought back that hope that I can actually go on and pursue a career in music.