This has been reproduced with permission from Kirstie’s Linked in Blog ‘Got Real: How I Built My Skew-whiff Visions and Other Stories’
Earlier this year, I was invited to take part in an Arts Council funded event for Women in Music, where I had to talk to the audience about my journey into DJing. Taking the time to look back, I realised that I had tread a far longer path than I ever realised and I’m actually very proud of what I’ve achieved along the way.
I may not solely focus on music as a career, but I like to think that my life is balanced by remaining active in music and events, whilst I am fulfilled by a job that brings me joy. I believe my career skills wouldn’t be what they are without the life and professional skills I’ve gathered through music. And similarly, my event business wouldn’t be what it is without having experience of working in professional organisations and different sectors.
I’ve decided to reflect on some of my life experiences, recall the comical moments that still make me laugh, uncover some of the difficult times that I’ve overcome and intertwine it with how this has made me who I am today.
‘Got Real’ may seem like a terrible name for a blog, but there is a story there. Loop back to me writing that life-critical resource, my National Record of Achievement circa 1995. Our Career Development teacher (ie a PE Teacher in a terrible purple shell suit) asked us to share what we wanted to do when we left school. I’ll never forget confidently telling her ‘I want to work in the Music Industry’ to be met with a humph and a smirk before she said ‘Get real.’ That comment has never left me and even now, with my relatively loose links to the industry, I’m stood flicking the V’s at her in my mind.
This first share is the rewind right to the start, where I believe I found my entrepreneurial spirit at quite a young age. Much to the horror and embarrassment of my parents, I would often be running side hustles, such as knocking doors to wash cars, tidy gardens or run errands for neighbours. To give myself some credit, I was also very aware of giving back and my hustles turned into fundraising for Children in Need – raising a solid £112 from guess the number of sweets in a jar, to rustling up a group of unmelodious tweens to sing Christmas Carols for Edinburgh Sick Kids.
After escaping the pre-teen entrapment of pop music (Kylie will forever be my first ever concert. Sadly, there is dungaree wearing photographic evidence and no, I am not sharing), I discovered good music through my brother. Despite being incredibly boring now, he introduced me to a whole new world through bands I still love, like The Charlatans, Happy Mondays and Public Enemy and my favourite to this day, The Prodigy.
My life very much focussed on music from my early teens and I think this delighted my parents, my dad had been a guitarist in a hobby rock band in the Glasgow pub circuit, and my Thurso-born mum was a massive music fan with desires on Robert Plant and Keith Richards – the latter who, ironically, my mother in law actually dated, but that’s a whole different tale for another time. So, when I told them that I wanted to write a music fanzine, I was met with full encouragement and an offer from my dad to photocopy my poorly cut and paste pages, that quite frankly should have earned me some shares in Pritt Stick.
I won’t ever lie; the idea of writing a fanzine was purely a ruse to get free entry into all of the gigs I wanted to go to that weren’t quite feasible on shop girl wages. It wasn’t until my old rocker, turned English graduate, turned Civil Servant dad complimented my flair for writing and bought me a thesaurus (not a burn, a kind tool to help me) that I realised there might actually be something in this writing malarkey.
In my next moves, I would have described myself as ‘gallous’; my mother would call me a ‘chancer’, both applicable, I started phoning up Press Offices of London record labels to secure interviews with touring bands. As a reasonably shy person by nature, I still gasp when I think of how cheeky this 15 year old girl selling 50p fanzines on a sale or return basis was in this blag. But it worked, and after a few months of polite and friendly calls, I was on the mailing list for several record labels and would often be invited to interview bands on the UK touring circuit. There’s then a second horror of a 15-year-old girl turning up to interview the likes of Echobelly, Reef, Mansun, Teenage Fanclub, who probably then sacked said Press Officers, before I got a lift home in my dad’s Sierra. Rock and roll.
Around this same time, I was building a local town reputation as being ‘the girl in the know’ and somehow this meant that because I wrote about music, that I’d be fully versed on event management. Once again, my gallous-self stepped forward and thought this was a brilliant idea, agreeing to run a fundraiser for my friend’s mum’s local church. Beyond the terrifying lack of planning, risk assessments, bag checks for underage drinkers and failing to carry out pre-checks to notice a naughty band member had inverted the nativity cross above the stage, I discovered this small nugget of power in my strategy. By selecting bands from 2 different schools, I would tap into the ‘music kid’ market of both of those schools and therefore be able to double my customer base.
I didn’t fully understand at the time just how important customers were to any business equation. To me at the time, I just wanted lots of people there to enjoy themselves and to raise some money for my friend’s mum’s church. The mature(r, slightly), me sees that I found an opportunity to grow my customer base and engage more people in the event, in turn, increasing sales.
To this day, 42-year-old me is so proud of this genius thought process and I still use this strategy for planning events and in day to day business; considering how we build an attractive offering to both a new and existing customer base. I can’t believe I mastered such a business strategy at the age of 15.
Next time, I’ll tell you all about how I stepped up and delivered on a larger scale. I’m still not sharing that Kylie concert photo though.