Medium fish in a small pond: Interview with Pippa Morgan

An interview with music promotion freelancer, Newcastle University graduate, Pippa Morgan.

Adriana Newbury
20th February 2024
Pippa Morgan, music promotion executive
For Creative Careers Week at Newcastle University, we have talked to Pippa Morgan, a music promotion executive, who is a freelancer and gets to work with many different artists in the music industry. She has studied at Newcastle University and stayed in the North East to work on her career.

Hi Pippa, thank you for taking the time to speak to me today! To begin, can you describe what your career is all about, for those that don’t know anything about the music industry?

Hi Adriana! It’s nice to speak to you. It’s very common for people in the creative industries to do freelance. Since I went freelance last year, I balance quite a lot of different things; some things are every day and some things are one off. My two main roles at the moment are with Liberty Music PR, where I basically go out and find artists, or deal with the artists that come in and say, “I have this song or this album, how do I get it so that people can actually hear this?”, and I’ll work with them to promote their music.

Then I also work at Singing Light Music, where it’s just me and my boss Brad. We do interventions with artists, going all the way up to full management and down to distribution – which is where an artist wants their song on Apple Music or Spotify. Something fun we offer is a TikTok promotional service, because that app is here to stay, and it was designed to be a music discovery platform. They’ve also just signed a huge deal with Spotify, where there will be a button where a sound of a video that you're watching, goes straight into your saved videos.

How did you get into the industry?

I studied contemporary and popular music here at Newcastle university, and for one of my modules I did an industry placement at a company called Generator, who then offered me a job after graduation. They’re talent development, non-for-profit organisation based in the north-east. They’re government funded too, but it became slightly restricting because obviously I was contracted so I couldn’t take any one-off or freelance offers, which made me figure out I wanted to hone my skills to music promotion.

I have been lucky to take that leap into autonomy over my career; but you definitely have to be very organised and set boundaries, because you could be working 24/7 without any discipline. It’s not about not doing the work, it’s about getting to stop yourself from doing the work!

Although I studied music at university, you don’t need to know any of that for this job. If anything, a media or marketing degree would’ve been more helpful! It’s more about being obsessed with music in your day-to-day life, like going to gigs and finding new artists that your friends don’t know.

Networking is so essential, and my top tip would be to email people and ask to “pick their brains” rather than asking them for a job, which is a more positive spin than coming across like you’re only after one thing. It is a lot more encouraging for people in the industry to chat to you when you just want to get them to talk about themselves.

It’s not about not doing the work, it’s about getting to stop yourself from doing the work!

How does an average day-to-day look in your job?

It really depends on what I’m working on at that time, but I try to block off my day. The mornings will be for admin and emails. I’ll then spend time doing outreach at Liberty, which is the coolest part of my job. I basically get paid to sit on Spotify and listen to artists – once I find an artist I like, I’ll find out where they are in their career and reach out to them, offering them our services. It’s really fun. My job title is A&R executive, and some prefer to stick to one genre but I like to get involved with a wide range.

I’m also a funding assessor for a charity called Youth Music, who give out pots of money to musicians who need it; I read applications, give scores and feedback to the applicant, and each application takes around 3 hours. The rest of my day will be talking to artists on calls. Artists have to be at quite a particular stage; if they’re too small it will be too expensive for them, but if they’re too big they don’t really need us.

You just said you went to Newcastle university, I want to know, how was your time here? Were you a Jesmond girl, and what were your best memories?

Unfortunately, I was at university when Covid-19 hit! So I got my first year in Park View accommodation (a Swedish prison) and then had to move home in second year, which was so upsetting. And then when I returned, we did really bizarre things like sit on a table of six in Soho – I would not recommend table service in Soho. It was a weird era but we were all in it together. It also meant I couldn’t massively get involved in societies as much, but I was in the Newcastle university orchestra playing the sax, which did take up a lot of my time.

It did mean that everyone was at home, so networking in the industry actually became easier because a 5 minute zoom call to people in the industry is a lot less time consuming than meeting in person. I really got myself into the north-east music scene in this way, and I would still recommend asking for zoom calls rather than in-person meetings when networking now, as it is much less imposing.

I would still recommend asking for zoom calls rather than in-person meetings when networking now, as it is much less imposing.

So, would you say the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” true?

I honestly hate that phrase, because it’s so ‘gate-keeper-y’, but it is basically true. Radio plugging is also very useful in my job, we have international and local contacts; people think radio is dying but it is so key for getting out there. I help artists build relationships with DJs and their teams, it’s so important to get radio play, especially because people know you don’t pay people to play your songs, so it’s an authentic way to get out there. So this whole method of promotion relies on relationships with DJs and stations. I do struggle with that part because the creative industries are like that. But there is hope; there are a lot of people who want to help out with anyone who’s new, I have found plenty of people up here in the north-east who want to help out, like offering shadowing and importantly, second chances. I guess that’s why I have chosen to stay up here, rather than move to London or Manchester where everyone is competitive and out for themselves. I have chosen to be a medium fish in a small pond, rather than a tiny fish in a huge pond.

I have chosen to be a medium fish in a small pond, rather than a tiny fish in a huge pond.

Thank you so much for speaking to me today, is there anything else you want to say before you go?

For musicians who are looking to get themselves out there, I would wait until you’re making some money to invest in PR, as it can be expensive. I would start by going to local venues and doing gig swaps with other bands, and doing a gig night to gain a local audience. Networking with other bands and local venues is key. I love my job because of speaking to artists, but there can be some strange artists who I get to speak to! Artists are interesting people, but unfortunately, I can’t name drop any divas.

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