Peter Walsh studied a BA (Hons) in Commercial Modern Music – Vocals at BIMM Dublin and graduated in 2016. Since then, he’s landed himself a role as Creative Assistant at Downtown Music Publishing, a position which saw him moving from Dublin to New York City before settling in London. We caught up with Peter to hear all about his transatlantic adventures so far.
Hi Peter! Your recent moves from Dublin – New York – London sound really exciting! Could you summarise your career trajectory so far for us?
While I was studying in BIMM I worked part-time in a law firm in some admin and discovery jobs. Realising I didn’t really want to spend my entire life in legal work, I spent the few months prior to graduating working in film & events to get a more rounded CV for the arts industry. Music, as we all know, can be very difficult when it comes to getting your foot in the door, so it’s best to be able to throw on as many hats as you can. Never say you can’t do something.
I moved to New York at the tail end of 2016, and after maybe 900 million “no’s” from cold calling labels, publishers, promoters, etc, I got a “maybe” from Downtown. The company seemed to align with where I wanted to go, so I went for an interview and luckily got offered an internship in their Licensing & Administration department. After a couple of months I was taken on as an assistant, I was drafting paperwork for all of the synchronisation licenses. When the job opportunity came up in the UK, it made sense for me to throw my name into the ring because at that point I had about seven months experience with the catalogue and a fairly cohesive understanding of the paperwork and creative sync licensing process. That leads me up to the present – I started the new role as Creative Associate on the 8th of January and…here we are now, I guess.
What does your role as Creative Associate entail?
Generally speaking, my role as a Creative Associate is to exploit our catalogue of music to get our works placed in film, tv, advertisements, etc. There is a lot of going to shows, presenting our clients in a live context to the right people, a huge amount of obtaining creative metadata from artists and managers and general maintenance of the relationship between our writers and our team. Our sync department is almost like a family, we have such regular contact with the worldwide team that the role really calls for just having all hands on deck and helping each other out as much as possible for any ongoing projects the global team has going on. There’s also a pretty heavy overlap with the A&R department here, so we have a bit of a presence in that realm too.
What would you say was the most valuable lesson you took from your time at BIMM?
There are a couple of things I took that really stuck with me. The first was the constant encouragement to network and flex your creative skill-set with your peers. Gig with people, write with people, sing with people, brainstorm, etc. The music industry worldwide is a pretty small place, you never know where the person sitting beside you, or you yourself will be in a couple of years. Establish connections when you’re there – maybe you might need some advice from that person in your LPW a couple years down the line, maybe you’ll need to be the one to give it. Alongside that, the lecturers are a huge resource to draw from. They have years of anecdotal music industry experience that we can all learn and draw from, sit down with them, ask them questions, learn.
It’s music, it’s all subjective. That extends through the industry outside of tertiary education. It’s good practice to become accustomed to people not being that into your ideas or music. If you want to be in this industry it requires a lot of self-belief, that comes naturally when your art and ideas are being scrutinised from an early age. Tough love with positive consequences, let’s call the examination process of any talent based degree just that.
What advice would you offer someone who’s looking to get involved in your line of work?
A couple of things:
The most valuable piece of advice was given to me at 3am on the session at a festival by an industry head, be nice to absolutely everyone. It’s just good life advice, but pretty much everyone around the world that I have met working in the industry – regardless of title – has been seriously nice and approachable. People know it’s an unforgiving industry, so they take time to answer questions. Never be afraid to reach out to someone to ask for advice or to inquire about something if you need something. Most of the time people will oblige. Just be sound.
If the music industry is what you want to be in, stick with it. It’s very, very difficult to get started in. If you want it enough, you’ll do it. I had to work seven days a week for seven months to facilitate me still being able to work in the industry. Never turn down a role just because it’s not your end goal, you have to work the shit jobs first to work the fun ones later. There is always a huge amount you can learn from every single department in any music related company or service. In-fact, an in depth knowledge of how everything works together (i.e licensing, royalties, copyright, finance, sync, A&R, everything) will be your strongest attribute in getting to where you want to go. It will all pay off in the end so STICK. WITH. IT.
For Creative specifically, WHEN (not if) you end up in and around where you want to be, never be afraid to voice your opinion. Trust your gut. Is it an obvious pick for a sync pitch? Maybe someone overlooking the pitch forgot the obvious – point it out anyway. Is it a ridiculous pitch for a spot? Maybe the supervisor will be into ‘ridiculous’. We once had a client call creative sync “the darkest of dark arts”, trust your gut and follow it because there is a method to the madness at the end of the day. Same goes for A&R creatively, who knows what magic two people will create when they’re put in the same room. You have instincts for a reason, roll with them.