Everyone wants to know what goes on behind the scenes at a record label, so Thomas Camblin from Smalltown America, has kindly let us in on the secret and lets us know exactly what the labels are after. Having worked in various other areas of the music industry, Thomas Camblin is a great source of advice for anyone looking to make contact with labels or find a career in the industry.
► What is your name?
► What do you do/what company do you work for?
I am a Freelance Label Assistant and part of the A&R team at Smalltown America.
► How did you get into this line of work?
I managed to secure a placement with STA through a “Steps to Work” programme facilitated by Armstrong Learning in Belfast. The programme ran along side a 6 month VRQ qualification in Music Practice. The qualification basically opens up the opportunity to make money from music, whether you are a performer or looking for business experience. At the end of my internship I was offered a job. If there are people interested in a career in music, this programme is great.
► What would a typical day consist of?
A day in the office usually consists of checking my inbox for demo submissions, listening and replying to those submissions. If someone orders anything from our online store, Independent Music, they will receive contact from me to say that I have processed their order. I also look after royalty incomes for our publishing company, Smalltown America Music. This involves reporting all live performances from our artists to the relevant royalty collection societies. The majority of the A&R responsibilities take place outside of the office hours – Going to gigs, working in the studio and making contact with bands are a few of these responsibilities.
► What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Definitely coming across new bands with awesome new music.
► Is there any particular thing you are proud of doing?
At the end of last year I had the privilege of compiling the tenth and final instalment in the Public Service Broadcast compilation series. Both Ash and I (A&R) got to hand pick 10 songs that we felt summed up what was good in UK/EU music at that time. The end product was a beautiful transparent 12” vinyl.
► Have you any exciting projects lined up for the future?
The rest of this year for STA is going to be exciting, we have some great new signings to announce and some amazing releases in the pipeline. We have ensured that we all will be pretty busy.
► Do you see yourself carrying on with this line of work or moving into something else?
The business side of music has always been an avenue I wanted to explore to help further my performing career. If I can understand how the business side of things works and have a DIY attitude to being a musician, it makes things a lot easier. I’m not sure exactly where I see myself in a few years. Ultimately, I’d love to be in some sort of creative role, whether that’s in writing and performing or behind a desk, I don’t know.
► What kind of characteristics (personality) do you need to do a job like yours?
Obviously, you need a love for music. Aside from that, I guess passion, enthusiasm and the ability to work well with musicians. They can be hard work sometimes!
► What skills are needed for this job?
With the music industry changing over the past lot of years, the majority of the skills required will be I.T based. For example, knowledge of using digital media services like Facebook, Songkick, G-mail, PRS and IMRO databases etc. I reckon the processes change from company to company, but these are the ones that are the same throughout.
► Working hours/patterns of work?
I am in the office two days a week and aside from that I attend gigs and arrange meetings outside office hours.
► Are there any qualifications needed for your job?
I’m sure qualifications in Music Business or something similar would be extremely useful, but I have none of these. I reckon if it’s something that you are passionate about, there are enough books and people out there to help you develop the knowledge you need.
► Have you any advice for anyone looking to get into this area?
Take an interest in the industry and know how it works. Approach people who are doing it for a living and get advice and help with getting on the right path. Companies are always looking for enthusiastic, knowledgeable people that can bring something fresh to their team.
► Do you have advice for young bands looking for a label?
A label, like Smalltown America can only become a valuable asset to a band when the band have built it to a point where they can no longer cope with the demand and need assistance in release management and growth. The bar for bands ‘already doing it’ is constantly being raised by bands that record, release, tour & engage successfully by themselves. They are the bands labels are tripping over to sign. Be one of them bands!
Check out Smalltown America Records @