This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Camilleri. Nikki is well on her way to developing herself as a figurehead in the industry. With various experiences under her belt and a position of importance to match the professionalism and determination found within her personality. We feel like this is the perfect end to 2017, with Nikki giving us insight into her working day, experiences and much more.
Nikki Camilleri is a young music industry professional who’s journey started by interning for a series of reputable companies including, Modest! Management and Warner Music Group. Nikki has also worked for Glastonbury 2017 but she is now an A&R and Label Manager at Believe, the largest fully independent distributor and parent company to Tunecore. Believe does everything from distribution to record deals with 30+ offices around the world and a roster of labels and artists that a significant percentage of the industry could envy. (James Vincent McMorrow, Gavin James, Future Classic, One Little Indian, Queen, GRM Daily).
Tell me a bit about your background. What made you find a career path in the music industry?
Well, I’m originally from a little island called Malta where I was studying all sorts of subjects, but always with a firm love of the arts and business. However, we don’t really have much of an industry there. It took the international competition, Young Enterprise in sixth form for me to realise my passions could result in a real job. This was where I set up a small arts management business to help local artists, musicians and photographers and won the local competition, a series of awards and a formal meeting with H.E. The President as a thank you for the company’s contribution to local culture. Going on to compete internationally (and sadly not winning), was all I needed to fuel my longtime dream of moving to London. Luckily I had started saving for the move from the tender age of ten (I was a very ambitious child). Looking back it all makes perfect sense, I was always the organiser, managing little artistic projects, running themed parties at my house, advising my musician/ artist friends (which basically all my friends seemed to be) etc.
I first tried to get into uni to study to be a film director, which didn’t quite work out. I very luckily managed to get a spot on a Music Business Course. You might think what a jump, however in my head they couldn’t be more similar. Combining business and guidance with an art form. I am still very grateful that I did end up taking the music route as it is 100% for me. I suppose I entered the industry from that moment… working at festivals, conferences and interning anywhere I could whilst studying which led me to my job today.
What would you consider to be some of the biggest hurdles you have faced?
I think juggling living in London, not failing uni, working, interning, managing artist friends and still maintaining sanity and a life is definitely one. I’m the type who either does something at 100% or not at all and I’m guilty of taking on 1 too many projects. However, it all worked out and my time management skills are pretty decent because of it.
Do you credit anyone with being a mentor to you?
I particularly credit my two Young Enterprise mentors, Robert & Simon. I think they helped me more than even they realised. Apart from them, there have been a series of people along the way. It’s hard to attribute where I am now to one person in particular as it feels more like each person helped with a piece of the puzzle, but they definitely know who they are. All I can say is thank you!
What is it that you were looking to gain from your various internships? How did you benefit from them?
Anything I could! I like to know how to do things for myself so learning from people who had years of experience and learning to function and work within their teams was priceless. I think the most beneficial things that I have learnt are actually quite universal ie. to take initiative, to know when to speak up and to make yourself invaluable.
Are there additional areas of the industry that you have focused on other than your current roles in A&R and Management? If so, how have they contributed to your development?
Hmm… I wouldn’t say so. I came to London with one idea of where I wanted to sit in the industry and I’ve interned or volunteered in pretty much every area to try them out for myself (Something I would really recommend as jobs can be so different to your idea of them). I’ve done quite a bit in music marketing which I can attribute to the knowledge gained from an amazing job I had in digital marketing at an interiors company whilst at uni (I’m forever indebted to them!). I sort of fell into artist management when I started managing a friend of mine and opportunities just kept trickling in. So it is still a passion project I work on today. A&R is definitely something I fell into… It’s an area I kept shying away from but that I keep finding myself in… both at a previous internship and my current job. I suppose that stems from my background dealing directly with artists and creatives. So in summary, I haven’t particularly chosen to focus on any areas, just taken on roles or projects I felt passionate about.
You’re currently an A&R and Label Manager at Believe. What would a normal, workday routine for yourself be?
No two days are the same. My days consist of meeting with artists, managing releases, talking to clients, sorting contracts, scouting new talent… whatever the day throws at me. I like to start with the release management side and move into listening and searching for music in the afternoons, but that’s just about as much structure as you can give my job.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I manage the artist Ina Shai, who is currently in the writing stages of her first proper release. We’re set to work with quite a few interesting producers here in the UK and overseas. I can’t give too much away but the rest of my focus is on my role at Believe where we are working on countless projects and a bunch of new exciting ones which you will hear more about in the new year!
Do you have any publications or blogs that you regularly read?
This might sound horrible but I’m definitely not one to read very much (my patience doesn’t allow for it). I skim over Music Week and Billboard quite regularly and delve in if something is really interesting. The News app on iPhone is awesome, I basically select any publications I find interesting and let it spoon feed me articles on the go which I look at every morning. I also watch quite a few industry interviews online as a supplement!
And finally, what piece of advice would you give to people who are looking to get into the industry?
I wouldn’t pretend to know it all, as I am still at the start of my career. However, I think the best three pieces of advice I can give are:
Work very hard now, you’ll thank yourself when you’re older but also learn when enough is enough. Particularly if you are a girl in the industry, as we tend to find this harder than our male counterparts. You need to be ready to work hard but also know your worth. As it is an arts-based industry it’s all too easy to compromise yourself just to be working in it or to work for a certain name. Don’t let bosses take advantage of your passion and newbie status. Learn when to say no and say no with class – they’ll respect you for it!
It’s also the type of industry where the more you work, the more work crops up… so work-life balance is a big thing if you plan to go long-term in this industry.
What the industry looks like from the outside and what it is actually like can be quite different. It’s not all glamour and parties so make sure you are in it for the right reasons.