wears the trousers magazine

wii #2: louise dodgson


women in industry #2: louise dodgson

August is here (already?!) and with it we welcome the second of our new WII features. For those who may have missed our debut column, WII is a celebration of the ladies who, in a dazzling variety of aspects, keep the busy, versatile machinery of this industry thriving. From editors and producers to DJs and photographers, WII honours the women you’re unlikely ever to see on stage by giving them a platform to discuss what they do, why they do it, and how they happened to get there. As WII reveals, female input is an essential and undeniably relevant part of music – its history and its future – and should be honoured as such. Wears The Trousers believe these fantastic ladies should be heard and, in hearing their stories, hope to inspire other women into positive, fulfilling and influential careers.

Louise Dodgson is the wonderfully resourceful editor at The Unsigned Guide, effectively the bible for any aspiring musicians and industry players. An 864-page music industry directory with comprehensive online resources, the Guide aims to help unsigned bands, musicians, music students and band managers in moving their careers in the right direction by offering advice and providing over 10,000 UK music industry contacts. From venue listings, demo-friendly contacts and tour booking facilities, to a free daily music industry and unsigned-artists news service, plus a voucher code system for money-saving offers on things like CD production, studio time and digital distribution, The Unsigned Guide is a service that any up and coming artists/managers just shouldn’t do without. Happily, Louise managed to squeeze a talk with Wears The Trousers into her busy-bee schedule to talk about her role as Guide editor, and why she can’t imagine doing anything else.

* * *

How long have you worked in the music industry and what inspired to towards the field?

I’ve been working in the music industry for 6 years now. I’ve always loved music and after doing many dreary, soul-destroying jobs, I decided it was time to find something I was really interested in and at least give it a shot. At that time there were only a few music business courses available around the country so I bit the bullet and enrolled for a Music & Media Management course in Manchester. And thankfully I haven’t looked back.

What was your first role, and what are your memories of it?

Most of my music industry experience has revolved around The Unsigned Guide to be honest. I started helping out there in 2003 as a researcher for the directory and eventually got a paid role doing this. As we are only a very small business I have pretty much ended up helping out with most things at some time or other, including working at our unsigned band night every week for 2 years from 2004 to 2006, which brings back many happy and funny memories!

What’s your official title? And which other roles/capacities helped you progress to this one?

My official title is Editor, and I have basically worked through every role at The Unsigned Guide to reach this. I was a researcher for 2 years, then became Research Manager, before progressing to Editor in 2007. I have pretty much been involved with every single aspect of production of The Unsigned Guide over the years and know it inside out anyway, so it was a natural progression more than anything.

Do you feel your background/education/social status has encouraged or discouraged your career choices?

Not really, it was just something I really wanted to do. I thought that I should at least have a go, and if this career choice doesn’t work out for me then I can always go back to a mundane office job. At least I will know I tried!! I don’t have a degree, although I really don’t think that is a necessary requirement for this industry. Experience will take you a lot further. Although I did pick up some great knowledge from the Music & Media Management course I did, I was always aware that a qualification wouldn’t necessarily land me a great music job; it’s such a competitive business. But the course did put me in touch with a lot of local music contacts so I ensured I made the most of that by offering myself for loads of work experience, and trying to stay in touch with tutors and contacts from music businesses in the area. I helped out with everything from stage managing at local festivals to gathering info for a database for [government initiative] New Deal For Musicians. Everyone is always happy to have a helping hand for free, and it you work hard and have the right attitude then people will remember you when they need help in the future, or pass on your name to someone else who does.

What makes your job difficult?

There are only three of us that work full time on The Unsigned Guide and there are so many things to juggle that it can be extremely tricky at times. However, I do like being able to be involved in all aspects of our development, even the mundane things! But sometimes I just wish there were more hours in the day!

What makes this job rewarding?

There is nothing more rewarding than receiving the brand new edition of The Unsigned Guide back from the printers after months and months of hard work, sweat, and occasionally tears. It can be a bit nerve-wracking, as you dread finding any kind of typo or printing error, but so far we have always been very lucky. It’s a real buzz holding the finished product in your hands, as a result of so much time and effort, and knowing its paid off.

What motivates you?

Developing The Unsigned Guide into the resource it currently is (as well as our future plans for it) constantly motivates me. We have recently launched an online version of the directory, as well as a music news service, music industry blogs, and loads of other features which we have been planning and working on for years. As it is only a very small team of us, it can take time for things to come to fruition but when they do it feels so worthwhile. We come up with the ideas, plot how to make it a reality, work really hard, inevitably make mistakes which we learn from along the way, and work some more until our plans are realised. Seeing a goal through from the very initial stages to the finished product is a great feeling.

What are the perks?

It sounds very cheesy I know, but being able to chat about music and the latest music industry developments every day is great! I genuinely enjoy going into work each day, and after doing some of the mind-numbing jobs I have in the past, I really value that. Plus, you do get the odd free gig which is always a perk!

How does/has your gender affected your career in the industry? Do you feel it’s been beneficial or detrimental?

Although this is an industry which has historically been dominated by men I think there are plenty of females around and coming up through the ranks, more than most people realise, which is a great thing. That said, I am the only female in our office at the moment, but I think that is more a case of the best person for the job, and everyone at The Unsigned Guide really excels at what they do. I have very rarely felt that my gender has affected my career, certainly in my current role. I’ve probably experienced more problems when I used to rep our unsigned gigs from bands who didn’t want to be told what to do by a girl. That said, there were also plenty of great unsigned bands who were very professional and never gave me any problems at all. You just have to take these things with a pinch of salt. Anybody who doesn’t give you the time of day because you’re a female working in the music business is more than likely an idiot in all areas of their life and not worth worrying about!

Do you have any personal ultimate career goals, or have you reached them already?

My goals involve taking the online version of The Unsigned Guide to the next level. We do have some more exciting plans up our sleeve so there is always something new to aim for. Ultimately, it would be wonderful if one day The Unsigned Guide could be licensed to other countries as a blueprint for a music industry guide and band management system…then perhaps I could go abroad to help to roll it out! New York would be very nice!

Do you have any essential survival skills/tactics?

I guess the main thing would just be to always try and be as adaptable as possible. If you can take on board new situations and requirements, and do your best then you shouldn’t go far wrong. The music biz is one that will always be susceptible to change so you just have to try and go with the flow and keep up with what is happening around you as best you can.

Are there any individuals who inspire you with their own career achievements?

There isn’t actually. I’ve never thought about it until now, and I can’t really think of anyone off the top of my head. I definitely look up to anybody who has forged a successful career in this business for themselves, and especially those who have taken risks to do so. So, in that vein, record labels such as Rough Trade who have taken many chances over the years (some of which have paid off and others which haven’t), not to mention smaller labels such as Big Scary Monsters who are always working really hard and are driven by their love of music. They are all very inspirational.

Has your job allowed you to meet any of your idols?

Through a contact of ours who needed an extra hand, I managed to work as Artist Liaison for one night at the Gorillaz gig at Manchester Opera House back in 2005 which was fantastic. So as well as Damon Albarn, I was also milling around Neneh Cherry, Ike Turner, De La Soul, Roots Manuva, Shaun Ryder and Martina Topley-Bird. I was pretty much in awe. So much musical talent in one space, it was almost impossible to concentrate on what I was meant to be doing!

If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?

I really don’t know! I try not to think about it!! I would hope my path would have led me to something else music-related and interesting. I do really enjoy photography and travel so maybe I would escape overseas with my camera…I didn’t say I was any good though, but it’s a nice idea!!

What advice would you give to other young women hoping to follow in your footsteps?

I would definitely recommend getting as much experience under your belt as possible, in all areas of the music world. It can never hurt to have a basic knowledge of as many aspects of the music business from a bit of first-hand experience, and you can make so many great contacts along the way. And just stick at it. I know it can be hard to get by financially when you are trying to gain some experience or get started in the industry, but I did unpaid stuff for quite a while in my spare time and showing some dedication and having a keen attitude will help you get ahead and eventually it will pay off.

* * *

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

The Unsigned Guide Online (www.theunsignedguide.com) is now available on a monthly subscription basis (£3.50 per month). Or the printed directory is £29.99 plus P&P with 30 days free access to The Unsigned Guide Online. New features available as part of the subscription service will help bands organise & manage themselves. These include band to-do lists, a calendar for keeping track of rehearsals, gigs and booked studio time, as well as project lists which will give bands the facility to save contacts relating to a particular project such as booking a tour, contacting record labels and sourcing press coverage.


1 Comment so far
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Hi Louise, just so you know and for you to share with your users, there is a new social network with an emphasis on music that allows local artist (anywhere in the world) to upload & promote their music. Its pretty cool because the higher people vote the music the more radio rotation it gets on the websites radio… check it out and let me know what you think.


Comment by Ramon Rivera

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