Updated: Dec 24, 2021
Shining a light on the opportunities that a music career offers apart from performance should be paramount in British music education. The UK is home to a vast music scene, containing countless teams of knowledgable, creative and successful individuals aside from those on stage and screen; so stating that music "is not an accessible industry" is dismissive of and incorrect. I was privileged to talk to Rob Chute, who is Head of Publicity at Toast Press, a company that manages the press for the likes of Florence and the Machine, Billie Eilish, and Griff etc. Rob had some very poignant things to say about the expansive nature of the music industry and some great advice on how to get to where you want to be - or perhaps even stumble there by accident.
"Nobody really spoke about music colleges or institutions like BIMM at the time, either, or else maybe I'd have pursued a more pragmatic route into music."
Was music something you always wanted to pursue?
I only really thought about music as a career whilst studying (English Lit) at University. The industry seemed completely unreachable and with no family connections to it, I didn't really allow myself to entertain the idea of being anything other than a fan - which was fine. Nobody really spoke about music colleges or institutions like BIMM at the time, either, or else maybe I'd have pursued a more pragmatic route into music. It just seemed like something that happened somewhere else, really.
What did you want to do before pursuing music?
As a kid, I wanted to be a writer, and as an avid reader, I hoped I'd go into the world of publishing. Over the summer at Uni I'd send my CVs out to book people and I'd send my CVs out to music people, and to be totally honest only the music people came back and said yes so here we are! I think music PR actually combines a little bit of all these things, though. I try and view artists in terms of narrative, culture, and context as opposed to just the song in front of me, which is absolutely thanks to what I learnt studying English. Loving music (and being lucky enough to work in it) has also driven me deeper into reading again, as you quickly realise how important it is to create a life outside the industry and a space purely for pleasure.
How did you make your break into the music industry?
I started out in student journalism, working under some fantastic editors at Nottingham's Impact Magazine before becoming editor of the local music magazine, The Mic, in my second and third year. We really had no idea what we were doing but it was a very exciting time: pulling a magazine together on no money, interviewing and reviewing some amazing acts coming through, hosting shows (I spoke to Justice, Franz Ferdinand, Alphabeat, Little Boots: all the noughties greats!). All these were organised with music PRs so my only conceivable way into music at the time was asking them for work experience: a couple very graciously took me on over a summer, from Rough Trade Records to a month at Atlantic (and thus giving me insight into both independent and major labels, who I work with still today). I got a job at an out of house PR company called Partisan PR where I stayed for five years, working with a very nurturing and fantastic boss who also just encouraged me to build a roster of my own from scratch. Eventually, I decided I needed a change of scene and carried on developing that roster (and adding many more) over where I am now, at Toast Press...and I've been here now for six years.
"At the end of the day, nobody really has a clue what they're doing, or what it takes. You've just got to give it your best, lean into the chaos, and hope for that little bit of magic where the right act/place/time comes together (off the back of our team's back-breaking hard work, obviously!)."
What drew you to this industry?
I've always been fascinated by Pop Music, basically; how it works but also how totally random it is, why one thing is brilliant and why something else is absolutely terrible (but neither might have an impact on its success). To get a chance to witness that up close is something I try very hard not to take for granted, but I love how fickle and fast pop moves and think it's absolutely right that that happens since it means life is moving forward. The thing that draws me to the industry now is the same thing that drew me back then, really, and we don't say this enough: at the end of the day, nobody really has a clue what they're doing, or what it takes. You've just got to give it your best, lean into the chaos, and hope for that little bit of magic where the right act/place/time comes together (off the back of our team's back-breaking hard work, obviously!).
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career to date?
The relationships you build are paramount to the quality of your life (Esther Perel!), and I've had many incredible colleagues/bosses over the years...but I would say the most rewarding aspect is nurturing your relationships with artists. Taking on an act (I often do this before any music is released) and watching them grow as a person - least of all an artist - is an unbelievable feeling: you only want them to be happy and living their best life really but to watch them achieve whatever success looks like to them, creatively, is unbeatable. Personally, I always had a bit of a thing about the BRIT Awards so to watch a couple of my (at the time) developing acts like Mabel and Griff win those awards and just become superstars gives me a personal level of satisfaction, having watched it every year as a kid. But I will say that I couldn't do music PR or any form of PR to be truthful if I couldn't choose and I didn't love the records my artists make...they are It, they're the job.
How would you define your current role in five words?
On-The-Clock (counting this as one phrase/'word'); Transitioning (the industry/pandemic at large); Unpredictable; Challenging; Exciting.
"I would also say, take advantage of the uncertainty of the moment we are in: be the person that actually knows the most about newer outlets like Tiktok or Twitch, because developing platforms and an understanding of the digital world will set you apart."
What advice would you give to those pursuing music?
I would say that organised hussle is the way to go. Do your research, educate yourself on who works where and what people in the industry are talking about, and never be shy about saying hello. We never had Twitter or Instagram or the visibility of LinkedIn as I was entering music and whilst getting a foot in the industry does appear an absolute minefield, this is a huge step forward in connecting those dots from what things were. You should take the time to understand all the different types of roles and points of entry in the music industry, to see where your strengths lie and most importantly what you would enjoy. I would also say, take advantage of the uncertainty of the moment we are in: be the person that actually knows the most about newer outlets like Tiktok or Twitch, because developing platforms and an understanding of the digital world will set you apart from those of us learning *on* the job how the outside world is absorbing music. It's a daunting process but we're in the middle of (and probably too deep into it to see exactly what this looks like) enormous changes in an industry which is still, somehow, making a shit-load of money. Find those new corners but ultimately follow your passion - because there is space for you if you make it.
Rob's career, from Intern to Editor, to Head of Publicity, has certainly been an exciting ride, one that has brought him satisfaction, joy, and pride throughout his time in the music industry. Storys of career development like his are plentiful and hopefully sharing them can help provide people with the knowledge they need to Make It In Music.
You Can Follow Rob on Twitter.
or take a peek at Toast Press' Instagram.
Don't forget to read more on 'Making It In Music' and the Music Industry Here.