Making it in Music: In Conversation with Tara Harding

Tara Harding is currently the Head of Songwriter Marketing for Universal Music Publishing; I caught up with her for the Making it in Music Series. Read on to see how Tara landed her first Job in the Marketing sector of the music industry.


 

Tara is a self-acclaimed music fan; when I asked her if she could provide an overview of her career to date, she started by saying "I've always been a big fan of music and I knew I wanted to end up in music someday". However, she admitted that she wasn't sure where in the industry she wanted to be, instead, she decided to pursue what she felt she was good at doing. For Tara, this was business studies, which she started studying at GCSE level and continued with this through to A-level and eventually at degree level. One thing Tara reiterated throughout our conversation was the need for transferable skills and she found her Business Studies degree to be very valuable in this respect, providing a broad overview of many topics such as Marketing, PR, Finance and HR.

As soon as I could tailor my course to music I did' she continued, talking about how she'd chosen subjects such as digital and interactive marketing, basing her assignment on her favourite festival. For the assignment, she mocked up an app and explored the ways the festival might be promoted over social media. Prior to working for Universal Music Publishing Tara had spent 5 years working in different jobs in media, marketing, and digital fields. She identified how roles, such as Digital Media Executive, allowed her to continue to develop her transferable skills, such as client management and website building. Ultimately, she came away moved on from these prior positions with a good understanding of the Media landscape and her target audiences and demographic.

Throughout the Making it in Music series, I have seen many people enter the music industry through many different paths, with Tara's path being different again. I asked her if she believed, like John Kurlander, that breaking into the music industry was heavily influenced by luck, or if, like Angela Mastronardi, it was all down to hard work and graft. Agreeing slightly with both parties Tara stated that she 'felt like the stars had aligned with her first role at UMGP coming at the right time". But Tara also feels that it was her accumulated skill set that made her stand out in the interview process, so both luck and hard work had played their part. Again, Tara stressed that she felt her transferable skills were what allowed her to move into the music industry when the role eventually came around.

Tara herself is passionate about the impact that songwriters have within the music industry and on the creative process of artist release. Talking about her role, she ‘an artist will have a label but there are often songwriters involved in the writing of a song that won’t be featured in the frontline marketing strategy, so it is really nice to be able to shine a light on them'. She Explains that to produce a successful campaign the UMPG songwriter marketing team work closely with digital platforms to ensure their songwriters are included on Spotify Written by playlists, Apple Music Songbooks, YouTube Credits playlists and using opportunities like Facebook's songwriter of the day.

Talking more with Tara about her role at UMPG she mentioned how networking can help within marketing. Stating 'everyone can benefit from having relationships in different departments. So, building up a solid network is useful'. Drawing on the fact that people have different expertise, knowledge, and skills, she continues by saying, 'we can't be experts at everything so it is okay to ask people that are' highlighting how having a well-connected team can aid with the success of a campaign.

As the conversation began to wind to a close, we talked a little about the changing digital landscape and how it impacts the music industry, considering also the prevalence of TikTok. Tara explained that she views TikTok as a great discovery tool and that it can have a large impact on how we find new music and rediscover old music, with viral trends breathing new life into older catalogues. She pointed to the video of the skateboard re-posted below.




'Tiktok', she continues, 'also gives people the tools to create content themselves and this is what allows there to be a springboard for those viral moments'. Many people have speculated that the demand for short-form content that came with the rise of TikTok could have an impact on the way we consume albums, making single releases more desirable and consumable. Ensuring us that the album isn't going anywhere Tara thinks that the album still has its own place in the music landscape, with physical copies – especially Vinyl – seeing an increase in sales in the past decade. Tara herself made sure to purchase Jessie Ware and Clairo's most recent albums, but jokingly notes that she 'can't carry a vinyl round whilst (she) goes for a run".

Before Tara left she shared her advice for those looking to break into the Music Industry, especially within the Marketing Field: following on from discussing TikTok, she mentioned that it is important to have a grasp on the influence of social platforms and to utilise them to 'effectively market yourself as a brand'. However, Tara, continues to drive home on ensuring that no matter what you are doing you are gaining those all-important transferable skills. She mentions that you can always pursue music through extracurricular activities and hobbies to really showcase your interest in the industry.

Tara's career is an excellent example of how continuous hard work and passion can allow you to transition into the industry at any point in your career – if that is what you are truly passionate about. If you'd like to see some of the work that Tara's team and the rest of UMPG produce, you can view it here.



 

This interview with Tara marks the final instalment of the Making it in Music series. If you haven't done so already be sure to check out the previous interviews available here or by heading back to the blog space, or you can head over to the forum to let us know what you think Face the Music should be covering!

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