Sam has grown his roster and earnings without shrinking his flexibility or compromising on his passion for world music and fatherhood.
Sam, what brought you to Midnight Mango?
I’d had two income streams for some time, working in a family business and working for myself as a freelance booking agent for about ten years. I came across the Midnight Mango opportunity at the point when I’d made an active choice to concentrate on one or the other. After meeting Matt and the team, I realised this was the chance I was looking for to give me that career focus while dovetailing with my family life.
The structured training was appealing to me because I’d never actually worked for a company in the music industry before. Everything I’d done until then had been off my own back and learning on the job. These weekly group sessions didn’t dominate the week, so I was able to continue earning and winding down my work in the family business until I was up to speed. The directors have such a wealth of knowledge that I learnt a lot about what succeeding as a booking agent entails, how to structure deals and so on. They get guest speakers to explain their perspectives too and this insight goes a long way.
“this was the chance I was looking for to give me that career focus while dovetailing with my family life”
And how have you got on since? Did you make the right decision?
Before I made the jump, I was concerned that it might not be the right decision, but do you know, from day one I was really glad I did.
Straight away, Midnight Mango opened doors – it was a novelty to be able to speak to festival programmers that I couldn’t get on the phone previously! – and six months in, I knew it would work out financially.
I’ve also realised how much I enjoy being part of a team and having people to bounce questions off, rather than working it all out myself. The team has grown a lot and there’s a lot of openness. I’m really enjoying my work now.
“it was a novelty to be able to speak to festival programmers that I couldn’t get on the phone previously”
Has your artist roster grown?
Absolutely. I was working with three acts prior to joining Midnight Mango and my roster built from there. I hadn’t worked with a new artist for a while until I was introduced to N’Famady Kouyaté. To be paired up with him was an early win and hugely exciting. It felt like a real challenge, and I hit it hard. It was really cool to have someone new and so enthusiastic to get stuck into.
I did worry that I’d have enough acts to fill my time and meet my financial needs but that hasn’t been the case. I am regularly approached by bands asking for representation. Time is the limitation now.
Access to Midnight Mango’s industry contacts gave me brain overload realising the avenues I could go down for each act. In a way it was quite daunting, wondering how I was going to get through it all and I’ve had to accept that I need to be more strategic in the way I reach out.
“I worried that I’d have enough acts to fill my time and meet my financial needs but that hasn’t been the case”
Did you consider joining one of the big companies in the industry?
No. Working full-time in London would have completely wiped out the flexibility that I still enjoy through Midnight Mango. Six years ago I made a conscious choice to work flexibly so I could enjoy my time with my kids and this role has fitted in well with their daily needs and academic life.
What advice would you give someone considering joining the Midnight Mango team?
First, be aware that you’ll be working online so you need to be comfortable with a virtual office environment. I’ve come from doing it all on my own, so all of a sudden it feels like a bustling environment to me! It’s very subjective.
Second, do yourself a favour with the way your admin works. If you get yourself clued in with a good system, you’re giving yourself the best chance to remember everything you need to. The Midnight Mango system takes away a lot of this burden around invoicing, contracting and so on.
Third, in an industry that’s all based on relationships, it’s so important to understand the balance between persistence and annoyance. It’s a very fine line but if you accidentally upset someone, it’ll go down like a lead balloon.
Finally, listen to lots of music and go to lots of gigs so you can aim to work with the music you enjoy. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about things you’re really not enthusiastic about.
Who would you love to have on your roster?
The unrealistic/ childhood band choice is The Chilli Peppers! The maybe-could-happen-one-day choice is Songhoy Blues.
First festival Glasto, ongoing since age 0
First gig The Streets in Bristol
Best gig (so far) Radiohead at Reading