To many in the music business Lulu Davis would appear to be the epitome of success. For the last ten years she's run Incendia Music, an increasingly significant name in the world of prog rock. She has been named by Music Week as a rising star, was part of the inaugural MMF Accelerator Programme that was sponsored by YouTube, and highlighted as a #FemaleBoss on CV Library. What is there not to admire about this twenty something's rise to the top?
Yet as she has acknowledged, working in rock and metal as a manager, let alone as a female manager, requires hard work, determination, a thick skin and more than just a little slice of luck.
Although not born into the music business it would be fair to say she started young. “I grew up listening to bands like Linkin Park and Slipknot and I was only fourteen when my Dad first took me to Download.” She went to Brit School to do media and by sixteen had gained an internship with Spinefarm Records, yet it was not always an easy introduction.
“I remember Rammstein were releasing their album ‘Liebe ist für alle da’ and I was shown the video for their song ‘Pussy’ which was going to be a single. I was thinking ‘ok…. ummm… wow… this is crazy.’ I was a 16-year-old girl sat in an office full of older men, and then they just casually stood behind my computer whilst we all watched the video. It was quite awkward but in hindsight pretty awesome. They said “This is what we’re working on now, we need your help with the marketing”. It’s a weird and wonderful memory I’ll never forget.”
University followed and a degree in Music Industry Management. Despite having completed a number of internships whilst doing her course, none of them offered her a job. Lulu decided to take matters into her own hands and developed her own management and PR company, Incendia Music.
“Initially I had to move back home. I was trying to run Incendia from my bedroom whilst working in bars and retail just to generate money. In music, I was giving a lot of my time away for free just to make contacts. I knew I had to be proactive, to go out and find bands. Gradually word of mouth kicked in. If I’d done a good job, they would then recommend me to other people.”
It might sound easy and straightforward but as Lulu acknowledges it was anything but. “There were times when from a personal perspective I was taking on too much work, burning out and not really looking after myself, and that was something that really held me back a couple of times.
"There aren’t a huge number of female managers within rock and metal, at least not that I was aware of at the time and there still aren’t, within my niche. I witnessed a lot of men who had been working in the industry for ages who weren’t very accommodating of women or the next generation of industry. That was a challenge.”
“There was one incident that sticks in my memory. I was on tour with a band, and I was backstage in the evening with my Access All Areas pass. I had also decided to dress up a bit. The singer of a headline band came up to me and said assertively ‘how did you get that pass?’ I was taken aback because he was a really renowned singer, who I had a lot of respect for. I could have apologised but instead put my hand out, introduced myself and said, ‘I’m Lulu. I manage the band that you invited on this tour with you. It’s really nice to meet you’. He looked awkward and embarrassed.”
Such discrimination comes on top of issues common to many managers.
“There are bands that come along and have unrealistic expectations, like wanting to main-stage Download on their debut album. I wish I could work miracles but sadly I can’t.”
Bands often think that because they’ve got a manager it’s all just going to happen. If they aren’t willing to put the effort in, it won’t work. They don’t always realise it’s a team effort!
So, does she regret all that effort and what might other women do who want to work in music management as a career? Lulu cites three lessons she has learnt:
Managed by Incendia
Bring your ‘A’ game to work
“Women are typically renowned for being polite, professional and organised. These strengths aren’t always taken into consideration when it comes to management positions because people associate them with more assertive personalities. Networking is key in making contacts because successful management covers a wide area of the industry. Knowing people in each of the areas you work, such as labels, agents, lawyers, publishers, PR, etc is vital because you need to gain an understanding of the roles each person plays in relation to your job."
“You must believe in your clients. When pitching opportunities you can’t give off any sort of hesitation because you might not get the deal, or they may not make you and your band such a good offer. Equally, learn to deal with conflict. When I first started out, I really didn’t want to confront anyone because I was worried about it affecting my business relationships. Now I know I can ring someone up and say ‘hey, I like you and what you’re doing is cool but you’re not doing a very good job’. It’s something you learn as you get more experienced.”
Recognise that knowledge is important
“I did a music industry management degree, but what I had learned didn't pay off immediately because I was completely focused on gaining experience and building my network. But you really do need to know about topics such as contracts, marketing and finance which I gradually recognised as I progressed.”
A just got-out-of-bed tousle-haired look, a lively stage presence that oozes confidence and a voice like fingernails across glass, you just wouldn’t mess with Fawner’s lead singer, Courteney Yeoell.