Raising Voices – Career Spotlight Jackie Alway OBE


Career Spotlight

Jackie Alway OBE, Chair of MCPS, Chair of the music publishers’ global trade body, the ICMP, former chair of the MPA and EVP International, Legal and Industry Affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group

An expert in public policy, multi-territorial digital licensing and society relations around the globe, Jackie is a leading campaigner for copyright and safe harbour reform and for the rights of creators and rights holders in Brussels, Westminster and around the world. Jackie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2017 and identifies as a healthy person living with PD.

1. How did you first get into music publishing?
I began my career working as a Solicitor specialising in music law at The Simkins Partnership.  After 18 months I moved to the original BMG intending to get a short spell of in-house experience.  Initially I was working across both the records and publishing divisions but within a year I realised music publishing was the industry I wanted to work in, so I joined BMG Music Publishing full-time.  I liked the focus on building strong, lasting relationships with songwriters.  It was also a happy coincidence that the bands we signed included some of my all-time heroes, including The Cure, Paul Weller and Elvis Costello.  It was a brilliant introduction to music publishing, working with some fantastic people (including the great Caroline Elleray, who signed both Coldplay and Keane in quick succession before the label deals were done).

2. What do you love most about your job?
I love being part of a fantastic team at UMPG.  It’s a privilege to work with top-flight executives who are passionate about delivering for songwriters.

I’m really fortunate to work in an international role speaking to people from around the world every day.  It’s fascinating learning about different market challenges and I really like that I have the chance to share best practises, helping to raise the bar for music publishing globally.

I’m also very lucky to work across a variety of disciplines, from multi-territorial digital licensing for UMP to working with the boards of societies and trade bodies.  Being Chair of the UK MPA was a wonderful time in my career.  Jane Dyball was a force of nature as the CEO.  We laughed and worked really hard and I think left the MPA in great shape for Paul and Roberto to build on.  I’m proud to be the Chair of the MCPS, which is thriving under the control of a Board of smart, experienced publishers guided by our talented management team.  Most recently I’ve been elected as the first female Chair of ICMP (the global trade body for music publishers) which is a huge honour and a really exciting challenge. 

My enjoyment in all of this is working with so many amazing people across our energetic, innovative community, all of whom share a total commitment to music and the creators we represent. 

3. What does a working day look like for you? Is there a typical day?
I like that every day is different, although the rhythm of the day tends to be calls with Australia and Asia first thing, focussing on Europe during the day and the US late afternoon/early evening.  My days are a mixture of commercial discussions for digital, policy related meetings for ICMP or the MPA, society boards and working groups and work supporting UMPG’s offices around the world, especially in developing markets.  Our newly discovered love/hate relationship with Zoom has helped to keep communications flowing but hopefully soon we will be able to travel and renew friendships in person.

4. Is there someone or one company experience that has particularly inspired you? A career champion or inspiring team?
I’m very fortunate to have worked with so many inspiring colleagues across the industry, many of whom have shown me great kindness.  I think it helps a lot to have a mentor if you can find one.  My main guide over the years has been Andrew Jenkins, now UMP’s President of Asia Pacific region, with whom I’ve worked for around 28 years.  Andrew combines unique originality of thought with great personal integrity and has a gift for reaching across cultures to inspire the teams he leads. He is also a steadfast champion of women in the industry, promoting women into leadership positions in markets where this is often ground-breaking.  From Andrew I have learned a lot about wine, even more about music and most of all the importance of being open to new ideas and thinking in every situation.   

5. What (if any) particular challenges have you faced so far in your career? How did you get past these?
My biggest personal challenge might also provide a positive opportunity (I hope). I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2017.  Since then I’ve carried on working as before, hopefully helping others to understand that Parkinson’s is an illness you live with, all the way to the end of your life – and people with PD don’t have to be viewed as victims.  I approach life identifying as a healthy person with PD.

Having my diagnosis has given me the additional benefit of feeling the strength of our community in a renewed way.  I’ve received nothing but kindness and support from Universal and all my friends and colleagues across the industry.  There are moments of instantaneous kindness when someone helps me juggle a wine glass and a plate, realising disaster is imminent, or accepts my tremor for what it is without judging my ability to deliver on a task. 

I don’t try to “get past” Parkinson’s, my tremor is part of me, but it doesn’t define me.  As Robin Millar said at a recent “Attitude is Everything” event, “we are all just people”.

6. What top 3 tips would you give to someone just starting out in music publishing or taking their career to the next level?
My number one top tip is “be generous to your colleagues.”  Always credit others for their ideas and take on board that sooner or later, we reap what we sow.

Second, explore your interests and passions when seeking new opportunities.  This will lead you to interesting projects and people and enable you to play to your strengths.  People will be able to tell whether you really care and if you are genuinely engaged, you will naturally perform with extra flair.

Third, work hard but understand the value of conviviality.  This is the music industry, not PWC.  A discussion over dinner and a glass of wine can be of greater lasting value than 4 hours in a boardroom.  Which is a happy truth.

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