Raising Voices – Music Futures: Getting into Publishing with Sarah Nelson, Creative Assistant, Manners McDade



Music Futures: Getting into Publishing with Sarah Nelson, Creative Assistant, Manners McDade

Sarah is a student at the University of Surrey, working towards a Music BMus (Hons) degree. She joined Manners McDade in 2021 as Creative Assistant, where she is currently completing her Professional Training placement as part of her course. After learning to play the piano at a young age, Sarah developed a great passion for music and loves listening to all genres and styles.

1. How did you first get interested in music publishing? How did your experience in university shape this decision?
I’ve always had an interest in music, right from a young age. I grew up playing the piano, taking singing lessons and I taught myself how to play the guitar, so I was planning on pursuing a career in performance. As I started learning more from my course at university, I began to develop an interest in sync and music publishing, particularly music for Film, TV, Games and other forms of media. What was great about my experience at university was that I had the opportunity to learn about different careers in music that I didn’t have much knowledge of. The modules that allowed me to listen to various genres and taught me how music is used creatively and effectively in a media setting sparked my interest in sync and music publishing. Initially, I did not plan on taking a placement year but my personal tutor advised me to gain some work experience if a career in music publishing is what I wanted to pursue. I’m glad I did because I’m learning so much about this industry since I’ve started working at Manners McDade.

2. What have you found most useful about your music publishing placement, and how will you use this to guide your career?
Learning all I can from my colleagues at Manners McDade. Everyone is so lovely to work with and they have so much experience in music publishing that I can learn from, which is so beneficial! I always ask as many questions as I can and it’s amazing to learn from the advice I receive from the team. It’s also interesting to pick up things from team meetings, or meetings with composers when we’re discussing ongoing projects. Overall, I’m learning so much from networking skills to learning how to approach sync projects and, ultimately, I think all these things will help guide my career.

3. You participated in the MPA The Publishing Effect – A 101 of Music Publishing course – what panels were you interested in the most? How are you going to use the skills and knowledge you have learned in this course in your career?
I was very excited to participate in the course – I’m interested in learning as much as I can but I enjoyed the panels that dealt with copyright and registration and the other legalities surrounding music publishing the most, such as ‘Copyright & Related Rights’, ‘The World of Publishing Agreements’ and ‘How to Register a Song: Vistex Presentation.’ These are topics I haven’t had much opportunity to learn about yet. I also enjoyed the panels that discussed the creative side of music publishing in more depth, so panels such as ‘Understanding Sync Licensing’ and ‘A&R Feedback session (Tileyard)’. These panels have helped strengthen the knowledge I’ve gained so far from my placement, helped me extend that knowledge, and have allowed me to build a strong foundation for a career in music publishing.

4. What do you love most about your music publishing placement?
Definitely getting to work with everyone at Manners McDade. It’s a very collaborative work environment – we all bounce off each other’s ideas and generate more ideas from that, which I learn a lot from. Even though I’ve only started establishing a career in music publishing and sync, I’ve already started coming up with ideas of my own. I feel lucky that I’ve had opportunities to explore these ideas and receive feedback on them, which helps me learn more about the industry.

5. What 3 top tips would you give to someone at university applying for a music publishing placement?
Make sure you have a strong CV and cover letter. It’s important to use your application, especially your cover letter, to present the skills and knowledge you’ve already gained from your course, extra-curricular societies or even a part-time job, giving examples along the way. It’s also important to research the company you’re applying for and emphasise why you want to work there and what you want to learn. But avoid cliches! Ask a placement tutor to check over your application and receive feedback from them, or even ask a family member or friend.

Secondly, I would say prepare well for interviews and practice them. Research the company you’re interviewing for – have examples of the work they have done, the composers they work with, the genres of music they publish etc. Also, remember to relax in interviews – they can be very stressful, but it’s important to relax and be yourself. I would highly recommend having a mock interview with a placement tutor, family member or friend. They can give you advice and help you improve. It’s also important to remember that your interviewer is not expecting you to have lots of experience in music publishing if it is an internship, but if you show your enthusiasm for wanting to learn about music publishing, working hard to gain that knowledge and why you want to work at the company you’re interviewing for, that will show through.

And finally, my last tip is not to be so hard on yourself when you’re trying to secure a placement. You may find that the first few applications are not successful and that’s completely normal because it is a competitive market. Try not to feel rejected and learn from those experiences.





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