What happens when a musician has a twitter meltdown? Who is there to pick up the pieces and usher them quietly out the back door of the internet?
Well, I found the answer. And it’s this guy.
Alex Lee Thomson set up Green House Group, and his company are music marketing experts. Among the huge amount of day to day things required, they help established and up and coming artists with their presence online.
So what’s it like to put on your Charli XCX mask one moment and turn your hand to Michael Bolton the next? And what mix of personality and taste makes up the the man charged with a job of such cultural importance? Let’s step cautiously into his office to find out.
Why Music Marketing? What hooked you?
I guess the ability to make things happen instantly. You can have an idea and boom; there it is online for the world to see. I love the immediacy of online, seeing the initial response from fans and watching something grow.
What exactly do you do?
I look after anything online for musicians and festivals. So we work closely with an artist and their label, figure out what it is they want to do, offer some ideas on how we can all do it, and then try to make those things happen, communicating it to fans. From an outside perspective we do things like coordinating Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, mail-outs, websites, Instagram, Spotify, playlists… but that’s just the tip of the iceberg that people see. Most of it is putting together briefs, chasing images, editing videos, writing copy, and sending an awful lot of emails. We’re often at the end of the funnel from the label, management, press, radio, and live bookings to where the artist meets the fan. Everything we do is public, so has to be spot on.
Did this job exist before the internet? If so, how?
I don’t think this job even existed when we started the company 5 years ago, so it’s very new.
Tell us a little bit about your company Green House Group?
We’re a small agency based in Shoreditch. There’s just a few of us, with various backgrounds in PR, design, marketing, and tomfoolery. Day to day we work mostly with chart artists now, but we’re always setting up new arms to the company and trying things out. We’re a friendly bunch who give it all 9 to 5, or 10 to midnight, and then head to the bar. That’s where all the good ideas come from anyway.
You’re pretty young to be doing so well – how did you get your big break?
Well, thank you. At 28 I feel like a dinosaur sometimes. I just bought my first ever hoody. I worked on a fanzine with a friend when I was about 18, and from there I moved to London and started writing for other people. I met a PR and became her assistant, which was probably the big break. With her I did traditional PR and marketing for three years, working on some amazing projects like The Secret Garden Party when it was in its infancy. Then the opportunity came up with some good friends to form Green House.
What’s a typical day at work?
Lots of emails. Mostly emails. Some meetings, some calls, but emails. There’s a great deal of time shouting at Facebook and YouTube as well… asking it to kindly work and stop being a dick.
Who are the biggest artists you’ve worked with?
I guess that depends on your age. Right now I’d say the most exciting are The Libertines and Charli XCX but realistically it’s probably Michael Bolton. He’s sold over 75 million records. We work with a load of different people though, from 1960’s legends The Zombies, 70’s post-punk band Gang of Four, and one of my favourite bands ever Echo & The Bunnymen. Before Green House I worked on some Frank Sinatra records… he’s probably among as big as they come.
Weirdest experience with an artist?
I was working with a band who were releasing their single as a series of art pieces. About 12 of us did a flash mob exhibition at the Tate Modern. We dodged security for about an hour before being kindly escorted out and asked never to return. I’ve been twice since then though, so I don’t think my photo’s up anywhere. There’s been some weird times at festivals, though some things are better left unsaid.
Tell me about a sudden crisis you had to resolve…
I was working with a festival that had to cancel the opening day due to rain as about 10,000 people were arriving. We had to answer a lot of emails from mums and dads worried about their kids already being on the way and asking what to do, and how to reach them. There was a lot of stress, but all you can do is put your head down and answer as many questions as you can and be of as much help as possible.
Sometimes shit happens, so grit your teeth and get on with it.
Any time you’ve f*cked up?
Yes, but I think I got away with it.
If you weren’t working in marketing what would your dream job be?
I’d love to work more in film. If I could pay the bills watching films and then talking about them with friends I’d be made up. Failing that, maybe a graphic designer. I like making things – at the end of a day’s work looking at a thing I’ve build from scratch I find quite satisfying.
How do you find people to work with?
Despite existing in a very online world, most people that work within Green House have come about IRL from chance meetings, or via friends of friends. I know that makes it sound like a closed door, but it really isn’t. Jordan, the hero who sits next to me, interned for us a few years ago at the suggestion of a friend.
What can a job applicant do to get noticed?
The thing is with small companies you need an instant rapport, at least that’s important to me. I need to know the person has wit, or at very least some banter. I have to like the people I work with as we work so tightly together. It’s like a marriage, so you need to know there’s a spark of love. That’s far more exciting to me than a well penned CV.
Can you give us your 3 golden tips for getting into music marketing.
Research and know what’s happening everywhere online, in the music world and beyond. Don’t just look at what other bands are doing, but what everybody’s doing. You can’t just have an Instagram login, you need to know who’s making it work and why/how, whether they’re musicians, actors, sports personalities, brands… get to grips with how the whole of the internet looks and feels.
Be versatile. You need to be able to write, that’s a given, but you need to change your voice, tone and approach for everything you’ll work on. Also, you’ll need to understand the technology, how platforms work, what algorithms are. Weird things like how to convert file formats or even use some basic HTML coding. Throw in a bit of psychology too perhaps.
You have to show unrelenting enthusiasm.
When you work on loads of clients week in week out for years, you need to keep coming up with new ideas and stay excited. That’s not always easy. It’s as much for your own sense of satisfaction as it is for the end result.
Your Career high
Stood on the main stage of Leeds Festival watching The Libertines this summer. I first went to the festival when I was 17-years-old, when I was labouring in a warehouse in the Midlands without a clue what to do with my life, so being there with a band I work with as they headlined to tens of thousands of people lit up by flares felt like a rewarding climax to a first chapter.
Your Career low
A few years ago sat in a press tent at a festival up north by myself for four days, freezing and bored shitless.
Your favourite TV
Probably the shitty old black and white number I had when I was about 7-years-old – I watched all the shows and films late at night that shaped the person I am. If you mean favourite TV show though – bit obvious but probably Breaking Bad… it’s just that good. I have a lot of appreciation for This Is England, so enjoying the new series right now. If I can be specific, the ‘Lawnmower Dog’ episode of Rick & Morty is mind blowing. Oh, and I’ve just finished re-watching the whole of Boy Meets World. It took many nights drinking cocktails and eating pizza with my friend Keir over the span of about 3 years. We did it though, and we’ll always have that.
Your Favourite Record
Right now it’s the Bleachers album. Pop gold. It really makes me smile like an idiot. My favourite “record” record is my 12” mix of The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ though. I love playing 12”s for people over whiskeys back at mine. They think they know a song, and then hear some middle 8 or extra verse and they fall about in excitement like a child.
The best record / album ever made is “The Raw and the Cooked” by FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS. It just is, and I’m not arguing.
All quite dull. I just type what I want into the search bar and Google knows what I mean… but I’ve got links to a website that has all the Facebook-compatible emojis on it, YouTube for some reason (in case I can’t find it again obviously???), and a picture board of Prince.
Is Taylor Swift on the slide?
She’s wherever she wants to be, and it’s not our place to question.
Last thing you searched for on Google?
It was precisely “Brown Lego man in purple suit”