Case study

Musical director — Bobby Goulder

Four years after graduating, musical director Bobby Goulder explains how forging a career in music production is more about practical experience and networking than further qualifications

How did you get into music production?

After studying music at Oxford, I went on to hold many jobs in musical theatre, comedy and cabaret. Most of those roles have come through contacts in the industry.

Did you study a postgraduate course in music production?

I didn't feel there would be any need for me to do a Masters. If you've done an academic degree then a practical diploma or a conservatoire course can be useful.

I started a Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering, but quickly found that I was better off just throwing myself into actual work as soon as I could, so I quit the course after six months.

What's a typical working day like?

Every day is different, but typically I'll be involved in a rehearsal or a meeting or some arranging/composing during the day, then performing gigs at least once a week - sometimes up to twelve a week at most!

Is your degree relevant?

I use some of the practical skills learned on my course when arranging and composing. My degree also helped me develop the general attitude of challenging everything and always looking for ways to improve something.

What do you enjoy about working in music production?

I enjoy having a healthy amount of creative input and control over a production, and performing.

What are the challenges?

Managing my own finances and calendar can be a challenge, and never having complete security that work will keep coming in.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I started out mainly teaching and doing some session musician work or playing as a supporting musician in bands.

While I'm still involved in music production, I'm now mainly working in the musical theatre/comedy scene in a musical director role. My ambition is to take an original show to the West End stage.

Any words of advice for anyone aspiring to get into music production?

Try to do as much practical work outside of your degree as you can. Get involved and build up a variety of personal connections as early as possible - you never know who will pop up in a few years with an opportunity.

Always do a job to the best of your ability, even if you feel it's underpaid - again, you never know who might see it. Be constantly on the lookout for new contacts and new opportunities. If you're not working then keep creating, so you always have pieces of work to show for yourself.

Music production is a competitive industry and there are always other people further ahead of you doing the jobs you want to do. Try to see these people as friends or potentially useful contacts rather than competitors, and focus on what makes you unique in what you do.

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