A letter to my 20 year old self….

Dear baby-roadie,

Tomorrow you are going to start work in the music business, in a PA company, for real money. (Not much money; but in fairness, you don’t actually know anything yet.) A good and forward-thinking man has persuaded his colleagues to take a chance on you, even though you look like nobody else in the industry, and it’s finally happening after those gazillion letters you posted out by hand. (By the way, in the future that whole thing gets waaaay easier.) There are some things it might save you some time and aggravation to know. Such as:

– This is going to be hard. You’ll be cleaning a lot of cables, loading a lot of trucks, sweeping a lot of floors, fetching a lot of sandwiches, pulling crazy long hours, and not getting anywhere near a mixing desk for quite some time. This is a very good thing – as I mentioned, you know nothing Jon Snow (that joke will make sense in about 2017), and you have much to learn. Don’t worry – you’re on a really good path and this will be the best training you could ever wish for.

– Over the coming years you will meet a small handful of people who will, for who-knows-what reason, try to take advantage of and/or derail your nascent career. They are simple-minded cockwombles and should be given no more concern than you would give to an irritating fly. As you progress, they will hinder you less and less, until one day you will have the opportunity to stick two fingers up in their faces. You won’t need to though – your smile will say it all.

– There will be one such person who is a bully and who you actually should speak to someone about, because I’m afraid he’s going to give you some very unhappy times. It’s called harassment and it’s not ok.

– Also, nobody ever invites you – and you alone – to their hotel room because they want to expand your knowledge of line array theory.

– Happily, you will also meet great armfuls – truckloads – of kind-hearted men who will cheer you on and come to feel like big brothers. These men will far outnumber the cockwombles, and will be good, long-standing friends.

– You are young and you are giddy with London and with life. However, you will also be working 100 hour weeks and you need to prioritise your career, and sleep, over socialising. There are people – not all of them men – who are looking for a reason to doubt you. Don’t do their work for them.

– You will make your own life easier if you put your tits away, stick to neutral clothes such as jeans and a black vest, and resist the urge to dress like a Spice Girl. I know it’s the 90s and all the world is mad with Britpop, but save it for the Christmas party.

– But you don’t have to dress like a boy. Just keep it simple and practical, tie that tumble of hair back, and remember: no tits.

– If you don’t know something, or don’t understand, ask. Some people are better to ask than others; you’ll figure out who they are. (Clue: not the cockwombles.)

– Spoiler alert: after five years of excellent training from good and kind people you will go freelance and you will be successful. At that point you will realise that you are only as good as your last gig. May I suggest that you recognise that that you are only as good as your last gig from this day forward? It’s a powerful motivator and will keep you on your toes. You will need to be on your toes because you are one of very, very few people in the business in possession of a vagina; and whilst this patently will not affect your sound engineering ability, there are people out there who seem to think it does. It is your job to prove them wrong. Most of them are not malicious, just uneducated; but you’re going to be a trailblazer for many women after you, most of whom are not even born yet, so do it the best you can.

– Speak up. For heavens’ sake, speak up. You might not know much yet, but you’re allowed to have an opinion and ask questions and say when you think things are wrong. You are allowed to say ‘no’, and ‘I want to do that’ and ‘I don’t understand’. You’ll only ever really screw up when you ignore your intuition, so listen to it whenever it speaks and you won’t go too far wrong.

Enjoy the ride, baby-roadie: tomorrow you are going to start work in the music business.

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