Laurie Lee Boutet; Toronto;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I think a lot of my extended family is still wondering the same thing. Essentially, I am the middle (wo)man between an artist and the rest of the music industry—I manage and build the teams surrounding them (tour managers, producers, publicists, photographers, creative directors, et cetera) and find and create opportunities for them (record or publishing deals, branding opportunities, et cetera).
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied marketing at London South Bank University.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I got offered a job as a talent scout at Virgin/EMI while I was at university finishing my bachelor’s degree.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I don’t think I’ve had any “BIG break,” but something that was definitely pivotal in my career was getting my first job at Virgin/EMI. I was dead broke, living above the pub I worked at in London. With the city being so expensive and me being so far from home, I started a music blog to keep myself entertained and give myself a project to work on to kill time. It ended up being the conversation-starter I needed to build relationships—it’s how I met some amazing young music industry people who were all a big part of helping me build my network, which essentially lead me to my first job.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I don’t think I expect to have that moment. There isn’t much certainty in the music industry. One day you’re on top of the world and the next you’re having trouble getting meetings with people who you thought were you friends. I don’t see it as a negative thing, just more of a source of drive.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Finishing my degree meant I no longer had a visa to stay in the UK. I was unfortunate to also have a new boss who didn’t want to sponsor my visa. It was heartbreaking. I had lived in London for five years at that point, I had built a community of amazing friends, I had found self-identity in my job and it all got ripped right from under me. It felt as if I had broken up with a boyfriend. It took me a long time to get over it. But in hindsight, it was most definitely a blessing in disguise. It pushed me to do things differently and gave me the ambition to want more.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Don’t be afraid to fail. I think one of the keys to growing is trying, and with trying comes failure. But the experience you gain from trying something and failing is much more valuable than not having tried at all.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
When deciding to quit my job to start my own company, I got A LOT of backlash. A lot of people who told me they didn’t think it was a good idea. I’m glad I didn’t listen.
Do you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what are they?
Loads. One of my favourite stories is when I invited a male intern to join a meeting I had set up with a manager I had never met. Upon arrival, the manager only spoke to the intern and barely addressed me. It happens all the time.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I’ve been extremely lucky in having partners help me in every step of the way so I can focus all my energy on building a business. My goal isn’t to make money, it’s to build my artists’ careers. Money is a benefit that comes with being one of the best in your field.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
Definitely that we’re lazy and narcissistic. I think it’s caused by old organizational models and hierarchies that don’t necessarily match with millennial work ethics. Millennials need to feel empowered, like mini-entrepreneurs, rather than a number or insignificant in a long chain of command. That’s why companies like Google have succeeded—their flat and non-hierarchical organizations empower all employees to take ownership of their jobs.