Dream of working in the music industry? Here’s what it’s really like

Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Claire Haffenden, director of artist relations and events at Universal Music, takes us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights-out. 

Claire Haffenden, 52, is director of artist relations and events at Universal Music. She lives in Kensal Rise with her husband and twin daughters.

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

At 7am. I have twin nine-year-old daughters and it’s straight into getting them out of bed. There are good days and bad days. Then I take our Boston terrier, Angus, for a walk before leaving at 8ish. I save my first coffee and breakfast (fruit and muesli) for the office.

MY COMMUTE IS…

Pretty easy. But I do run for the train. Every. Single. Morning. From there, I start setting up my day – going through emails: replying; flagging; forwarding. I don’t like arriving at my desk with loads to respond to.

I GOT MY JOB…

By working my way up. I started as a temp PA at London Records. I then worked in artist relations at A&M Records and Polydor [part of Universal Music]. I’ve been in my current position for 22 years.

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Begins with a team meeting at our office in King’s Cross. We’re four women and from the moment I wake up WhatsApp is pinging with messages – it’s how we communicate and brainstorm. But it’s also important to sit down and talk through everything. We begin with the question “how are you?” and mean it. We work on about 20 projects at once – and often problems don’t have an easy solution. This could be creating an event that launches a new artist to the media, or booking a private dining room for an artist and 30 friends last minute. Relationships with hotels and restaurants are a key part of the job. 

Lunch is usually a sandwich between meetings, which will spill into the afternoon. Right now, we’re working on the Brit awards. We look after seating for our artists and the after party. It’s one of the most in-demand events on the showbusiness calendar, which means the guest list is a ton of work – and politics. We’re collaborating with the artist Ashton Attzs on the artwork this year. Then there are the moments of magic you can’t predict, like Katy Perry, Lorde and Ellie Goulding unexpectedly DJing together in 2014. I leave the office anywhere from 5pm to 7.30pm.

WHEN I’M TIRED OR STRESSED I…

Talk it out. I’m not someone who stews.

MY GO-TO SNACK AT WORK IS…

Not the bowl of fruit we have in the office. It’s chocolate, come on.

MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT…

There are so many. When I picked an artist up from the airport and he played me an unreleased song that gave me full body chills. It became one of the biggest hits of all time. Another time, an artist ended up running around a restaurant naked at a lively work dinner.

MY WORST WORK HABIT IS…

I do too many things at once. And I don’t know when to stop.

MY EMAIL INBOX…

Isn’t particularly organised, but I don’t feel bad about it. If you need me, call me.

AFTER WORK…

I’m mum again. It’s making dinner; spelling; guitar practice. Once they’ve gone to bed, I binge watch a series. I made the mistake of getting into Grey’s Anatomy recently. Don’t do it. There are 16 seasons with 24 episodes each. I’m going to have a party when it’s over. I’m usually in bed by 10pm.

MY PLAN B: HOTEL CONCIERGE

I love looking after people, it’s what motivates me in my current role. Soho Hotel have had the same team for years and never cease to impress – so maybe I’d work there.

Photography: Gemma Day

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