Day In The Life: Ally Gray, Managing Director, EmuBands

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Artist Managers, Media, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Selling & Distributing Your Music

This week we get an insight into a typical working day for Ally Gray. Ally is co-founder and Managing Director of digital music distribution service, EmuBands, as well as a board member of the Scottish Music Industry Association, and director of social enterprise, Caithness Gigs. So let's hand over to the busy man himself:

I’m going to start with a bit of a cliché – there is no such thing as an ordinary day in my job. The EmuBands office is in Glasgow, but a few members of the team normally work from home – and I’m one of them. Although I’m from Glasgow, I live in the far north of Scotland, in a small town called Wick. It’s very different from the hustle and bustle of city life, but I get down to Glasgow once a month for a few days to spend time in the office. Even when I was based in Glasgow permanently, the job involved a lot of travelling, so I’ve long been used to working on the move; it’s just that now the distances are a lot longer!

Good communication has always been an important element of my job, and technology has made this a lot easier – I’m in constant contact with the office via Skype, either by messaging for small issues, or voice / video calls for anything requiring greater discussion. I also work closely with several key personnel who are engaged on a project-by-project basis, a good example would be our web developers, NS Design, with whom we are re-developing our artist dashboard, which is due to launch shortly. Although both companies are based in the same building in Glasgow, the key personnel involved in the project from both sides work remotely a lot of the time – so, while others from each company can meet daily in the social areas of the building, I’ll be in close contact with the main coder on the project when I’m up North, and he’s in Italy or Russia. We do have occasional face-to-face meetings when we’re both in Glasgow, but these working arrangements suit us both fine.

Much of my time when I am in Glasgow is taken up with meetings – the music scene in Glasgow has a very good social element to it, with so much live music taking place, and I do miss that side of the city; so I try to make up for it when I’m home – a scheduled afternoon meeting can quickly turn into an unplanned dinner meeting, followed by a gig at one of the city’s great venues!

Even though Glasgow is a great city for music, we’ve always had to travel to meet many key contacts based elsewhere in the UK and abroad, and I find conferences a great place to catch up with as many people as possible. So, the specific day I’m going to talk through is from Norwich Sound and Vision, which took place in October.

7:30am - It’s an early start today (for me, 7:30 is early, I’m not normally a great ‘morning person’!), so first on the agenda after a shower is some coffee. This morning I’m chairing a panel called ‘Online Tools for Artists’, and because of this (and a lingering cold, a downside to life in less than sunnier climes!), it was an early night last night. I did get a chance to catch a couple of bands, but my focus was on meeting up with my fellow panellists for a chat through what we’ll be discussing on the panel. Despite having worked closely with all three of my fellow panellists, this was the first time I’d actually met any of them in person – another quirk of being based where we are.

8:00am - It’s a Saturday morning, so just a quick check through emails, Twitter and Facebook for anything urgent, but on a normal working day, this can take a couple of hours.

9:00am - Head along to the Norwich Arts Centre for some final preparation for the panel – printing out some handouts for the audience, and a quick run through of various questions I’ve prepared for the other panellists. Last year I chaired a similar panel, with guests from various companies like Sentric Music and Mobile Roadie, and this year we have Bryan Johnson from Spotify, Dan Rosies from Music Glue, and Marcus Taylor from Venture Harbour.

In another job I have, as a concert promoter in Caithness, I’ve worked closely with Music Glue, who built and host our website, so meeting over dinner when at a conference also gives the chance for Dan to tell me more about their new version of their website tools, I’m looking forward to them being rolled out for our account.

Being a digital music distribution company, we obviously have a close relationship with the various digital music services, and it’s great to meet Bryan from Spotify in person. He had recently contributed to a blog we wrote called ‘Getting The Most From Spotify’, and so the contents of this blog give us a good basis for our panel discussions today.

The third panellist, Marcus, is someone I’ve been working closely with over the last few months, as he advises us on web marketing strategies. Again, despite almost daily contact for a long time, we’d never met in person until this conference – although, being an exponent of video content, I’ve seen a few of his past presentations at conferences like Midem.

10:00am - The panel gets underway, and we discuss various ways artists can make the most of the ‘digital space’ – tips on how to use Spotify more effectively, to direct-to-fan strategies and web marketing advice. The panel is very well received by the audience – we only had one hour for the discussion, so we’ve managed to highlight some blogs and websites for artists and labels to check out later on. Writing blogs on various aspects of the industry, not just our own particular niche, gives us a great way of passing on advice and guidance to the artists and labels we work with, and so we highlight a few of those. Incidentally, the full list of these blogs can be found here!

11:00am - After the panel, we have a few great discussions with artists directly at our stall, so much so, that unfortunately I miss the following panel! We try to have a stall at as many conferences as budgets will permit, as it’s a great way to meet artists and labels on a one-to-one basis and talk through their release strategies.

12:00pm - Rather than walk in halfway through the following panel, I take some time to check through emails again, and also check Facebook and Twitter for some feedback from the panel. With me in Norwich is our Operations Director, Stuart Stenhouse, who had Tweeted during the panel, and there have been a few great responses, which is always nice to see.

Stuart also had the unenviable task of driving from Glasgow to Norwich and back; I’m used to long journeys as a passenger, but this time I had to bear him in mind when picking the music! A portable laptop charger, good mobile broadband (that even works in the Highlands!) and some good playlists are certainly things I’ve grown to appreciate.

1:00pm - We take the opportunity whilst we’re with Marcus to go for some lunch and discuss our recent web marketing campaigns and our plans for the next few months. We then record some video content for our YouTube channel in the pleasant surroundings of the Norwich Arts Centre.

3:00pm - We head back to the hotel for another chance to catch up on some e-mails and other work – having been on the road since Tuesday, there are a few non-urgent things I had been waiting for some down time to do. My normal Saturday afternoon routine would involve following the trials and tribulations of St Mirren FC, so it’s a welcome respite that club football has taken a break due to international matches. Having said that, following Scotland is hardly a stress-free experience.

5:00pm - A good chance to catch up properly with Bryan from Spotify before he heads off (we postponed the long journey back to Glasgow until the Sunday). Having gone to University in Liverpool, and with Bryan being from there, it’s nice to find out we share some mutual friends within the industry – particularly that he knows the Liverpudlian manager of a band from Caithness that I recently had the pleasure of working with on the first two shows that Caithness Gigs promoted.

7:00pm - Some dinner, and then a few more informal catch ups throughout the evening with some fellow conference delegates, and then an early-ish night, because – for what has become somewhat a recurring theme for me – it’s a long journey tomorrow!


ally gray, emubands, music distributor, music distribution, digital distributor, digital distribution, scottish music industry association


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