Job of the Month #16: Head of Partnerships

New episode of our Job of the Month series to discover the many facets of the music industry. This month, Callum Johnson, Head of Partnerships for AIM, talks about his commitment.

Each month, IDOL presents a job in the music industry. Or more than a job, a person! Because behind the same job title, there are significant differences from one structure to another. Each person can define the scope of his or her job according to his or her career path, qualities and skills! Meet Callum Johnson, who started with AIM as an intern, while still at university.

First and foremost, can you present AIM?

AIM is a not-for-profit organisation that represents independent rightsholder businesses in the UK. We service the independent sector to level the playing field by providing access to knowledge and opportunities, lobbying on behalf of our members and acting as the united voice for independents in the UK.

AIM’s members range from the largest, most respected record labels and associated music businesses in the world to self-releasing artists and the next generation of entrepreneurs in music.

What does a Head of Partnerships do?

I facilitate relationships with AIM’s key industry partners, which range from Amazon Music, Spotify, META, Merlin, PPL, Ernst & Young, and VEVO, all the way through to new and exciting tech start-ups across AI, Blockchain, Web3, fan engagement, ticketing and more. I also look after our relationships with valued independent distributors, which of course includes IDOL. A lot of my role is coming up with new ideas, strategising and advising how these companies can best engage with the ever growing independent music community, and ensuring new relationships and opportunities to enable growth for the independent sector.

What are the qualities required for your position?

The main quality is being able to confidently communicate with key stakeholders from across the industry and also building and maintaining meaningful relationships, which has always been a passion of mine since I was at University and started to navigate this industry. The music industry is incredibly small, and you never know where the person you have just met will be in five years.

You’ve got all these new volunteers coming through and doing Aim Awards or Aim Connected and I find it really exciting thinking about where they’re gonna be in five years. If they keep that hustle up and really work hard at maintaining those relationships… I personally am still in touch with some of the people I met as a volunteer and now some of them are AIM members!

It’s also important to think on your toes and conjure creative ideas and pathways to create mutually beneficial outcomes for rightsholders, distributors and other key partners. The goal is for everyone to win: the key is to find something that works and suits everyone… where everyone gets excellent results. It’s not just a transactional thing, it has to benefit everyone involved.

Can you tell us a little about your career path?

My career started after studying at ACM in Guildford where I was given the opportunities to volunteer at industry events such as the AIM Awards, and Metropolis Studios networking events. During that time, I started managing a rapper called looms., which over the years has developed into a small management business that has added Antigoni and Ashaine White to its roster. Management is a huge passion of mine, which has been fuelled by my career at AIM.

It’s been seven years that I’ve been working for AIM. I was volunteering whilst still at University. After volunteering for a few conferences and awards, Lara Baker offered me my first internship. That was only supposed to be for three months and I’m still here seven years later. Starting out as an AIM Awards intern, swiftly working my way into the role of Friend of AIM Manager and then naturally progressing into the Head of Partnerships role. Having had this career progression so far is a testament to the organisation and especially the mentorship I have received over the years, for example from previous AIM CEO Paul Pacifico.

How is your daily work organized?

My day-to-day can be so different: one day I could be bouncing around London in back-to-back meetings all day. Another day, I could sit at a desk on calls and I think it takes more energy to be on calls all day than it does to run around London: I do get a massive kick out of meeting people in person!

It could also involve going to conferences in the UK or abroad, or it could be one of the days I put on a show. This week, I promoted one of my artist’s shows, Ashaine White, so that’s another part of my brain to use at the same time. It was a sold out gig! And it could be going in to see a label with my manager hat on and having an A&R meeting. It’s all over the place at a fast pace!

You have to be able to adapt, knowing that one week’s going to look different to the next… and fit your personal life around that as well. I wake up at 5.30 every morning and go to the gym so I know that I get my exercise every day… That gives me the fuel that I need for the day, a sense of accomplishment, by 8:00 am. I love that feeling.

What do you like about your job?

I enjoy the freedom to create new ideas and collaborate with all the brilliant people in and around the AIM community to create new and exciting opportunities. I resonate with what AIM stands for and I enjoy being a part of our members’ journeys as well as being at the funnel of all the new, innovative music that enters the world from the independent music sector.

I also love being part of the journey of the artists on my roster and I’m fortunate that AIM’s given me the insight and knowledge on how to support talent and help them release music independently.

What is your connection with IDOL?

IDOL are one of AIM’s distributor members and I have worked closely with Roo Currier over the years to build a great relationship. They are a valued partner and have a great reputation within the sector. Lots of our members distribute through IDOL, so I was very honoured when being asked to contribute to this interview series. Funnily enough Antigoni has featured on JyellowL’s track ‘Appetiser’ which was distributed via IDOL. I look forward to continuing my relationship with IDOL over the years to come!

I’m a big fan of IDOL and so is one of my friends, Tom Pickford, who runs DeepMatter: he can’t speak highly enough of IDOL. I met Tom at an AIM induction, and I was eager to talk to him, because he released a project by an artist I love, vbnd. We met and hit it off straight away, that was about five years ago, and from there, I’ve just been a massive supporter of DeepMatter. I think Tom is an absolute genius and the music he signs is incredible. All he ever says is that he would never ever want to go anywhere else but IDOL because they’re amazing… You’ve created a partnership based on trust and respect.

Callum’s playlist

“It’s one of the hardest tasks anyone’s ever asked me to do: to find 15 songs.”

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