Like so many of us, work changed a lot for Jessie Scoullar in 2020. After losing a few projects at the beginning of lockdown, she turned her talents towards helping others and got involved with Help Musicians UK, a charity that provides support for artists.
In a time when work is dwindling, she’s been flat out for the past few months. “I think I’ve worked with about 50 artists, helping them build a foundation to grow engagement with their fans,” Jessie said.
In her role as a mentor, Jessie helps newer artists and those less established online to find ways of expanding and creating special products and experiences for their fans. This is especially important now that touring and appearances have all been put on hold. As she says “Bands gotta make money.”
Starting out as an artist management assistant, Jessie worked with some of the biggest names in the New Zealand music scene. “My first experience with artists in NZ was with Bic Runga when she was recording her album, Birds,” she said. “I was just driving them around and getting them lunch,” she shrugs, but with names like Neil Finn, Anika Moa and Shayne Cartner it was a stellar start.
Jessie moved to London in 2007, following her two older sisters and a lot of friends all embarking on their OE. Once she arrived in London, Jessie began working for PRS for music where she stayed for two years before accepting voluntary redundancy.
It was at this point, Jessie experienced a moment she describes as serendipity. She came across US company, Topspin Media, that was building ecommerce software for musicians to grow and sell to their fan base. They were setting up in London and happened to have a meet-up lined up in Carnaby St the following week. Jessie went along and immediately wanted to get involved. “I was an intern there, a 30-year-old intern, but I just loved their product.”
After working for them through her own limited company for a few years, it was a natural progression for Jessie to set up her own company, Wicksteed Works, in 2010. “I was supported to set up as a partner agency, as part of an ecosystem who could help artists use the software I’d come to know so well,” she says.
In subsequent years, she has learned the ropes on many ecommerce systems, and has worked on campaigns for some huge artists throughout her career, from Paul McCartney to Mumford & Sons, from Noel Gallagher to Bic Runga.
“The album I’m most proud of working on is Laura Marling’s Semper Femina,” says Jessie. “I’d been a fan of hers prior, but never really delved into her full catalogue. That was a really special experience.”
While she still considers NZ home, this Whanganui girl put so much effort into setting up her life in London, she found that she just couldn’t leave after her two years as many friends did. “I couldn’t walk away so I guess staying was the path of least resistance. That’s obviously not true, but that’s how it felt.”
This year has proved to be a challenging time for everyone, especially for those working for themselves without the security of an employer but for Jessie, she believes it brings out strengths that you never knew you had. “When you go out on your own, you become more resilient to the ups and downs. It’s just about hanging in there, staying on track and trusting that something will come along, even when it seems most perilous,” she says. “You really have to have some grit.”
As well as being a volunteer with the NZBWN newsletter team this year, Jessie has been working on a guide to help clients with email marketing. She knows that while convincing artists to use email marketing is relatively easy, getting it started isn’t so simple.
“I guess I’m putting myself out of a job,” she laughs. “But I believe being generous with ones’ knowledge does come back to reward us.”
Photo credit: Amanda Rose Photography