My career in the music industry and championing UK creativity

Jonathan Badyal is Head of Communications at Universal Music UK, a major record label that’s home to numerous huge artists. Before that, he worked as a government adviser at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Later today, Jonathan will be appearing at NME’s #Lifehacks event in London, joining a panel in which he and fellow creatives discuss the things they wish they’d known at age 18. Ahead of the panel, we got in touch to find out more about his career journey so far.

You’re Head of Communications at Universal Music UK, the label behind huge artists like Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding. In a nutshell, what does your role involve?
“I work across all aspects of the company’s internal and external communications.”

You previously worked to champion British creativity at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. What did that involve?
“As an adviser to the Creative Industries Minister, I made it my mission to support and champion all forms of creativity – from dance to film, theatre to fashion, classical music to grime. My proudest moment was working on my former boss Matt Hancock MP’s campaign calling for the scrapping of Form 696. For those that don’t know, 696 was a ‘risk assessment’ form used to close down urban music events. It stifled creativity and discouraged emerging urban talent from staging shows. We felt strongly that it was discriminatory. Calls to get rid of 696 were not new. But historically, grime was something that the Government would – wrongly – never go near. We changed that in a big way, and proudly played a big part in getting rid of 696.”

How did you begin your career – what was your first “rung on the ladder”?
“My internship was integral. I first started working for a Government Minister back in 2012 where I was lucky enough to secure a paid internship with Ed Vaizey MP. That opportunity definitely gave me the break I needed, and I went on to have the most amazing five years working in Westminster. Here at Universal, I’m very proud that our company launched the music industry’s first paid internship programme way back in 2009. Each year, dozens of interns enter the business with many going on to become permanent employees.”

What skills and attributes do you look for in young people looking to get their foot in the door of the music industry?
“Relevant work experience is always brilliant to see on a CV at entry level. We always look for people who have shown initiative and have an active interest in music. The one thing that ties every single Universal Music employee together is our passion for music.”

You’re speaking on a panel called “things I wish I’d known when I was 18”. If you could go back and send a message to your 18 year old self, what would it be?

“That the creative industries is serious business. The sector is worth more than £87bn to the UK economy and grows three times faster than our economy as a whole. It also creates jobs four times faster than the rest of the economy. Big numbers! Despite all that, as an 18 year old I never considered working in the creative industries despite being obsessed by music. I wasn’t aware of all the different roles and opportunities available at a record label like Universal Music. Also, not to pigeonhole myself. Get involved with everything you possible can. Try things out, meet new people, be inquisitive. I wish I got involved with a lot more stuff at university.”

NME has teamed up with University of Salford and youth initiative Create Jobs to lay on our #Lifehacks event in London today, November 23. The event will be headlined by Chelsea footballer Eni Aluko and hip-hop artist Loyle Carner, who will team up for an ‘in conversation’ panel.

Another panel will see acclaimed campaigners Paris Lees, Paula Akpan and Josie Naughton join forces to discuss how to effect positive change. Meanwhile, MOBO founder Kanya King MBE and University of Salford’s Kirsty Fairclough and Lyndon Saunders will join Jonathan to talk about the things they wish they’d known at age 18.

On the day, you’ll also be able to connect with the NME team and our partners at the dedicated Hack-Space, and enter the world of gaming at the Game Lab. The event will culminate in an exclusive secret evening gig – and you can watch the whole thing live on NME’s Facebook page.