When you were 17, what did you want to be?
At 17, I was already doing what I wanted to be doing. My dream job was to be a music video director, combining my love of film with music. So for my first job, my mom knew someone who worked for one of the biggest TV production companies in London, and he got me an internship there when I was 17.
I think from a really young age I've always been really into music. My grandma was a piano teacher, my cousin's uncle was in the band The Police. My mom and dad had a record player and I grew up on Fleetwood Mac. I always just really loved music, the escape of music. I would be at concerts and then suddenly I would find myself backstage. I would always make my way into crazy situations. I always managed to worm my way into things, to get someone's business card. I wrote for lots of music magazines when I was younger, and I was always thinking, “How can I get free tickets to concerts, how can I get free CDs?” I would write to someone, or work in record stores, just to make contacts. I was always trying to find out who the head of this record label was, who the editor of this music magazine was, so I was very curious.
I had always enjoyed English, I loved art; I wasn't particularly academic, but I liked creative stuff. So I think I always knew I wanted to do something in media and music. I did a media studies course, which was a combination of film, journalism, audio, audio-visual. I did that for 2 years and then I got this job in London.
Why did you decide not to go to college?
I wasn't particularly academic. I got really good grades without having to try particularly hard, but I felt the amount of money that could be applied to me getting an internship in London, which I think that if you're in a creative field, what's the point of having a degree? It's all about who you know, about networking, and however many thousands of pounds it would have cost me over those few years, that could have gone to me living, getting my foot on the career ladder. I also didn't really feel that there was a course at university that could encompass everything that I loved.
How did you get where you are now?
From that first job, I got an internship and I worked on this TV show called Better Homes and Gardens with this really famous television producer as the host, and I loved it. I was in the thick of television life in London. I was renting a room in a beautiful Georgian house and with this very wealthy, crazy Dutch lady who put bolts on her kitchen, and all I had was a room with a microwave, and I literally had to live off microwave food for three months.
So it was the first job on the ladder of television, which is called a runner. You basically just run around doing things for people, but it's just a really good way of networking and getting an overall view of television. I did really well with it. I got promoted to research really quickly. But, then it all went to shit. I got caught drunk driving. And I lost my job because of it, because part of the job was to drive the location vehicles. I remember it so well, it was horrible. They said, “Roo, let me see your driver’s license details,” because we were going on a shoot next week. And I had to tell them. They literally on the spot just said, "I'm sorry, we can't keep you."
So I had to leave London, I had to return to Bournemouth, I got job in a hotel. My parents were obviously fuming. I was really miserable, I wasn't happy at home. So my mom said, "You need to go traveling. I think you just really need to get away." I went to Thailand and Australia with my best friend, and then I stationed myself in Melbourne. I met this incredible group of people who I knew through this girl that I had met in New York when I was 16. She was a photographer. She had all of these really creative, kooky, interesting friends, and it was my first experience being around gay people. I had come from this village where everyone was fairly dull, and I fell in love instantly because I had found my tribe.
I ended up staying in Melbourne for a year, and towards the end of the year, I was in a queue for a nightclub. There was a guy filming with this massive proper television set up. I started chatting with him and he responded in this Yorkshire accent, and I said, "Oh, mate, you're from Yorkshire!" We just got to chatting, and I asked who he was filming for, and he said the BBC. They were doing a documentary on clubbing in different cities around the world and clubbing culture. I told him that I used to work in television in London, and he said they were actually looking for an assistant.
I ended up working for the BBC for 2 weeks on this documentary. I knew of the presenter, Anne Savage, who was a famous DJ and dance music producer at the time. We just hit it off straight away. Eventually I had to return to London because my visa ran out, and I told Anne I didn’t know what to do, whether or not I should try to get a job in television. And she said, "I just joined this music PR agency and they're looking for a junior. Would you like me to introduce you?"
I went for an interview and I got the job. I was thrown into the deep end. It was still when we were using fax machines to get ahold of journalists, and it was the heyday of dance music. It was crazy and I was doing all these amazing things. It was a very small company, there were two silent directors and then another director who was my boss. My boss got sacked, and I was the only client-facing person. So the silent directors brought me into their office and said, "How would you feel about taking over the company?" That was when I was 24.
I never want to turn down an opportunity, and I don't want to worry about stuff; I just go head first into things and then freak out slowly afterwards. So I said okay. I was managing the company, I did really well, I was bringing in loads of business. But I didn't get much of a pay raise and I was slowly thinking, "Hold on a second. I'm running this company pretty much on my own, bringing in all this business, what is stopping me from doing this on my own?" So that's what I did. About a year and a half after that, I registered Rood Media in October, 2005, and then I actually started the year after. It didn't go down very well with my directors because, obviously I didn't actively poach my clients, but they said, "Our relationship is with you. If you're going to start your own thing, we're going to come with you."
I instantly had some insane clients. I was making crazy money. I’m in my early 20s. And then about 5 years into doing it, I just really wasn't enjoying what I was doing, and I realized it was because I was having to take on projects that I wasn't fully into, but I needed the money. And I realized that that's not how I wanted to do things.
I just sold everything. I sold my car, my furniture, I moved back to my parents’ house for a year and I rebranded. I'd always been advising clients on branding and how to formulate themselves, but I’d never really truly focused on my own brand. I got this wicked new logo and this amazing new website. From that, everything just spiraled. I got so much new work. I started to get projects that I was really passionate about.
I'm a one-stop shop for musicians. I do music consulting, how to go about self-releasing, branding, social media. I promote music to the media, to key, respected music tastemakers around the world. Digital media was becoming a thing and print was becoming less important. I started focusing on radio promotion. I had so much experience from when I started with that first company, being in meetings with record labels and managers. You always have to think of ways to keep your existing clients. I’m so personal with my approach, and I only do a small roster of clients, as opposed to lots of agencies that have crazy rosters and they’ll never give you as much attention.
I love what I'm doing. I love music. It doesn't feel like work. Like working with Noah Slee is a dream. His music is amazing, I would listen to it on Spotify on a daily basis. I love his story, I love spreading the word on him and pitching him to journalists. It's so exciting when I get a feature on him or I hear him on the radio. I still get that buzz and I think until that buzz stops, I know that I'm doing the right thing.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I think the most important thing is getting experience. Interning, doing as many different internships as you can to get an idea of exactly what it is you want to do, working really hard, being prepared to do anything, making tea, whatever it may be. And it’s a great way of making contacts. I think a lot of media and creative jobs, it’s just who you know.
I think you shouldn't fear anything, because things always work out. I do feel like the more I've gotten into this and the more I’ve grown up, I never really feared anything. When I started, I had people saying “what if this, what if that?” But I never really got it into my head. I think you manifest fear and it's best to just not think about what's the worst that can happen.
Another thing I would say is, you never know when that intern could become a record executive. Always just stay true to yourself, and be polite and kind to whoever you come across, and true to your passion and never take anything for granted, really. You never know what's around the corner.