Natasha Mann main photo

Natasha Mann is a Responsible Adult

NP
April 05, 2019
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“I never expected to be running a major record company, I certainly didn’t expect to be the first mixed race woman doing it. It’s pretty incredible.”

photography Piotr Kamil / words Alison Taylor

Natasha Mann is making history. The 37-year-old visionary is co-managing director of Island Records: the first female MD in 60 years and the first woman of colour to ever hold the position. She’s worked with artists from Florence & The Machine to Drake and Mumford & Sons and founded a Women In Music community and mentorship scheme to support young talent. We caught up with Natasha at home in north London to chat mentoring, motherhood and what it’s like to be an MD.

I’m co-MD at Island, which means leading the company with my co-MD and the president. So we are responsible for the strategy of the company moving forward and, alongside him, we oversee all of the artist campaigns. Specifically we cover the marketing, promotion, commercial, international aspects and he focuses on the A&R.

Island has such a broad roster of acts, which is one of the reasons I love working here. We represent lots of exciting acts from Catfish & The Bottlemen to Drake to Mumford & Sons to Disclosure to Ariana Grande plus many more!

My day usually involves a lot of artist-led meetings. It’s our job to present new ideas and build on what might be the beginning of an idea that an artist has. It might be discussions around a particular London venue where an artist wants to have comeback gig.

Going all the way back to Bob Marley, U2 when they came out, and Disclosure, Island Records has always been routed in youth culture. That’s how it should be.

I’m one of those weird people that loves people management.People often say: “Urgh people management, it’s the worst part of my job” but I’m like, “I love that shit!” I really love working closely with staff, helping them with their development plan and being a sounding board. I find it really rewarding and interesting. And there is always a value exchange - it feels beneficial for both them and me.

Going all the way back to Bob Marley, U2 when they came out, and Disclosure, Island Records has always been routed in youth culture.That’s how should be. When you’re working in an industry that is very youth driven, it’s really really beneficial to stay in touch with people who are not always the main demographic that you are targeting within an artist campaign. That’s why I value having a close connection to all of the people who work here.

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“Sometimes you really have to dive in, and when I look back on my career I think I’ve felt most energised when I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Around six years ago, along with 20 other women, I was honoured for being an influential woman in the music industry. I saw it as an opportunity to create an event for people to meet and network, which we do twice a year and it’s been really popular and, people tell me, beneficial. The first couple of events happened and the resounding feedback was: “When are you going to set up a mentorship scheme?” It was the natural next step for taking these conversations further and enabling the next waves of female leaders in our industry to come through.

Visibility - seeing other women in the music industry doing great things - is invaluable. I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve grown up in diverse, inclusive surroundings but it’s not the same for everyone. I went to state school, I went to universities, I’ve mixed with people from all walks of life and been exposed to loads of different ways to approach life and work. But if you aren’t brought up in or exposed to a city as cosmopolitan as London, for example, then some things can feel really daunting or unavailable to you. Mentorship is really important to help people have visibility on what is out there in the business landscape and what might be achievable.

I didn’t think I wanted to work in music at the beginning of my career - I thought I might be interested in going into TV or becoming a teacher! It was my dissertation at university - ‘The influence of black culture on today’s UK pop chart’ that led me in that direction. I interviewed a guy from MTV as part of my research and he said: “You asked really smart questions, would you like to come back and do some work experience in the summer?” I loved it! I thought it was just the coolest place ever to work.

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I started off in music PR working for independent agencies and then had my own company for a while.I was offered a role in marketing at Island by the head of the company. He knew me because I was going into Island for work on specific acts that they were outsourcing to us. One of them was Florence and the Machine who were doing incredibly well at that point. He said to me “I think you’d be really good at marketing, would you ever consider a move over?” and at that point I had come to a place in PR where I thought I need a new challenge and wanted to be more immersed in the full campaign. That was ten years ago and I just moved through the ranks, starting off as a junior marketing manager.

There’s a quote I read which says: “If you wait until you are ready for something you’ll never do it” and I really believe that. Sometimes you really have to dive in, and when I look back on my career I think I’ve felt most energised when I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. What’s the worst that can happen? You make a couple of mistakes and you have to switch lanes and move if the job’s not right for you. Better to try rather than be looking back in years to come going, “I wish I’d tried that”.

Becoming a parent has given me a lot more perspective.I thought I was always relatively good at work/life balance but it has made me that much stronger and stricter with how I want to operate and what I want my life to look like. Yes work is really important but so is seeing my daughter and husband and spending time with them. Motherhood has also made me more productive. It’s helped my ability to understand what problems are crucial ones and which ones simply won’t matter tomorrow, which is pretty vital in this job!

I failed my driving test more times than I can actually remember. That just showed me that you can’t always study study study and then ace something. Sometimes you just have to fail and start again and that’s the learning process.

My biggest achievement to date is this role.I never expected to be running a major record company, I certainly didn’t expect to be the first mixed race woman doing it, and a mum as well. It is pretty incredible and makes you understand the importance of setting an example and trying to do your best in the role.

I wear comfortable and relaxed clothing. If you can’t eat, dance and travel on a train in it I’m not interested! Even on big nights out for work I wear practical shoes that I can walk in. Work and home doesn’t differ much, lots of jeans, shift dresses, trainers and sweaters with slogans or prints.

What should you be listening to at the moment? Right now we have lots of newer acts that I’d recommend including Sigrid, Miraa May, Easy Life, RITUAL, Ray BLK, Flyte.

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Quick Fire Five

What’s your most overused phrase?

“To be clear...” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Who inspires you and why?

People who are honest, genuine, work hard and who try to make positive impact in the world

What is your screensaver?

Terrible stock pictures of scenery from a far away place

What are you 90% sure of?

I’m 90% sure that I will spend too much money next week on coffee.

What’s your favourite joke?

I’ve heard more bad than good ones for me to have a favourite!

“I never expected to be running a major record company, I certainly didn’t expect to be the first mixed race woman doing it. It’s pretty incredible.”

Natasha Mann is making history. The 37-year-old visionary is co-managing director of Island Records: the first female MD in 60 years and the first woman of colour to ever hold the position. She’s worked with artists from Florence & The Machine to Drake and Mumford & Sons and founded a Women In Music community and mentorship scheme to support young talent. We caught up with Natasha at home in north London to chat mentoring, motherhood and what it’s like to be an MD.

I’m co-MD at Island, which means leading the company with my co-MD and the president. So we are responsible for the strategy of the company moving forward and, alongside him, we oversee all of the artist campaigns. Specifically as co-MD we cover the marketing, promotion, commercial and international aspects.

Island has such a broad roster of acts, which is one of the reasons I love working here. We represent lots of exciting acts from Catfish & The Bottlemen to Drake to Mumford & Sons to Disclosure to Ariana Grande plus many more!

My day usually involves a lot of artist-led meetings. It’s our job to present new ideas and build on what might be the beginning of an idea that an artist has. It might be discussions around a particular London venue where an artist wants to have comeback gig. Going all the way back to Bob Marley, U2 when they came out, and Disclosure, Island Records has always been routed in youth culture. That’s how it should be.

I’m one of those weird people that loves people management. People often say: “Urgh people management, it’s the worst part of my job” but I’m like, “I love that shit!” I really love working closely with staff, helping them with their development plan and being a sounding board. I find it really rewarding and interesting. And there is always a value exchange - it feels beneficial for both them and me.

Going all the way back to Bob Marley, U2 when they came out, and more recently Disclosure, Island Records has always been routed in youth culture. That’s how it should be. When you’re working in an industry that is very youth driven, it’s really really beneficial to stay in touch with people who are the main demographic that you are targeting within an artist campaign. That’s one of the reasons why I value having a close connection to all of the younger people who work here.

“Sometimes you really have to dive in, and when I look back on my career I think I’ve felt most energised when I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Around six years ago, along with 20 other women, I was honoured for being an influential woman in the music industry. I saw it as an opportunity to create an event for people to meet and network, which we do twice a year and it’s been really popular and, people tell me, beneficial. The first couple of events happened and the resounding feedback was: “When are you going to set up a mentorship scheme?” It was the natural next step for taking these conversations further and enabling the next waves of female leaders in our industry to come through.

Visibility - seeing other women in the music industry doing great things - is invaluable. I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve grown up in diverse, inclusive surroundings but it’s not the same for everyone. I went to state school, I went to universities, I’ve mixed with people from all walks of life and been exposed to loads of different ways to approach life and work. But if you aren’t brought up in or exposed to a city as cosmopolitan as London, for example, then some things can feel really daunting or unavailable to you. Mentorship is really important to help people have visibility on what is out there in the business landscape and what might be achievable.

I didn’t think I wanted to work in music at the beginning of my career - I thought I might be interested in going into TV or becoming a teacher! It was my dissertation at university - ‘The influence of black culture on today’s UK pop chart’ that led me in that direction. I interviewed a guy from MTV as part of my research and he said: “You asked really smart questions, would you like to come back and do some work experience in the summer?” I loved it! I thought it was just the coolest place ever to work.

I started off in music PR working for independent agencies and then had my own company for a while. I was offered a role in marketing at Island by the head of the company. He knew me because I was going into Island for work on specific acts that they were outsourcing to us. One of them was Florence and the Machine who were doing incredibly well at that point. He said to me “I think you’d be really good at marketing, would you ever consider a move over?” and at that point I had come to a place in PR where I thought I need a new challenge and wanted to be more immersed in the full campaign. That was ten years ago and I just moved through the ranks, starting off as a junior marketing manager.

There’s a quote I read which says: “If you wait until you are ready for something you’ll never do it” and I really believe that. Sometimes you really have to dive in, and when I look back on my career I think I’ve felt most energised when I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. What’s the worst that can happen? You make a couple of mistakes and you have to switch lanes and move if the job’s not right for you. Better to try rather than be looking back in years to come going, “I wish I’d tried that”.

Becoming a parent has given me a lot more perspective. I thought I was always relatively good at work/life balance but it has made me that much stronger and stricter with how I want to operate and what I want my life to look like. Yes work is really important but so is seeing my daughter and husband and spending time with them. Motherhood has also made me more productive. It’s helped my ability to understand what problems are crucial ones and which ones simply won’t matter tomorrow, which is pretty vital in this job!

I failed my driving test more times than I can actually remember. That just showed me that you can’t always study study study and then ace something. Sometimes you just have to fail and start again and that’s the learning process.

My biggest achievement to date is this role. I never expected to be running a major record company, I certainly didn’t expect to be the first mixed race woman doing it, and a mum as well. It is pretty incredible and makes you understand the importance of setting an example and trying to do your best in the role.

I wear comfortable and relaxed clothing. If you can’t eat, dance and travel on a train in it I’m not interested! Even on big nights out for work I wear practical shoes that I can walk in. Work and home doesn’t differ much, lots of jeans, shift dresses, trainers and sweaters with slogans or prints.

What should you be listening to at the moment? Right now we have lots of newer acts that I’d recommend including Sigrid, Miraa May, Easy Life, RITUAL, Ray BLK, Flyte.

Quick Fire Five

What’s your most overused phrase?

“To be clear...” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Who inspires you and why?

People who are honest, genuine, work hard and who try to make positive impact in the world

What is your screensaver?

Terrible stock pictures of scenery from a far away place

What are you 90% sure of?

I’m 90% sure that I will spend too much money next week on coffee.

What’s your favourite joke?

I’ve heard more bad than good ones for me to have a favourite!

You too can be a Responsible Adult...

You too can be a
Responsible Adult...