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So You Want My Job? MassiveMusic’s Aifric Lennon on becoming a ‘music and mind researcher’

So You Want My Job? Music and Mind researcher at MassiveMusic agency

Welcome to The Drum’s new series, So You Want My Job? Each week, we’ll be asking the people working in some of the industry’s coolest jobs about how they got where they are. And, along the way, we’ll dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can help inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting.

With fluctuations in the economy threatening the security of many marketers’ jobs, we have launched a bi-monthly newsletter (Working it Out) to map the trends in the wider jobs market.

Featuring regularly on the newsletter will be our So You Want My Job? series, which this week speaks to Aifric Lennon. She’s a senior project manager and, get this, a ’music and mind researcher’ at MassiveMusic, one of the leading creative music agencies in the world. She explores the social and psychological impact of music, and in particular how it can increase wellbeing and trigger memories – an important tool in any advertiser’s bag.

What did you want to be when growing up?

Well, I wanted to be a doctor from when I was a child all the way up until I was around 18. I studied applied Human Health and Disease at Trinity College in Dublin and outside of studying my passion was music where I sang in bands and played the violin. It never crossed my mind that my job could be in music – I literally thought you were either Beyonce or you weren’t, without actually realising there were lots of opportunities in between.

In the final year of my degree, I specialised in neuroscience and started to become fascinated by the neuroscience of music and sound. I saw they were offering a masters at Goldsmiths and begged to be enrolled as the submission date had passed. I was luckily accepted and moved to London to study.

How did you get your job?

After completing my masters, my friend told me about MassiveMusic and the thought of seeing the real-life application of science in music was so appealing and very much felt like it would be suited to me – being in a social setting where the results can be felt and seen. I started following everything MassiveMusic was doing and despite no job advertised, I got in touch and laid out my background and interest, including what I could offer. I didn’t expect to hear from them, but within a few hours I got a response asking me to come in for a coffee and chat. It was such good timing and we just clicked – and it was serendipitous as they were working with a client wanting to measure the scientific effect of the music Massive was creating.

OK, so what is it you actually do all day? How do you explain your job to a taxi driver?

I work on the sonic branding team in the London office as a project manager and really what we do is help brands use music and sound more effectively across many different touchpoints, from TV and radio advertising to apps, physical spaces, smart speakers etc. We create and develop sonic brands for various different national and global clients and help them use music and sound more strategically and effectively, helping them recognise the power of music when it comes to customer engagement and recall. Our client base ranges from technology to sports to retail to broadcast, to name a few. Earlier this year we ideated and developed the new sonic identity for O2 and recently completed the new sound of Dubai’s whole transport system.

I also run our Music and Mind initiative, a platform we set up within MassiveMusic to actively seek out and engage in projects that leverage the science behind music for the greater good as a tool to aid emotional and physical health.

Do your parents understand what you do?

Haha, I’m not sure! I think they have an idea – they understand it’s about music and science and that I work in the world of branding and advertising, but past that point, it gets a little bit more woolly. My dad is a musician, so we often chat about recent projects I’ve worked on – he loves to hear about our creative concepts. I think it’s easier when you can say ‘we composed this piece of music’, but harder when you get more into nerdy sonic branding chat.

What do you love most about your job?

Although I work out of the London office, I love how collaborative we are with our colleagues across the world, from Tokyo, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and LA. Often there will be people from all over working on the same project.

Also, the variety of work that we do and the fact that every day is completely different. One day I could be working with a leading sports brand coming up with a cool new sonic identity and the next with a full orchestra establishing the new sound of a city.

We work with so many amazing brands and clients across the world and it’s so fascinating, there’s never a dull moment. Also, the social element and how creative and fun it is – everyone, no matter their role, has a creative say in the work we produce and has a vital part to play. Everyone is excellent at what they do. I’ve never worked in an environment where people are so passionate and it’s so contagious – a bit to our detriment in that we work our arses off, but we care very much and are extremely motivated.

How would someone entering the industry now go about getting your job?

There is always a threshold of experience depending on the role, but what is unique about MassiveMusic is that we are really open to meeting people of all experiences and levels and it’s as much about your personality as your experience. Massive really values those who take creative risks and share a passion for music.

My advice is to do what I did – find your niche area or what you are really passionate about within this industry and skill-up on it. Really dive into it and think about what might make you indispensable to a potential employer. Be really bold and reach out, speak to as many people as you can and don’t be afraid to send an email to a chief executive or go directly to the managing director. It might actually pay off! Nine times out of 10 you might not get a response, but if you do it can be worth it and can kickstart your career.

What other advice would you offer anyone entering the ad industry at this weird time?

It’s a very difficult time and maybe not my place to give advice, but I will stress to try and not be demotivated or affected by what is happening in the current climate. Keep your head up, remember your potential value to the industry and keep applying for your dream roles.

We are living in an extraordinary time where employers’ needs and the industry sector are constantly changing, so companies may be more open to changing course or trying something or someone new as they navigate uncharted waters. So embrace the uncertainty and put yourself out there.

What personal trait makes you most suited to your role?

It may be cliche but it has to be my passion. My passion for this job means I sometimes don’t switch off, but it often doesn’t even feel like work. I have combined my love for music and science and it means I’m constantly striving to do better and have the best team around me doing the same.

I am also naturally sociable and a people person, which helps when I’m working with and managing clients – I find it easy to find common ground and if there is any creative conflict, I’m good at finding that midpoint and the solution for both sides.

And lastly, what should someone wanting your job be reading or listening to?

Definitely the neurologist Oliver Sack’s book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain in which he explores a range of psychological and physiological ailments and their intriguing connections to music – fascinating.

Come back next week for another interesting job talk, and sign up to our jobs newsletter, Working it Out. James Cross, a creative director at BBC Creative, was in the hot seat last week.

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