In an ideal world, talent should speak for itself. But nothing could be farther from the truth. A case in point being the world of music & entertainment where the right opportunities at the right time matter the most !

Pooja Gandhi, our next pathbreaker, Artist manager at Believe, oversees every component of the artist’s business such as touring, recording, publishing, record label, merchandising, live events etc

Pooja talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her role in getting people together through music, which has the potential to change the world as music can unite nations, bring peace, and inspire people.

For students, if you have an ear for music, make a career on promoting good music through better opportunities for talented Artists.

Pooja, tell us about your background?

First of all I would like to Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to introduce myself to you.

Hello, I am Pooja Gandhi. I was born and brought up in Mumbai. I am from a middle class Maharashtrian family. My father Anil Gandhi worked as an editor for Marathi films. My mother Meena Gandhi is a homemaker. I have 2 older sisters who are married. I lost my brother in 2009. I started earning at a very young age due to financial issues in the family.

I did my HSC from Bhavans Andheri and later did my graduation from Mumbai University. I used to teach kids and completed my graduation from that money. My parents wanted me to go for higher studies, get a good job and settle down in life like all our parents. 

After my graduation I started working with a HR firm. I had plans for my MBA in HR, but was not very happy with my job. One day I decided to speak with my parents about Event Management, but  they were not too keen about it. I started doing more research on event management and found a course to my liking. I didn’t  have enough money those days, so I took a loan from a bank for the course. I took admission for the event management course which was part time, so that i could work 9am-5pm in the HR firm and study at college from 7pm – 10 pm. I didn’t know what was driving me, I think it was my self belief. It was a difficult period, managing my day job to repay my loan and on the other hand, my college and my dreams.

I always had this thought that I could accept failing but could not accept not trying. So at college I started going for events as a volunteer. I was enjoying every bit of it, and after 3 months I got a paid internship through college which helped me get rid of my HR job. My parents supported  and encouraged me. I dedicated all my time to learning whatever I could on my job. The same event company hired me for 3 years, where I learnt how an event is managed. I later took a small house for my parents, since I wanted to rebuild what we had lost. Once you become fearless life becomes limitless.

From working initially in an event company to working in a music company currently, I have varied work experience which has helped me develop as an individual. With an experience of over 8 years in Events / Artist management I have worked with most artists in the music and entertainment industry, be it  maestros or the young masters.

I often get asked how I started my career, how I became an artist manager, and how I began working with artists and music companies. 

 I had the opportunity to manage artists(singers) in various genres;- Classical Musicians ,Bollywood singers,Indian idols and many more.

I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to work with some amazing managers who managed top singers of our country. So here I got a opportunity to tell  my story and work experience

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I am a commerce graduate from Mumbai University and have done my 1 yr  post graduate diploma in Event Management from NIEM college (National Institute of event management)

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?  

I was an average student in school and college. I loved sports and other activities. Unlike other fields, event management does not require you to crack competitive exams with a cutoff percentage. Don’t get me wrong; that doesn’t mean anyone could work in events! Working in events is not always 100% fun, there are dull tasks too, and it is stressful. At the end of the day, every event has a deadline. The closer the deadline is, the more hectic it gets. But nothing beats the feeling when an event comes to life as planned, and when you can share these moments with a team of like-minded people who have been working long hours to make that moment happen! Here the focus is on your organizational skills, patience, creativity and capacity to multitask. There is a unique job satisfaction and feeling attached to pulling off a high profile event. 

I neither had any influencers nor any contacts in the industry. I  did not know a single person with a background in event management or a music company. It was only my internship which helped me to learn and grow. And today here I am.

During my college days and while doing my internship I met a lot of people working in the events /music industry who somehow inspired me by their work, and that is when I knew that I was on the right track. 

I did lots of events through college as well as through my course, which gave me practical knowledge of how events work. Like other sectors, events also have different departments such as production, event logistics, artist management and backstage areas such as  business development, client servicing etc. I chose artists and backstage.

When I got a chance to work with Universal Music India, it was a dream come true because i was exposed to a lot of indi pop music released by them during my school & college days. So I was super excited to work and learn with them. And honestly, I have learnt a lot from them.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path.

I had no plans till my graduation. One day I was checking unique career options and I got to know about event management courses and jobs. I never knew that such a job existed till then. During my course I got to learn more about events and different departments in events . I was more keen on Artist management specifically related to music artists.

I did only one internship with an event company for  3 months and then got hired by the same company for 3 yrs. 

I started in client servicing with Stage Arts Live where I managed backstage work and artists. That’s how I started meeting people and artist managers. From there my interest developed towards managing only one part of events and that is the Artist. So I started approaching music labels and artist management companies.

I next worked with Universal Music India as Assistant Talent Manager and  later as Talent Manager – here I managed Indian idols from season 6 – season 10

I joined Believe Music India as  a senior Booking and talent Manager. 

Every event has taught me something and I learned everyday from people who I worked with. I always respect them.

How did you get your first break?

I got my first break through an internship which turned into a job. In 2011 i got a chance to work with a small event firm which was into music events and that’s how my interest started growing in this industry.

What were the challenges? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: No Family time/no festivals/no friends – I have missed most family functions /get togethers /festivals / as well as meeting friends for the last 8 years. Most of the events happen on festivals. But when you love your job it is your priority and when you have a great support system in the form of family and friends who understand you and want you to grow, it is a blessing :).

Challenge 2: Late night work /lot of travel/ – The hardest part about representing artists is being patient and working round the clock. There is so much work around vendor management, negotiation, creatives and approvals, last minute event cancellations, convincing vendors, last minute add on requirements, and maintaining good relations with all vendors. But when you are passionate about your work, you don’t feel like you are working, but enjoying the process.

Challenge 3 –  Creating opportunities for artists is a challenge. Managing an artist’s career requires interaction with people of all personality types under many pleasant and some unpleasant circumstances (building clientele, keeping yourself grounded and protective at times is necessary)

Where do you work now ? Tell us about your work

Recently I have started working with Believe Music as a Senior Booking Manager & Talent manager. 

Events means you need to manage a lot of things going above and beyond your work. Taking care of payments to the artist so the artist gets his/her payment on time, making sure that the agreements are crystal clear between both the parties, getting brand approvals on time as well as continuously following up. Also managing Artists/Bands while travelling, as travel plans keep changing as per other shows and commitments. We sometimes also need to get approvals from clients for new travel plans. We have to arrange their stay, tickets and visa. It is a never ending list.

What skills are needed for a job? How did you acquire the skills?  

Basically this industry needs people with a go getter attitude. A person should be confident enough to turn the tables. Events mean being the face of your organisation and managing someone else’s career as well. So, in addition to being a responsible person, you should have negotiation skills, public relations skills, leadership skills, excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

What is a typical day like? 

A typical day is spent in negotiating contracts and fees, finding and booking events and venues that match the artist’s career strategy, publicity and promotion, helping artists on career decisions such as which record producer to work with, or which songs to perform, and managing media relations. We make sure that the artist’s business runs everyday — just accurate to their vision. My  day-to-day job is to oversee each component of the artist’s business operation. This includes — touring, recording, publishing, record label, merchandising, live events, etc

What is it you love about this job?  

You feel more responsible as a manager. Work makes me happy because I love my job. Yes, it is stressful at times but thats the fun. I am close to music. I get to travel to different places with singers, explore and meet new people.

How does your work benefit society? 

Events are all about getting people together & when it comes to music with events, it can change the world as music can unite nations, bring peace, and inspire people.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!  

I think every show/event is different from the other and also has learnings with it. I remember I did an event with Zakir Hussain Ji in 2013 and after the event we took our team picture with the entire event team. Later when I went to drop Zakir Ji he thanked me with a very kind gesture for putting in so much effort for him and his musicians.

Your advice to students based on your experience? 

Just focus 100 % on whatever you choose and be patient. Start with smaller,  basic things and then take bigger steps. Just remember one thing,  “Competition is good when it is healthy”, it is not about pulling people down. Be a better person based on your own hard work and efforts. Compete with yourself. Experience is important and keep learning everyday to keep growing in whichever sector you will be working. Understand the nature of the Industry, and be a good Judge of character. Be a good listener and observer. Know how to handle difficult people and keep yourself up to date. When struggle is real you can achieve anything in life. Last but not the least it is your patience that counts. Take one step at a time.

Future Plans? 

Recently I have joined a new music organization, so my focus is to make an impact in my work. I want to make the best of every opportunity I get in my life and learn with it. I am also pursuing my master course in Digital Marketing which will help me to promote my artists in different ways.

I think if you want to be successful in life than you need to be passionate about your job. For me Artist management was a stepping stone in my life. With God’s blessing and my parent’s support I tried reaching my goal with my hard work and an attitude to learn. I believe learning never stops and IF YOUR STORY MAKES YOU SMILE WITH TEARS, YOU HAVE LIVED A GREAT LIFE