Hi Jo! Introduce yourself and your career history so far
I have spent the last 11.5 years as CEO of the UK games and interactive entertainment (Ukie) industry association, whose mission is to make the UK the best place in the world to make, sell and play games. I had a great team and over a decade, we saw huge growth of the UK's games sector on a global scale. I like to have an answer to everything, so we advocated every day on behalf of the sector and took a proactive leadership approach to being the industry we wanted to see, so the sector could really thrive.
Prior to that, I was Education Commissioner at Channel 4 and that is where I first worked with the wonderful Sophie Jones, now Chief Strategy Officer at BPI. I commissioned free games and innovative social media projects to teach 14- to 19-year-olds critical life skills. I was also a Multiplatform Entertainment Commissioner at the BBC and have a background in children's news, technology journalism and academia. My PhD in the 90s was on young people, identity, and online communities.
I love our creative industries in the UK and our strength in creativity in all its forms continues to be world beating. I am a fan of innovation, trying new things, breaking boundaries, and empowering teams to achieve their fullest potential. I am a very open person who loves talking to people and being an advocate on their behalf. I believe that telling stories with evidence and data is important in our work as sector representatives and I am a big fan of working in a collaborative way to meet shared goals.
I am a sci-fi fan, I play games, I always have several books on the go and I devour all kinds of TV content on every platform. Music is always a soundtrack to my life, and I use music to express things I can't say, to make me feel better when I feel sad, to bring me joy, and to comfort me in hard times. I have rather an eclectic taste and I love going down discovery rabbit holes to find new music. I am never seen without my headphones and some version of audio, whether that be music or podcasts when walking around. I don't like silence and am always the instigator of karaoke!
What do you hope to achieve as CEO of the BPI?
The team at the BPI are clearly brilliant and care deeply about what they do, and what the organisation has achieved over the last 50 years (which is an astonishing amount). In the games sector, we often looked at the music industry with friendly envy because of the pull you have and the ubiquity of music. The BRIT Trust, The BRIT School, The Mercury Prize, The BRIT Awards and The Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), are just some of the many important initiatives that the BPI is integral to and I am truly honoured to now be a part of that.
I very much hope to bring a different perspective in my role. I am coming into the team with a diverse background and experience of embracing of innovation, advocacy and making connections. Most importantly, I want to use the first six months as a chance to hear from all our members and stakeholders, to fully understand what you want from the BPI for the next 50 years.
Music is such an emotional art form and such an important way to bring people together, to tell stories, to bring joy to billions, and to connect with fans all over the world in new ways. I want the BPI to be truly representative of that passion and potential, and to continue working to make the future inclusive, diverse, and exciting so our members can truly make the most of what lies ahead.
What do you think are the priorities for the UK’s recorded music sector?
A future facing, 21st Century trade body should look down the road and make sure barriers are removed, potholes are filled, opportunities and insights are shared, so businesses can grow, find new opportunities and continue to be world-leading.
A modern and agile trade body works actively to do things that you as members don't need to, but most importantly, we advocate on your behalf because we are here to listen and support you in achieving your goals and priorities. We describe our mission as promoting and protecting British music, but essentially this means creating and sustaining an environment where you, our members, and your labels can thrive so that your artists and staff can realise their full potential.
Growing our exports is huge opportunity. While the global streaming economy has enabled our brilliant member labels to connect your artists and music with even more parts of the world, we also face intensifying competition. This means we must lobby even harder to ensure that we remain on the front foot as the world’s biggest exporter of recorded music after the US. Our music exports last year jumped by over £100m to £700m, meaning our goal for the UK to achieve £1 billion annual exports by the of the decade is within reach - but only if we are backed by Government to maintain an environment that remains attractive for labels to continue investment in talent and new music.
We have some really interesting challenges heading our way also, not least how AI and technology impacts what we do as creative businesses, and how we support artists to embrace new ways of connecting with fans. The future of our economy and creative sectors relies on a generation of talent who can combine technology with arts and creative subjects, and this is something that we really need to press home to policy makers. There are also so many positive synergies between music, fan communities, and the new kinds of social worlds that are being created in games, and I will be very interested to understand how you would like to harness those.
More broadly, I think we must as an industry continue to harness the power of music and the creative arts to transform people’s lives for the better, including through our charitable arm The BRIT Trust. We also must ensure that music education becomes a greater priority within Government to boost the talent pipeline all across the UK.
Which up-and-coming artists are you most excited about?
I am excited to see the national talent pipeline expand so that diverse music creators from all parts of the UK can be given the opportunity to realise their potential - enriching the UK not just culturally but continuing to support the success of British music.