Glastonbury’s talent buyer Martin Elbourne on how you can get his job

We all want to be rockstars. Or the next Taylor Swift. But the next best job in the music industry is surely being a talent buyer for a festival, right?

Martin Elbourne, Glastonbury’s talent buyer, has that career. We met him to get his advice on how you can break into the industry. And there’s good news. You don’t need a dad in The Beatles, or a hefty trust fund, to do it.

The issue of sexism is also being addressed, as Martin revealed that last week a decision within Glastonbury HQ was made to make sure more female acts are put on the bill. Read on to find out more.

1. There’s a perception that to get into the music industry you need to have a trust fund, or a famous musician parent. What do you think about this?

Getting into the industry is almost easier in a way nowadays because if you have any sort of social media presence then you can get noticed. Secret Garden Party started actually as a small gathering with friends in someone’s garden. That story goes to show that, yes it does help if your parents have a large garden, but it’s not everything. You don’t need to be a rich kid to get a small festival together, you just need to know your music. There’s always a way.

Clearly there is an advantage for people who come from wealthier backgrounds but the thing is that all the best people I know never came from that sort of wealthy background. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, I’m from a classic middle class background. I never got lent any money by my parents when I was starting out.

2. Do you think that women are underrepresented in the music industry?

With Glastonbury, even though we have rather a lot of old male acts on the bill, we are starting to think about this issue. It definitely is a talking point in the industry at the moment. We actually had an internal meeting last week saying we need more female acts. We decided that it’s something we have to make happen, so you’ll be seeing more women on the bill.

3. What would your advice be for getting your foot in the door of the industry?

Networking is an incredibly important part of the music industry. Almost every weekend of the year there is some music industry showcase or event. Some of them are quite small and sometimes those are the better ones to go to if you want to speak to people. Some of my best friends have come out of those events. Don’t go to something big like South by Southwest, I would look at going to Tallinn Music Week or something like that. You can get there quite cheaply and you will walk away with 20 cool new friends. Of those 20, one will have a useful contact for you. I met three really important people in my career that have helped me get to where I am.

4. How could someone get your job?

There aren’t many people who will take my career path in the future. There have been many years where I’ve actually been bankrupt. It sounds great travelling around the world, but I have had times when I have been counting up change to buy some dinner for myself that night because my debit card has been declined. Festival work isn’t all smooth sailing. It’s also getting a lot more corporate. That’s not all bad because it means that there is a career progression for people now. There’s more money, training and all the rest of it.

Doing some work experience is a smart move. The Great Escape do an internship programme now and it has a 50% success rate of getting people into employment. I think that’s pretty good. Glastonbury doesn’t do internships so much, we get a lot of volunteers instead.

5. What’s the hardest part of your job?

Turning people away is the hardest part of my job. Everyone wants to play at Glastonbury so we’re in a lucky position, but it can be hard. It’s a lot of emailing and long hours.

Now what?