The Life of… A Creative Producer (Self-Employed)

By Ashley Miki Mak


Interview with Ashley Miki Mak - 10 years in A&R, press, bookings, promotions, live streaming + production with freelance teams worldwide.  Accountable for producing international events, fashion shows, Film partnerships, panel talks + more in over 27 countries.

What does the job consist of, what are the processes involved – Creative Producer in summary?

Perhaps you enjoy going to clubs, sharing music with others or are you interested in organising events. The key question is: do you want to be a promoter or a creative producer? There are many jobs in music that fall between these two categories, however identifying what elements you’re passionate about really helps by trying them out first. I’ve had interns who thought producing / promoting was the glamorous career they wanted, then decided otherwise after a couple of months witnessing the grind of it all. It takes a lot of negotiating and relationship building which can be stressful, however it all pays off with the satisfaction of seeing a vision come together. You need to enjoy it to endure it… that’s my mantra.

A creative producer in the music industry is the 360° execution of bringing a concept to life. Essentially, you are leading creative project management, organising meetings and managing the delivery of creative assets within a music context. Overseeing the work for each project; finances, timelines, designating roles whilst driving the creative process. It’s your individual response and development to a brief set by your client; a creative and innovative pitch/mood board outlining your overall plan. How do you want the event to look, feel, smell, sound and how can you achieve that with the given budget? Who will you work with?

Tips / advice for anyone wanting to pursue this career path – what do you need to do to be successful, the challenges, your own personal learning / experience

As a creative producer, you will be in charge of production and will be required to work with various people, so strong communication skills and the ability to maintain good relationships are crucial. Research on your downtime is advisable; who inspires you / who do you want to work with, whether that be artists, musicians, textile designers, set designers, sound engineers, lighting technicians and many more. Create your own directory. Once you’ve found your go-to people for each service and you’ve created successful working relationships, you’re on the right path to find your very own team. A creative producer has to delegate, time manage and budget each supplier they work with, so the whole process will be much easier if relationships have already formed. We can’t always expect people to work the way we do so count yourself lucky when you find those people and keep them close! The whole job cannot be done without them, so respect everyone’s time and work ethic, just as you’d like others to respect you.

Projects can range from 5000 capacity live concerts to music videos or a corporate event with a major client, all within varying budgets and timelines. This all depends on where you like to be placed with your services. Having a website or show reel to showcase your style will help future clients know what to expect when they book you. I made sure to note that I have teams globally therefore I’m available for work internationally and have a passport to do so. My showreel was directed by a friend, so I could offer my authentic self, rather than try to project someone or something I couldn’t deliver. You don’t need to find your niche straight away. Assist on projects you’re interested in, apply for jobs within companies you want to work for and build your work ethic and style over time. A website with your visual identity will be beneficial once you take the leap into freelance life. Making yourself known with a website will help with setting yourself apart from others in your field.

Working for a company Vs being self employed

After working behind the scenes for most of my music career in promotions, A&R and production, I knew it was finally time to take the leap into self-employment after working as Global Head of Events for Boiler Room for almost five years. I’d learnt everything first-hand and was confident in my work, network, strengths and weaknesses. There are many pros and cons in doing so.
Working for a company gives you the bonus of a steady income, a support system of friends and colleagues, a daily schedule with an office to work from, but once you take the leap to self-employment you have none of that.

Whilst working for a company your support network of colleagues may facilitate the process, such as those who are client facing. This is beneficial as you can work with a team and you are representing your company with the aid of others’ input and ideas. With self-employment, you have to be prepared and aware that you are the face and sole driving force of your services. This means having to take the bad along with the good. You can only really learn from your mistakes with no one to share the falls with but it will make you stronger. When you win, you win for yourself which is so much sweeter. It’s a nice feeling to be on the frontline as Ashley Mak and having direct credit and payment for my work knowing I had full reign to execute my vision. Your key contacts will always support you, and vice versa, it all really pays off. Work can be inconsistent but set a routine that works for you and you only, as there’s no straightforward ‘how to’. When people ask for advice about freelance life, I always say to be prepared to reset your life. What do YOU like? It sounds simple but once you’re used to a 9-5 life, tasks and all, it’s quite interesting to find that you may have slight conditioning from being in a group for so long, others influences, what’s hot and what’s not. Try to start from a clean slate to build your future.

Final Point: Building career pathways / different sectors

Over the past 10 years, the majority of my work has been in music, however since being self-employed it’s opened the door to allow my other interests in fashion and arts. As a self-employed producer, you can explore other pathways and industries which will help you grow and learn, even if you think you know everything – there is much more to be learnt. I mainly started off doing club events, and naturally after 200 or so of them I wanted to broaden my experiences. I took many jobs working directly with global companies with great budgets showcasing internal events and pop ups around the world. I didn’t feel there was much creative spark or cultural relevance within it all which is when I decided to create other pathways and reach out to artists rather than 100% wait for a client to come to me.

Music is my love and in my opinion, fashion, music and art all lend to one another. Currently, I work directly with respected musicians to help bring a shared vision to life for tour finales or music videos, with independent designers to collaborate on fashion shoots and shows and I lead the creative on touring art exhibitions. This is ultimately what I enjoy about the job, the creative process and collaboration with interesting and talented people that I respect.

By diversifying my work, I feel more fulfilled having multiple outlets of creativity. Taking a medium that is not visual from an artist and translating their core medium into what is mine: collaboration with meaning but without hierarchy

Ashley Mi Ki Mak

By Ashley Miki Mak

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