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Image / Editorial

Abbey Road at 50: Meet the Dublin woman behind the London studios


By IMAGE
27th Sep 2019
Abbey Road at 50: Meet the Dublin woman behind the London studios

In the October issue of IMAGE Magazine, out now, Tony Clayton-Lea catches up with Dubliner Isabel Garvey, who charts her career path from investment analyst to MD of Abbey Road Studios in London.


MY MOVE FROM FINANCE INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY WAS COMPLETE SERENDIPITY. One phone call from a head hunter asking to put me in as a “wild card” for a role at EMI Music changed my career and life.

I didn’t know the industry but had always loved music.

Abbey Road Studios
Isabel Garvey, MD Abbey Rd. Photograph: Jill Furmanovsky

 

THE MUSIC INDUSTRY TAUGHT ME MORE ABOUT BUSINESS AND MYSELF IN A VERY SHORT SPACE OF TIME. The main reason I have stayed in the business is that I love the diversity of thinkers in music, from the hugely creative through to the commercial and everything in between.

To thrive, all points of view have to be respected and given equal weighting. This has allowed me to both be myself at work and hone my ability to communicate to a very diverse audience.

TECHNOLOGY GUIDED MY CAREER PATH IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS. The digital disruption created opportunity and saw me move from EMI to Warner Music to run their European digital business, e-commerce and digital marketing teams.

A few years later, my career was punctuated with another call from a head hunter – this time to ask if I had any interest in running Abbey Road Studios. That is not a job offer you turn down!

MY CAREER HIGHLIGHT IS BEING THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS. I’m particularly proud of how we have celebrated the heritage of the Studios whilst investing for the future by expanding the appeal and approachability of this much-loved and revered brand to music fans, artists and music makers around the world.

BEING CLOSE TO THE CREATIVE PROCESS HAS ENHANCED MY RESPECT FOR THE MUSIC WRITING, CREATION AND PRODUCTION PROCESS. I’ve had countless goosebump moments, whether from a full orchestra in Studio 1 playing beautiful film scores, an artist writing session, an unexpected collaboration, or a playback of a new album. Each artist is unique, their talent incredible and completely inspirational.

MY CAREER IN MUSIC HAS BEEN FOCUSED AROUND IMPLEMENTING CHANGE. Whether in digital or expanding a studio, the toughest part of the journey has been winning hearts and minds. Creating a vision on PowerPoint is not the same as convincing your team to come on board and deliver the change.

Abbey Road, in particular, hadn’t experienced the pace of change before, so gaining the team’s trust and backing was a challenge.

ABBEY ROAD IS THE MOST FAMOUS RECORDING STUDIO IN THE WORLD. It has amazingly strong brand recognition worldwide, but that had not been leveraged much before my arrival. My remit was to ensure the core business was fit for purpose for the future and to expand the brand beyond the walls of the studios.

I worked with the team to create a vision, and then implemented the largest investment in the studios and business expansion since it opened in 1931.

IN THE PAST 20 YEARS, I HAVE LEARNED MANY IMPORTANT LESSONS. The most important are, in no particular order, be yourself, breathe energy into everything you do, and surround yourself with talented people.

Things will go wrong – learn quickly and move on. Seek advice and find people who will mentor you and help champion your career.

I HAVE TO BE DISCIPLINED ABOUT CARVING OUT TIME FOR THE KIDS. I make sure every play and sports day is in my diary well in advance, and I try to leave work on time every day to catch up on their day before they go to bed.

It’s a delicate balance, and from my experience, something that women feel more acutely than men. There is no “perfect” solution – everyone has to find a system and rhythm that works for them. I love my job, and that makes the compromises easier.

THERE ARE SO MANY GREAT BEATLES SONGS. If I were to choose a favourite, I’d have to go with one from the Abbey Road album – obviously! – so, “Come Together”.


This article originally appeared in the October issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now.

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