Meet Claire Murphy who is a guitar technician in the music industry and is working hard behind the scenes to diversify it.
|Current job role||Guitar Tech for Vance Joy|
|Year of graduation||2000|
|Course of study||BSc Hons in Digital Technology (Music Technology)|
We recently caught up with Claire to find out more about her industry, how COVID-19 has affected it and how she is working hard to make it a much more diverse place.
Claire takes up her story, 'I am currently a freelance guitar tech on tour with the artist Vance Joy and live in the United States. I worked in various guitar shops and studios until I was given a chance to go on tour as a "roadie". Shortly after that opportunity I decided to set up my own limited company in the UK renting tour vans to bands and providing storage cages for their equipment.'
'I knew I wanted to go on tour or be in music in some capacity when I chose Music Technology for my degree. The University of Hertfordshire was one of only a few universities at the time offering such a course. I also chose it for its proximity to London as the location was just perfect for being able to see more shows and to network.'
'The internet was relatively new so there wasn’t much help regarding finding connections or gathering information about roles on tour.'
Hugely competitive industry
The music industry has always been a competitive place both on and off stage so what first drew Claire to it?
'I have always loved live music. My parents took me to my first concert when I was very young, it was either Kylie or BROS. It was so exciting! I remember the energy from the crowd, it was mesmerising.'
'I went to a lot of concerts through my teens and I was always fascinated with the crew members on stage and their role in the show. It was so mysterious and captivating, mainly because I didn’t know anyone with a job on tour and I had no idea how to begin to get into it.'.
'Getting a foot in the door'
The industry is very male orientated so how easy was it for Claire to break into it and be taken seriously?
'I found it extremely difficult to get my foot in the door and it took many years before I eventually found my mentor at a rehearsal studio in London. I have definitely faced challenges being a woman in the industry which is why I work so hard today to help other women who are trying to get into touring. Perseverance and patience are key with such a niche job, but it is all worth it!'
Claire has worked with some huge names all over the world but her career highlights have come closer to home, 'The band I currently work for (pre COVID) is Vance Joy and we supported P!nk on her European tour in 2019. One of those shows was at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales - my hometown! My parents came to the show and it was a very proud moment for me!
There is no bigger venue to play, and I have seen many, many rugby matches there so it was very special. I walked 13 miles that day inside the stadium. I couldn’t contain my excitement and had to see every corner of the place!'.
Claire is very keen to see the industry become a much more diverse place and is working hard towards this goal. She says, 'It is better than it used to be but there is still a long way to go. I believe a big part of it is exposure. If you don’t see people like you doing the job, you don’t know that it might be something you could do. If a young girl sees me handing her idol a guitar, she realises that she too could do that.'
'There are now so many resources on the internet and ways to connect with people who have these careers, that I think it is more accessible than ever. We still need to push for diversity which is why I work closely with an organisation called Soundgirls and also Diversify the Stage with Noelle Scaggs from Fitz And The Tantrums. Both fantastic organisations promoting women and women of colour within music.'
COVID-19 and the music industry
When it comes to the subject of the COVID-19 pandemic Claire has seen some major changes but sees hope for the future as the world re-opens. 'The industry has all but collapsed. It’s quite unbelievable. My last tour was November 2019, isn’t that crazy! I was pretty optimistic in the beginning that we would just pick back up where we left off once we started rolling again, but I can’t imagine that it will be exactly the same as it was before, after this long of a shutdown. Venues have closed, people have changed careers, tours will have budgets slashed.'
'I hope there will be a massive appetite for live music once we get the vaccine fully rolled out and everyone in the industry can get back on their feet. It’s going to take quite a while before we’re back to some sense of normalcy.'
When it comes to the future of the industry Claire has a very clear vision of what she wants, 'I’d like to see more women on the road. I’d like to walk into a venue and see more of a balance instead of every position being filled by a male. Same for festivals. It’s getting there but we definitely have more work to do.'
'We need to educate girls in school that these are viable careers where you can make six figures just like an accountant and you can have a retirement plan just like a regular job. All that being said, the future is definitely bright!'