Behind the Band started as a list of people who have greatly impacted our experiences within the music industry as professionals, but more importantly as fans of music. It started as three names on a piece of paper; three people that made such a positive impact, we wanted to create an entire segment to focus on all the others and find out their stories.
Ian Coulson was one of those first three names that found themselves scribbled on a sticky note stuck to the wall by my desk. After countless shows worth of witnessing him do his job as a photographer, but also stepping in as security when needed or standing up for someone who is receiving unfair treatment, it became clear that he was someone who was going to do what it takes to make sure each show goes off as best as humanly possible. Not only that, but the same energy carries onto his social media presence and one-on-one interactions with people.
Which is the entire point of this segment: highlighting those exceptional humans who go above and beyond while hiding in the shadows of those on the stage. This week, we sat down for an insightful chat with Ian Coulson and we couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful to be able to take a moment to bring him into the spotlight!
First, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We’re really excited about it. We want to take some time to focus on YOU, so let’s start with an introduction. Can you tell us about you and your start within the industry and what you currently do?
Thank YOU! Absolutely, so, I’m a full-time film-maker and photographer working predominantly in the music sector. Being completely honest, I sort of fell into doing live music content, I’d always been involved in the music scene, growing up being in bands and such. I think I’d been working full-time as a filmmaker for a couple of years before I went on my first tour. Friends of mine in a band called As It Is asked if I wanted to go out to Europe on their headline tour. I’d known the guys for years, having shot their first-ever promo photos and first music video so I readily accepted and so it began!
Are you currently working with mainly one band/musician or do you tend to spread your time out between multiple?
I tend to work with a fairly large array of artists, though some more regularly than others. I still tour with As It Is for example, and tend to go pretty much everywhere with them! But then I spend a lot of my time shooting one-off shows for management/labels as well as touring with other artists as well!
“[U]ltimately as crew, it IS within your responsibility to make sure that the show happens safely.”
Image: Corinne Cummings
What is the best industry-related advice you’ve been given and who gave it to you?
Don’t be bitter, be better. I can’t actually remember who first said it to me, but it’s a mantra I hold onto and try to pass on to as many people as I can. It’s so easy in the age of social media to see everyone else “succeeding” whilst it feels like you’re floundering. The two most important things to remember are a) No one is doing as well across the board as you probably think they are and b) You want those jobs that you see other people getting? Be better. Practice harder. Network more effectively. Try new things. Push your boundaries!
Alternatively, what is a different piece of advice you’d give to someone who is looking to pursue the same career as you?
Networking is just as important if not more so than creativity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s SO important to be at the top of your game with what you’re producing, but some people don’t put the same effort into networking as they do into creating and it’s honestly just shooting yourself in the foot. The beautiful thing is, there are SO many different ways to network, you don’t have to be this crazy outgoing life and soul of the party type person, some people far prefer a quiet one on one conversation and there’s so much networking you can do from the comfort of your own home now via social media! Bottom line, you can always be doing more.
However, this does come with [a] caveat and one that I’ve had to learn the hard way, that your mental wellbeing must ALWAYS come first. You can’t work effectively if you’re burnt out and in a bad place in your head, it just won’t work. Grinding is important, but not at the risk of your sanity. Sure, utilising self-care may mean it takes you a bit longer to get to where you want to, but it at least means that you’ll get there in one piece.
“[T]he show would definitely happen without me, you just might not have any proof…”
If there was a lack of people in your position, or the position did not exist at all, what do you think the industry would look like and how do you think it would function?
Ooh that’s a really interesting question! It’s hard to imagine, because social media is so prevalent and important in the music industry now but i think because getting to create freely and travel is such an enticing prospect to so many people there would always be people willing to fill that space. That being said I think the way artists social media is run would be totally different without content creators and less value would be put on it to some degree. But like I say, with how important socials are now, it’s very difficult to imagine!
Outside of your official job title and description, what are some other things you’ve branched out and started doing for the bands you work with?
In the early days, I’d occasionally sell merch or even drive the van but I think the big one is just taking over the artist’s socials and ultimately crafting their brand identity, which is so important nowadays. That’s honestly one of my favorite pets of the job, getting to experiment with new ideas with new artists but also changing and adapting your style to work with an artist’s already established brand.
“Grinding is important, but not at the risk of your sanity.”
What is the craziest thing you’ve done while working with a band that doesn’t fit within your job description?
Haha, I’ve stepped in as security a LOT. There’s been a good number of small undersell tours I’ve done where there’s been no barrier and no/useless security where I’ve spent half my night taking photos and half my night catching crowd surfers and handing out water/making sure everyone’s safe! It’s not in my job description for sure but ultimately as crew, it IS within your responsibility to make sure that the show happens safely.
Has there been a solid moment in your career where you fully realized how important your position is and what impact you have on the consumers and fans of a musician or band?
I’ve had multiple messages and conversations over the years with people who have expressly thanked me for what I do for a multitude of reasons but the one that will always stick with me was someone on a US tour I did this year who came up to me after the show to thank me for enabling them to remember the night as they had various conditions that meant they’d often forget whole chunks of time or things could become a real blur. That genuinely choked me up a bit and made me realize how important these memories are to people.
“You can’t work effectively if you’re burnt out and in a bad place in your head…”
Finally, as we’ve said, bands create ripples of all sizes and we’re truly fascinated by it. However, we all know they couldn’t do it alone and we’ve loved focusing on you and how you’ve impacted our experience as consumers and fans of music. Can you shoutout two or three people who are also part of the behind the scenes that you think deserve more recognition?
Honestly, every single crew member deserves more recognition, from tour managers to Sound Guys to LDs to Merch people to techs and everyone else who makes the show happen, it literally wouldn’t exist without them. In that sense, in some ways my job is one of the most dispensable because the show would definitely happen without me, you just might not have any proof haha!
“Don’t be bitter, be better.”
Image: Matty Vogel
Do you know someone in the industry who deserves recognition and you think would like to chat with us? You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Behind the Band” or send us a tweet @TheHoneyPop!
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Interested in finding out more about what happens Behind the Band? You can check out our entire segment here!
Internal Article Concert Images: Courtesy of Ian Coulson
Featured Image Source: Andreea Farcas for TheHoneyPOP.com