FOOT IN THE DOOR: Matt Hogarth

I have always assumed that the arts industry is a melting pot for creative minds. A space to come together and make music, art and all things good for the soul. Whilst this conjecture may be true, the youthful ignorance of my university days has since been wiped away by the grit of everyday life. ‘Foot In The Door’ is my way of addressing this problem that has occurred since leaving education. An issue that many people; young, old and inbetweeny have, surrounding their curiosities for a career in the arts industry and how like-minded people have ventured successfully into a world which can often seem ambitious yet inaccessible, and sometimes even unkind. 

This feature interviews industry professionals, and explores their roles and lives whilst working in the industry. Who are these people behind the scenes and why do we never truly get to know who they are or how have they arrived at where they  are now? Through this series, Melodic Distraction hopes to offer a platform that helps inform and educate people who are interested in delving into the arts industry, and for those who are not, this is a platform to tend to your curiosities. 

My second guest is self professed ‘music nerd’, artist liaison for Sentric Music and Eggy Records indie boy Matt ‘Hoggy’ Hogarth. I’d never met Matt before and had only known of him through mutual friends. So, as I slumped in my seat, safe from the cold December drizzle, I anticipated what Matt was going to be like. He stumbled in with a nervous pace, soaked from the rain outside. We nodded at one another in recognition of the terrible British weather and he offered me a pint; I knew I was in for a good chat. 

Matt’s career in the music industry has progressed quickly in the six years since dropping out of a Mental Health Nursing Degree. From working unsociable hours on an Eating Disorders Ward to moving back home and now working for an established music publishing company, this was a drastic change in career path. Yet, Matt makes it clear to me that this wasn’t a decision he made lightly and from what we go onto discuss, it was a decision that has proven successful. 

Born and bred in Birkenhead, Matt moved back home in 2015 and made a personal pledge to kick start a career in music journalism. Throwing himself into the role, albeit as an amateur, Matt started “writing on the side”, whilst he worked as a carer; something he had been doing since the age of 16. Writing was somewhat of a new avenue for Matt, bar the English Literature A-Level, which he jokingly tells me is “where my bullshitting skills came from”.

I was curious to understand why Matt wanted to pursue this career path. Frustrated, as if this were how he still felt, Matt tells me how he was totally disillusioned by the then – current music scene. A rye smile appeared on his face; oozing with nostalgia he reminisces about a specific ‘Sex Dream’ gig in Maguires Basement. “It was dead loud and stank of skunk”, a combination not too dissimilar to how it is now, but he expresses that this was his first taste of the new Liverpool music buzz.

From then, Matt worked mainly on album reviews and many a gig review, taking his first steps into the world of music journalism. He admits his first reviews were “really bad” but agreed with me that everyone has to start somewhere. It seems that Matt’s passion for music was the main driving force in his progression. After reaching out to Liverpool based creative and culture Magazine Bido Lito, with his portfolio of reviews and writing pieces, Matt was given the opportunity to write for them on a regular voluntary basis. He tells me this was a defining moment, as it gave him the opportunity to learn how to “get a  grip on everything” and helped him to “develop his writing style and writing skill”. Matt explained how this was necessary for putting “parameters and guides” on his writing, something that he had not had experience with since the English literature ‘fluff’ of his A-level days. 

After a great start at Bido, and having been sent to plenty of gigs to write up for their magazine, Matt spied an apprentice role opening at Sentric Music. Matts’ passion for Music was really enforced here as he explained how he spent his birthday locked away in his room writing up the application for this apprentice position. We laughed as he mentioned being slightly overdressed for his interview at Sentric, “I looked like I was going to a funeral, or a hitman or suttin’”. A tell tale sign of an inexperienced interviewee, but it appeared what Matt lacked in corporate dress sense, he made up for in music knowledge and passion, as he successfully bagged the position. 

Sentric is an industry leading and highly regarded Liverpool based music publishing service, started in 2006 by Chris Meehan as a LIPA project that “got out of hand”, Matt says. ‘As a music publisher it is Sentric’s role to collect publishing royalties from their artists by registering the tracks directly with over 120 collection societies globally. On top of this Sentric has a creative team who push for a multitude of different opportunities including live, broadcast, sync and further creative opportunities with no barrier to entry.

Matt’s initial role at Sentric was as a member of the Sync team, working within the UK TV Team, Matt helped to secure placements for artists on the likes of BT and Sky Sports. Sentric is one of the largest independent publishing providers of music to a number of UK TV stations. However, he quickly realised his main love was working with the artists, especially new and upcoming artists. Matt explained to me how “I had a thing where I could tell when artists were going to do well.” A definite skill and one which is crucial in his line of work. I believe that this ability to spot emerging talent derives from Matt’s undeniable passion for music and it is this infectious passion which really struck me from our first ten minutes of conversation. 

Matt laughs as he explained there is a certain “element of winging it in music”, but we agree that this is a certified and timeless life hack, one with a proven track record in getting you some of the way to where you want to be. “You have to put yourself out there and that often means putting yourself in an uncomfortable position to gain experience” he says. Matt’s career progression came from hard work and somewhat of a ‘yes man’ attitude. He made sure to point out that “if you say you’re happy to do this, and show that you’re keen, then doors are more likely to open for you.” I certainly agree with him, however I do feel you need to be wary not to let yourself be taken advantage of just to gain experience.

Alongside working as an apprentice, Matt was also still working as a carer on the side. I respected Matt’s hustle and it’s evident that his hard work pays off. But not everyone is willing to graft as hard as Matt. The lack of money lower down in the industry seems to “wean most of the dickheads out” Matt admits. But I guess this means that if you have the drive to work for free or on an apprentice wage like Matt, then you have the chance to show people you require respect. 

It was true that, alongside writing for Bido, Sentric was Matt’s ‘Foot in the Door’ moment but I wanted to know what Matt had achieved outside of his full time role at Sentric and it’s safe to say he’s been a busy lad. As Co-Founder of Eggy Records, a local indie label and community driven live music platform, Matt and fellow Co-Founder Sam Warren created Eggy to fill the gap of the lacking “coherent guitar scene” in Liverpool. Matt explained that Eggy was as much a “way of creating a community” than anything else. It’s Matt’s honest desire to build this community which I find so endearing. He says how “boss it is to have a load of people in the same place who have the same common interest to try and build something”. This holistic attitude towards the music industry is why we should support independents like Eggy, because they’re more often than not run by good people who are pushing a community driven platform for local artists.

Matts tells me that he knows if an artist is “Eggy or not” which echoes his previous comment regarding scouting talent for Sentric. Working at Sentric had certainly provided Matt with skills to help Eggy Records grow and develop. Eggy landed the opportunity to hold their own BB6 Music Fringe events in 2019, a definite mile stone in their progress, but again it’s Matts inherent ability to ‘wing it’, which lends a certain charm to the creation of these projects.

 A natural progression from Eggy was for Matt to help in setting up a new festival  and this took the form of Future Yard. A two day festival of ‘exceptional and essential national and international artists’ and a celebration of local talent. The idea was birthed from the Wirral New Music Collective, an arts collective that aims to push the cultural future of the Wirral forward. After a very successful set of five gigs called the Live Music Innovation Fund, held across the Wirral with the help of Beautiful Ideas Company and The Wirral Borough Council, the WMNC offered a series of £500 grants for local musicians, promoters and music lovers in the summer of 2018. From here, Bido Lito’s Craig Pennington, Chris Torpey and Harvest Sun’s Tom Lynch who Matt tells me have “done a lot for me since I started at Bido and sort of mentored me and helped me out a lot”, began planning Future Yard. Matts explained how he’d helped set up the festival and that his role was focused mainly on organising local bookings, whilst Tom was in charge of national and international bookings.

Having only had limited experience in booking artists and event management other than with Eggy and a brief spell of artist booking for Liverpool’s Harvest Sun Promotions, the task at hand must have seemed huge. But for Matt and his passion for creating a music scene in the Wirral, the work was worth it and it certainly paid off, as the first Future Yard was a great success, with coverage from the likes of Crack Magazine and DIY Mag. Matt proudly shares his fond memories of the day, describing how amazing it was “to see people walking round the festival with ‘The Future Is Birkenhead’ T-shirts on”. It obviously meant so much to him to have grown up in Birkenhead, disillusioned by a scene he so desperately related to and four years later putting on one of the biggest music events the Wirral has hosted in years. I laughed as I told him it was no mean feat to have achieved, but it wasn’t a joke. What Matt has achieved since leaving University has been brilliant, not only on a personal level, but on a Liverpool/Wirral music community level. 

It was obvious to me that Matt was in the industry for all the right reasons. He exclaimed that “I just love music”, “it’s cliche but that’s what we are in it for, if i wanted shit loads of money I wouldn’t be in music.” Matt is completely accurate in this evaluation of the music industry, especially at the level he is operating at and the best thing is, it does not matter to him, nor should it. He warned me that his job “is stressful and it is a lot of work” and that it’s important that “you don’t stretch yourself too far.” For Matt I am unsure whether he lives by his own mantra as he had explained earlier in our chat that “I literally don’t stop with music, and that’s mainly because if I did stop I’d crash and if I crash, its shit.” But Matt’s heart is in the right place and his blatant love for the scene in Liverpool is palpable.

For Matt, 2020 looks to be a busy year. With Future Yard taking shape for its second year on the bounce and with Eggy continuing to push the Scouse indie scene forward, I know Matt will have his work cut out. Matt also made me aware of Sentric’s new project called ‘The Sentric Fund’. A great opportunity, which offers Sentric artists the chance to apply for up to £1000 to help accelerate their career. All in all, a very progressive year for Matt and the Liverpool music scene.

Matt’s journey from leaving University to becoming a successful events organiser, music journalist and artist liaison is commendable on pretty much every level, but having met Matt, it seemed like if he were to be doing anything else it would be wrong? His passion for music is contagious, as is his personality, so much so that we ventured elsewhere to talk tunes and the Liverpool music scene for another two hours once we were finished with the interview. I’d like to make it clear that Matt had very few, if any, ‘leg ups’ in this progression and it was very much his own hard work that pushed open the doors for him to move forward. I believe that it is Matt’s passion for music which has helped him to generate such a positive career path. Passion isn’t something that can be taught, but it is something that anyone can channel. If you are willing to work hard enough, you can shape that passion into a career.

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