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Women in Music: An interview with Lorraine Long, Founder of Longevity PR

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** The National Student's 'Women in Music' content series makes space for the incredible, important women that work behind the scenes in some of the toughest and most rewarding roles in the industry. To celebrate International Women's Day, we're hearing their stories. **

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We spoke to Founder and Head of Longevity PR, Lorraine Long, who reflects on the changing dynamics of the music industry, the ‘pinch me’ moments of her career, and the importance of unity in the face of tragedy.

Image courtesy of Lorraine Long

The music industry has had a big shakeup, even in the short decade of Lorraine’s own career. Originally studying a Hospitality Management degree in Dublin, Lorraine expresses that “three years into that, I kind of realised that burning desire since I was a teenager to work in music wasn’t going away.” Her voracious hunger for music meant she propelled herself into work experience, going through the right of passage as “general dogsbody” at a friend of a friend’s indie label. Coincidentally this is where she met with the opportunity of a lifetime - the offer of a junior PR assistant. Aphorisms sound cheesy, but as Lorraine expresses “As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Networking and persistence is key to breaking through the seemingly double-glazed glass ceiling.

“I knew it was an opportunity I’d always regret if I didn’t take it." Lorraine reflects, "It was such a big jump, but I guess I had the safety of previously having a degree, and having a lot of experience in another area that I could always go back to. So I kind of had that safety net, [...] but I knew that if I didn’t go, if I didn’t give it a try, it’d always be a what if scenario.”

After dedicating 8 years of her career to working at Charm factory PR, she utilised the knowledge from her business degree to found Longevity PR. Longevity boasts an impressive, diverse roster, varying from Britpop icons Oasis, to rising Liverpool psych-outfit She Drew The Gun. Cannoning yourself into a new business can be a risky next-step, but Lorraine’s marriage of education and industry experience provided her with the acute knowledge of both the logistical and creative side of the business.

“That was the main thing really, in terms of a new challenge. But at the same time I retained the artists that I worked over multiple years with, so actually retaining the roster I had a well was a big thing for me. You know, you become very attached, to things that you’ve worked on for such a long time, and I wanted to continue with those relationships and helping to build those careers..”

Imagine the two-dimensional posters that adorned your walls as a teenager, later in your career materialised in three dimensions? And then you became a major component at the helm of their continuing popularity - this is Lorraine’s reality. Lorraine's campaign on Oasis’ Be Here Now album reissue helped it land NME’s re-issue of the year award 2017, “Working on that record was one of those kind of ‘pinch me’ moments [...] I would never have believed that that would have happened. That the person who I had adorning my walls with posters, is someone that I’m working with.“

It’s well versed that the PR industry is largely dominated by females, meaning that Lorraine is “very fortunate to probably never have experienced any inequality in terms of (her) career”. Yet, the reality in other branches of the industry is not so pragmatic. Though the proportion of women in the music industry rose from 45.3% in 2016 to 49.1% in 2018, there is a noticeable lack of women in positions at the top of the hierarchy, in CEO positions.

Lorraine also spoke about female artists, and how “the industry almost thinks of female artists as a genre, rather than them just being artists”. In a perfect utopia, it would come to the point “where it’s not even a conversation point”. Longevity ethos is purely based on a passion for the music it represents, rather than positively discriminating in order to gain a wider cross-section of inclusivity; “I’ve always been fortunate to have a varied roster, so everything from absolute brand new artists to living legends.  I personally, as a woman, would always want to be representing interesting talented female artists, as much as male - and for me, to be honest - the only thing that’s important is the music.”

Various groups, such as Women In Music, have drawn attention to the lack of diversity in particular aspects of the sector, with the PRS foundation pledging to inject more funding into female musicians in 2017. Lorraine notes that the misconception that this isolate male musicians, is damaging as “All feminism is about fighting equality - and it’s not about women wanting to be more elevated than men - but actually just to be viewed as equal, and I think that’s really important”.

Longevity has a wealth of successful campaigns over the years; from the contribution to the meteor rise of acts like Rag N Bone man to the NHS’ Date 2 Donate Campaign. You’ve heard of the Stand Up To Cancer gigs, right? What you may not know is that Lorraine was the brains behind the operation. Boasting line ups over the years including Lewis Capaldi, Laura Mvula and Jamie Lawson, it showcases the binding unity that music can bring in the face of tragedy; “it just seems that no one will go untouched in one way or another”. Lorraine tells me the poignant story that inspired the gigs, after one of her own artists Daniel James was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“I kind of watched him go through his treatment for quite intense chemo and become very sick. I think it was sort of New Years Day, and I kind of had that moment, of sort of, I really wanna do something [...] The first conversation I actually had was with Kodaline’s manager, and I told him the concept of what I wanted to do and he just straight away said “Yes, absolutely, they’d love to do it”.

From that she worked with a connection in Kilimanjaro (the live promotion company), and after a chance meeting with a representative at a press event, the Stand Up To Cancer charity. Tragically, Lorraine’s father died of the very thing she was fundraising for in 2017, but this made the motivation behind the event all the more intimate to her. “Potentially it’s going to save your life, my life, somebody else’s life in the future by finding new cures [..] that’s what Stand Up To Cancer do [...] find new treatments and new cures, and so hopefully even if you do get cancer you’ll actually survive.”

Music is a universal unifier and can inspire many young people to want to perservere and break into the industry themselves. So what’s the advice that Lorraine would give? “The advice I always give to people in general is like, don’t be a dick...you might think 'oh they’re just a junior or whatever', but I’m telling you that person, give them five years, they’ll probably be running the label that you’re working on.”

Lorraine is a shining example of how perseverance, passion and tenacity can lead to success in a difficult industry. 




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