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TSF 8: Emma Banks – Music Agent at Creative Artists Agency

Emma Banks is a music agent at Creative Artists Agency in London. Emma’s roster includes Florence and the Machine, Bruno Mars, Arcade Fire and System of A Down to name a few.

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 What lessons has your work life taught you?
My work life probably teaches me more about existence every day than academic teaching taught me over 18 years! I have learned that you get further being pleasant, polite and honest than you do if you are obnoxious, rude and underhand. I have learned that everyone is terrified of failure, everyone wants to be loved and that being a musician is a terrifying prospect if you want a regular routine. Working hard pays off but it’s not always the case that the best man/woman wins. 

Favourite book?
The Secret History, Donna Tartt.

What qualifications do you need in your industry? 
Nothing academic – I would say as many people have left school early as have been to University. I did a Food Science degree at University – the subject doesn’t help me in my daily work life but I would not have entered the music industry had I not gone there in the first place! That’s when I got the music business bug!

 Best beauty buys?
Hourglass eyeliner and mascara, Pureology conditioner, Institut Esthederm sunscreen (seriously the most amazing stuff I have every bought).

 What’s your daily uniform?
Skirt or dress, flat sandals or biker boots. Always some jewellery and perfume.

 What are you most proud of?
Running a successful office with happy (most of the time!) staff. Also my work with Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy as chair of the Silver Clef Lunch and awards which raised £750,000 this year. 

What should someone expect to earn in your field?
From zero to infinity (not quite but almost). I had many many years where I earned next to nothing but after 25 years of hard graft I do pretty well. 

Make up your ultimate ‘super band’…
This is really tough indeed. I am going to pick people that I don’t work with as it’s impossible to pick from CAA clients. So let’s have Ginger Baker on drums, Tina Weymouth on bass, Elton John on Keys, Jimmy Page on guitar and then Jeff Buckley on vocals. Not sure what they are going to play but individually they are/were all amazing! 

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?
I am going with Amy Schumer not because she looks anything like me but because I like her attitude, I like her comedy and maybe I can go and visit her on set. Second choice is Melissa McCarthy as she has already played me in a video (long story!) and she was brilliant. 

What’s your fail-safe impressive dinner menu?
Roast chicken, lemon tart or a chocolate desert. 

What are your ‘on duty’ and ‘off duty’ looks?
I don’t change that much between on and off duty. Smart means putting on some extra make up and probably more black clothes! I naturally need to be relatively ‘pulled together’ whatever I am doing, I can’t carry off ‘laid back’ without looking like I have been sleeping rough for a month.

 Best way to wind down?
Hanging out with friends and family. Having a massage and a good yoga class.

 Favourite city in the UK and why (excluding London)?
Cambridge – beautiful city, happy memories of growing up and visiting my grandmother. 

Top tip for talking about pay at work?
Not sure that anyone should talk about pay at work unless you are negotiating your salary. In which case be realistic about what is feasible and what the business can pay you. Make sure you have back up if you are telling someone what you are worth – can you justify it? Don’t get embarrassed about it, Men don’t! And realise that sometimes you have to leave where you are and take another job to jump up the ladder. Loyalty is great (and I have changed job once!) but make sure you are rewarded fairly as loyalty works both ways. 

Most embarrassing item in your wardrobe?
They have all gone – I am pretty brutal about clearing out disasters. 

Favourite drink discovery?
Vanilla Roibos tea. I gave up caffeine a few years ago and so am working my way through various herbal infusions! I also had a very lovely drink called a VIP Mojito when I was in Budapest last week – it was a passionfruit mojito with champage and was delicious. I suspect I will never have it again sadly. 

Home is…?
Home is Clapham in London but I probably am most relaxed when I am in Bedfordshire at my parent’s house where I grew up. I still have my room! 

Music I’m listening to?
So much! As I am answering these questions I am listening to a fabulous artist called Gabriel Bruce who is a client and a real talent, he’s about to release some new material. I am really lucky to work with a fantastic roster of artists and as I am emotionally invested in them I love listening to their music. And then a bit of Tom Waits as well!

The book you most enjoyed reading?
Hard to answer as would probably be my favourite book, question already answered. 

Who do you wake up to?
The sound of the street outside my window. And then a bit of BBC breakfast TV until I am in my car when it’s Radio 4.

 What would you delete from your CV?
I have done the same thing all my working life apart from when I was looking for the elusive music industry job and worked at a landscape gardening company for 6 months. If I deleted anything there would be a massive gap – I did 16 years at one company and am almost 9 years in at CAA! 

Most treasured trinket?
Not sure I am a trinket person. 

Has anyone left you star struck?
I was two years into being an agent and was working with U2 – there was a moment when I was on a small boat in Positano Bay with Bono who was singing sea shanties to me – I had a bit of a moment! Three years earlier I had been lining up to buy tickets to see him perform and there I was and he knew my name!!! 

Who should feature next as a Three Six Fiver?
Mary Portas and Melanie Rickie. I met Mary and her now wife Melanie on holiday many years ago and it was a holiday romance that lasted. They are the most fabulous women – brilliant to hang out with, smart, funny, empathetic and making waves with whatever they do.

  What should people look out for? 
Nordoff Robbins