top of page

Creative Consultant in the Music Industry Part 1 - Careers Behind the Curtain

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

This is the first of a new series ‘Careers behind the curtain’ where we interview people from different creative industries to bring an awareness and understanding of their role and the endless roles that exist out there.

This one’s exciting because it’s our first dive into the music industry with our first guest of the series, Thelma Sibusisiwe Khupe.

By the age of 23 Thelma has worked with major record labels like Universal and Warner music, (the labels of Justin Bieber, Elton John, Beyonce and more), working across artists from the likes of Bree Runway to Welsh legend Tom Jones, attending globally renowned award shows such as The Brit Awards and now venturing into the world of CEO after starting her own production company.

She gives us her career journey from her start in PR and music journalism to creative consultancy and video.

We explore creative consultancy in the music industry, the misconception that you need to have a background or talent in music to succeed and the benefit and importance to trying out different roles early in your career.

This is a long one, but filled with truths and insight, that was too good to cut down, so I've separated it into 2 parts.

Part 1 is about Thelma’s journey into the music industry and part 2 is all about how you can get there.

Part 1: Thelma’s journey into music

Selina: Let's start here, can you give us the down low on your job role and what it is you do?

Thelma: There’s a glass celling Kanye West talks about which looms over creatives and stops us from achieving our infinite potential. So when I talk about what I do, I don't want to be put into one box. Like, ‘oh she’s a video director’ or ‘she’s a producer’ or ‘she’s a creative director’.

I’m a multifaceted creative with a unique perception and way of moving through the world, and that's my superpower. Think of me as a younger, hotter Donald Glover.

I recently launched my production company (Home is where da art is) which has been in the works for a while now. I have an amazing team, working with creatives all across the country.

I’ve just wrapped up my first couple of videos which I’m really excited about! I’m excited about the next few projects with artists both in the UK and internationally, and to put my art out into the world.

Aside from video I’m also a creative consultant. I do what I need to get the job done which often means a bit of everything. I consult, strategise, commission, produce and sometimes design. Creative consultancy is the overarching term, but there's so much more to it and the duties change depending on the artist, team or location.

I work closely with labels & artists on creative projects from the early stages of ideating a concept, all the way through to producing and executing the project. That could be music videos, cover art, roll outs, activations and I get to work with a spectrum of creatives like stylists, videographers, 3D animators.

I start by creating a brief (if one hasn't already been given) , and then once approved I orchestrate the project. I’m usually the person that sources and brings together talent to produce amazing pieces of work. For example, if there’s a cover art needed I’ll work to establish a concept / vision then I’ll find the right photographer that matches the vibe and then bring together a stylist, MUA, editor and so on.

Selina: Can you give an example of a project that you've worked on this year?

Thelma: I just finished a music video for Welsh rapper Juice Menace, the first of a few videos I’ve done to come in the next couple of months. This was a crazy project because I played the role of director and producer so the workload was double (as was the stress). But it turned out amazing.

Everything I know about video I learned when I was an intern at universal. One of my first big video shoots was with Bree Runway for her song ‘Pressure’. Around 5pm the night before the shoot, I was told to sort out and get 4 sets of nails that visually aligned with the shoot. Call time was for 8:00 AM and it was so chaotic. Like, who’s gonna do that at such short notice on a low budget?

I remembered a girl I’d met on a prior shoot who mentioned in passing that she did nails. So I messaged her on a whim and she said yes. I sent her the brief and she managed to do them in 4 hours. Then at 12:45am trekked from North to south London to collect them. That was my first insight into how the fast paced and intense the music industry could be.

I was on so many cool, big budget sets while I was there and I worked under a guy called James Hackett who was the video commissioner at the time. James is like an industry legend, I learned so much from him about the process of video and production not knowing that a couple years later I’d be running my own production company directing my own videos.

I think the coolest one was while I was at EMI. Earlier this year I played a part in the music video for A1&J1's 'Dance' featuring Tion Wayne which has since accumulated over 7 million views on YouTube! And it was cool to have been a part of a UK top 20 single!

One of my claims to fame was teaching Tom Jones how to create Tik Toks on a content day for his Christmas release back when I worked at Universal.

He doesn't have a smartphone, he just has a brick phone, so we had to film all the content on my phone - it was actually really funny.

Selina: You’ve been crazy successful at the age of 23, can you tell me your journey to how you got to this point in your career?

Thelma: I’m sure it looks like that and I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved so far but I’ve failed a lot too & I’ve still got a long, long way to go.

I realise now, I was never an academic person. I failed my A levels and coasted through my GCSE’s, but I've always been creative at heart I just never tapped into it. I ended up doing an English language and linguistics degree in London (an offer I got through clearing, literally no university wanted me), that I simply didn’t care about. Looking back though, I was investing in my career early on without realising it.

When everyone else was going to lectures and doing assignments, I was skipping all of that to build up as much practical, music industry experience as possible.

I started my own blog called Juice, where I was writing opinion pieces on the state of the UK music scene at the time before I got my first proper job in the music scene at LinkupTV. I emailed their Senior editor and I basically asked for the job and she was like, ‘yeah, sure’. I loved being at Linkup and was excited about the responsibility.

One of my proudest moments at Linkup was when Drake and Headie One dropped their collab, which at the time was a huge deal because Headie One wasn't that established yet.

No one knew about the release, it was super low key. I was told it was dropping at 7 and waited for the clocks to go by feeling giddy that I knew something everyone in the country didn’t. It got to 6:58 and I was a bit sweaty. 6:59. Boom.

We were the first out of the three major platforms to have covered the release and it was my name on the tagline.

I sat back and read it over and over again like ‘wow, I just broke like the biggest UK rap story of the year.’

After that I really wanted to expand my roster so I reached out to a magazine called New Wave. And that’s when I started working more closely artists, interviewing artists like K Trap, Lava La rue, Darkoo, Big Zuu. My proudest moment was bagging the Flo Milli interview, considering she was an emerging, international artist.

I was also doing creative stuff for underground rap artists in London, making cool PR boxes and care packages, writing press kits and all sorts. From this I was approached by a small agency to be music publicist for their roster. Decided I actually didn’t wanna do music PR anymore and then started at GB Records, which was a small indie label who at the time mostly had drill artists. And after then that's when I was like, okay, I'm ready for the big leagues now.

Before I got my internship at Universal, I'd applied like more than 20 times.
I wasn't just sending in an application; I was doing personalised cover letters and cool designed CVs and I got rejected for every single one.

I applied for PR, for marketing, for legal, for streaming, for commerce, I applied for all of them, and didn’t get any.

I knew I needed to be brave and think outside of the box, so I did my CV on TikTok and sent it to the creative director at EMI and she loved it.

It fast tracked my application and I got the job 3 days after my interview. There’s usually 2 stages to the universal interview process and they were so impressed I skipped the second stage.

I was at EMI for 12 months and that’s where I began to fully understand the creative side of record labels. I worked under Dinushi Perera who is the creative director of the label who taught me so much about what it takes to be a creative, ways of thinking outside the box and a lot about the importance of tech in music. She was like my mentor and helped me find myself as a creative.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2!!! Thelma's advice to young people who might want to explore the music industry

220 views1 comment

1 Comment

From crafting strategies to nurturing artistic visions, these creative consultants play a pivotal role in the industry's evolution. Excited to explore the nuances and insights that go beyond the spotlight. In order to increase the popularity of your songs, you can buy spotify saves:

bottom of page