Aifric Lennon works at MassiveMusic, one of the leading creative music agencies in the world, as project manager and Music & Mind researcher. Despite her background in biomedical science, she said goodbye to the medical lab to pursue a career in music. Known amongst the crew as ‘Mind-Reader’, Aifric works on Music x Mind, an initiative by MassiveMusic that focuses on the connection between music and mental wellbeing. She also works on developing sonic branding identities for a wide range of national and international brands in the advertising, broadcast and interactive worlds. You would never guess, since she’s a fan of electronic music, but Aifric is also a classically trained violinist and can be found singing Irish folk songs at a good pub music session.
Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
I am a project manager and Music & Mind researcher for creative music agency MassiveMusic. I’m based in London, one of the six cities where MassiveMusic is present. From Galway, Ireland, I had originally pursued a career in medical science, studying Human Health and Disease in Dublin. However, music has always been a true passion of mine, and I wanted to find a way to somehow combine my scientific background with my love for music.
Having opted for a slight career change in 2016, I secured a place at Goldsmiths University to complete an MSc in Music, Mind & Brain – granted it was an unorthodox decision but it turned out to be the right one as it proved to be the foundation of my career within the music industry. I’m definitely not related to any former Beatles members but with a surname like mine, I guess I couldn’t help but end up doing what I do!
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
My role within MassiveMusic, much like many of my colleagues, is a multi-faceted one. On the one hand, I am a sonic branding project manager. I work with global brands to bring their sonic identities to life, something that is really taking hold, with more and more brands recognising the power of music when it comes to customer engagement and recall. Our global client base ranges from sectors such as technology, telco and sports to finance, transport and architecture.
If I have any spare time, I lead our Music x Mind initiative which works to better understand how the connection between music and emotion can leverage brands through sound, as well as improve mental wellbeing.
What’s great about your job?
Every day is different. Even though my position is at account/project management level, as a team we all have a part to play in what happens creatively, which is exciting and inspiring - not to mention that being surrounded by creative and ambitious people plays a big role too.
Each project is completely different from the next. On a Monday we could be working on an orchestral sonic brand for a cultural centre, and by Friday we’re producing a beat-driven electronic piece for a sports brand. I also happen to love people, which helps when I’m interacting with so many different clients and partners every day. It’s always inspiring to work with visual branding agency partners; when we can marry a sonic identity to a beautifully crafted visual brand, that’s when the magic happens.
What are the bits you find challenging?
As a small company, we are given huge autonomy in our roles. Most days I wake up slightly terrified and ferociously excited all at the same time; it’s an amazing feeling, and it makes me feel alive. There is no one in the company whose role isn’t of the utmost importance to the day-to-day operations of MassiveMusic, meaning all inputs are valued and required.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Mindscape is a big highlight: it’s a mental health app that combines voice-technology, AI and neuroscience-based music therapy. Working on a project that contributes to improving people’s lives is really important to me. Given my background and the masters I studied, this was the type of project I wanted to work on when I first made the move into music, but at that time it was just a dream and not something I actually thought would happen just two years into my career.
I was shocked when we made it to BBC World News - that was an incredible experience! I couldn’t believe I had to speak in front of millions of viewers - but hey, now I can look back and be proud of it. It was my ultimate goal to feel as though I am making a difference to people’s lives and I am thrilled I have been able to go some of the way to fulfilling this with MassiveMusic.
Another standout moment would have to be when we won the Transform Middle East Best Sonic Branding Award in 2018 for our work on Ithra, an architectural marvel situated in the middle of the desert near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. This was a huge honour, not just for me but for the whole team as it really highlighted the work we do on a daily basis and just how unique our approach is – given that we created the sounds of this identity using the very building of one of Saudi Arabia’s culture hubs.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
To some extent, there was no career path for me. And I guess that is the beauty of it sometimes. I would say I am an example of someone who has not set out a traditional pathway to my dream job.
There was no position advertised for my role at MassiveMusic. I secured my role by putting myself out there and asking the question, which I think says a lot about how you progress in this industry. In saying that, I have always dreamt of working in music, and taking the step to move to London and pursue the music masters was the first milestone to eventually reaching where I am today.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
The most challenging times are always leading up to presenting original demos to our clients. When we have to go away and start creating original music, there is always a huge pressure on the team to make sure we are meeting the right needs and requirements of the client. There is a lot of pressure in getting to know a brand so in depth, and then creating music that represents who they are at their core. At times that can be quite daunting, but the process is also thrilling and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
Definitely. Sonic branding is undergoing something of a renaissance right now. We have seen a massive uptake in the types of clients approaching us to produce a sonic brand for them. When I started, we were more focused on music for advertising, and sonic branding was definitely seen as more niche. That has very much flipped on its head now, and I think this is partly due to the rise of the screenless age, with increased demand for audio cut-through as a result of the rise of podcasts and voice assistants. It is such a growth industry, it is vital that the world’s biggest brands are thinking about how they sound as well as how they look.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
I would say that you don’t need to know what you want to be right now. You don’t need to choose your path yet, there is more out there than traditional careers that are put in front of us. If you are passionate about something, put the work in, be brave, take risks and you will get to where you want to be. Also, don’t try and grow up too fast. I’m still coming to terms with being an adult at 28!
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Talk to people where you can. Immerse yourself in the area, do you research and find out exactly what interests you in the space. Is it sonic branding specifically? Or is there a wider area you would like to explore?
Upskill on as much as you can - make yourself indispensable within the industry that interests you. Most importantly, always be open, reach out to people where you can – you might not always get a response but sometimes you will, and it just might land you your dream job.