behind the music with sophie k 

Posted: 16 March 2021

We got the chance to speak with presenter, Sophie K from Kerrang! Radio about her many music roles and her journey so far, including the experiences she’s encountered trying to make it in the music industry.

Read time: 10 mins

What does a typical day include for you?

My day is normally all over the shop really! I get up, I've got Kerrang! radio and then a lot of the time I've got work to do for other brands, so outside of lockdown it would normally mean travelling in central London, perhaps having some meetings with PRs and finding out about releases that they've got coming up. It can be really random as a freelancer. Especially because I do videography as well, so one week I might be filming for Live Nation, the next week I might be doing the live show on Absolute Radio! So it's really all over the shop but I guess that's what keeps me interested.

Do you like the idea of being free to jump around or would you prefer a structure?

I feel that I'm quite lucky because I've got a few set jobs in place like Kerrang! and I do voice overs for Hits radio (even though they're not rock). The scariest thing about being freelance is that you don't know where your next pay check is coming from, so it is always good to get those clients who keep you on retainer.

I do like the not knowing though, because it means you get random work and you're like "okay I couldn't even dream about doing this but this is great!" I think if you're not freelance you could get a bit too comfy and it can stop you from growing within your role and I think that's why I've probably worked in so many different places.

Do you feel that being freelance has forced you into learning new skills?

To be honest, I would say just the way I am as a person, forces me to learn new skills. I think my greatest gift is my ability to feel impostor syndrome, which I think a lot of people do, and when you question yourself so much it means you constantly want to improve, and you want to be better. So, I think it's not being freelance but my perfectionism that makes me grow and learn these new skills.

How did you get into presenting?

I started presenting for radio when I was 12. I always knew I wanted to be a presenter but becoming a TV presenter was my goal when I was younger. When I got older and actually started pursuing that career I soon realised that getting into TV was going to be really hard because, nobody wanted me… and then when I first started trying to get into the rock industry the only women that were doing it we're a bit more ‘suicide girl-y’. I didn't want to rely on my sexuality to make it in the industry. I wanted to be known for my presenting.

I wrote to an online radio station and ended up setting up their social media video platform on YouTube. That station was Total Rock, and I helped build their online video profile. It’s only looking back I realise I'm so bad at networking! So, by working hard and doing a good job I got to learn new skills and meet lots of people who would then start recommending me for jobs.

I think with my role it takes so much patience and dedication as you won’t see someone advertising for the job I do. There are very few expectations but, on the whole, most people can't just walk into a job in this industry, so yes, it was a really hard, long slog to get to where I am now. I think in any other industry, you can kind of break into it as a presenter quite young and that's cool, but with rock… it’s not that easy and you have to earn your stripes. There's a certain level of respect the people demand from you.

Do you think that ‘earning your stripes’ is an issue with the music industry in general or is it specific to rock music?

I think it's rock music. There’s a lot of gatekeepers and I think it's because people don’t want rock music evolving. What I've noticed is, people love the music and will work for ages to get a job in the industry and when it happens they’re like 'Finally! I'm here! I don't want some young kid to come and take it away.' Consequently, it means you can get stale people in positions of power, and the music isn't allowed to evolve. In some cases there are people in rock who were doing it in like the 70’s… and I can’t help but think, ‘you shouldn't still be doing this, you should be letting in new people with fresh ideas’.

The problem with rock is that it has to let itself evolve, anything has to evolve to survive and in terms of that, rock is its own worst enemy.

"you must be able to affirm yourself, you must find your tribe within the industry."

Do you think it’s important for rock music to be forced to evolve or do you think it’s something that’ll happen naturally?

I think that rock does need to have that ability to evolve, ultimately evolution is the reason that anything on this planet is alive. So part of what I try to do in my job is I try to introduce that and I'm always trying to bring through people of colour and women because unless we start getting diverse, as an industry we are going to shut ourselves out to a whole generation of people!

The way I always look at it and see it is so many of these new upcoming rock bands are coming from London, and there are as many ethnic minorities as there are white people so why are we not seeing a 50/50 female male split? Why is it not an even split between groups of people? Why is there not more respect for certain groups?

If you take a look at history, black voices are the roots of rock. When you look at metal and how it revived rock, when you look at The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and how they accredit Blues to what they do, they are the biggest rock bands in the world! Why the gatekeepers are so terrified to let other voices in is beyond me!  

Do you think that the fear they have is a personal fear of perhaps losing their jobs or do you think it is that they don’t want the music to change?

I think on one level yes, but I also believe a lot of it is arrogance. I can talk from experience about this and from how I've been treated during my career. I’ve experienced people purposely going out of their way to hold me back, and it's because they knew I was going somewhere but I wasn't doing it at their pace. I was doing it without them, and they didn't like that. I wasn't kissing the ring… I didn't do it then and I won't do it now and, without sounding arrogant, I’ve probably worked with more brands than any of them have and it shows that you shouldn't have to kiss the ring to get ahead in this industry.

Do you feel that working in rock has influenced your love of rock music?

At times it has. I was heavily bullied in one job and everyone was old-school and really into classic rock and so I just went in completely the opposite direction. I was listening to everything modern, stuff that I knew they wouldn’t like. It wasn’t until I started working for Absolute Classic Rock that they reminded me of how much I loved that music.

I felt angry then to think that I’d let those people make me give up something that I really care about. The job of actual presenting however, I’ve never ever said that I don’t want to do this. I’ve been annoyed with certain things but I’ve never even thought I don’t want to do this anymore because I love it so much, and even if it wasn’t my job or it didn’t pay me I’d still be doing it as a hobby.

"BEING A PRESENTER is VERY MUCH LIKE BEING A GUITARIST. JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN PICK UP A GUITAR DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD!"

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced at work and how have you overcome that?

The gatekeepers have been the biggest challenge for me, I think. Another thing is that my role is very solitude and usually, with any other job role, there will be people going through similar struggles and you can vent about it to them but being a presenter you’re on your own really. So, you must be able to affirm yourself, you must find your tribe within the industry.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that working in any creative industry is difficult for a front facing role. Everyone thinks they can do it, and very few people will value what you do. Being a presenter very much like being a guitarist. Just because you can pick up a guitar doesn't mean you should! The hardest thing I had to teach myself though was being able to stay strong when everyone told me I couldn’t do it and I wouldn’t make it.

In terms of finding new talent, whether it’s people you work with or new bands you want to talk about, where do you find that?

For presenters, I find that people just come into your periphery. Most presenters that I’ve seen and that I’ve worked with have just engaged with me on socials. They're not like ‘Hey can you give me a job?’, they’re more chatty because they’re in that world and they’re interested in what I have to say, and I’m interested in what they have to say. It just develops from that really.

Bands wise… you know what that’s actually a really hard question. I get sent so many messages about new bands and honestly if I checked every single one, that’d be a full-time job, with overtime, in itself. I've always found that the best bands end up coming to you. You'll usually end up noticing their fanbase first, you'll see this buzz around certain bands when you’re active on social or you’ll be talking to friends, who also work in the industry, and there will be a buzz around certain bands. Ultimately, I've found that you’ve got to be in it and apart of the scene to be noticed.

"There's so many things i love about what i do."

What is one thing you love about your job?

Ah, I don’t know if I can name just one thing! There’s so many things I love about what I do. I think the thing I love the most is bringing a piece of content to an audience who enjoy it. Whether that’s an interview with an artist and giving an insight into that artist like you’ve never seen before or whether it’s doing a funny take on something that’s quite serious, I just love the connection that my job brings.

Ultimately, my favourite thing about my job is that it’s just so fun, I really enjoy what I do! I don't think of it as a job, it’s a job in the sense that it pays me but it’s more than that to me, I just love what I do.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

I’d probably say, it doesn’t matter what people think of you. I was so worried that I didn’t look like anyone else, I still don’t, but when I was younger that’s what worried me the most. I felt that I needed to look rock, I need to make sure that I fit in and make sure that I was enough to be in my position. I don’t know if it’s something that has just inevitably come with experience, but I would just say you don’t have to have tattoos and piercings. You don’t have to be a certain skin colour or gender. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are enough and it’s not your duty to prove it to other people.

What is something that you plan to do in the future?

I'm really excited about the reception to my new podcast, On Wednesdays We Wear Black. We have so much stuff planned but I can't say anything right now. All I can say is we are here to make noise!

We’ve noticed that all podcasts at the moment are either an interview with an artist or an album review. We don’t want to do something that in-depth or something that can be found anywhere, we want a platform where we can just talk about the lifestyle. It’s going to be more of a chat or a conversation compared to what you currently hear in podcasts.