Mel McKinlay-Dunn - Toolroom Records Amplified

Instrumental to the success of Women in Dance Music Collective are our ambassadors. Conscientiously curated to represent the latitude of the industry each brings with them talent and an inimitable set of skills and experience to connect, elevate and inspire our collective. 

Essential to the success of our ambassadors are the tenacious teams behind them.

As part of our commitment to amplifying women in the industry we are spending time within our Ambassador organisations - connecting with their teams, highlighting culture and showing how our ambassadors are encouraging and supporting women within the business.

Our Amplified Series continues at one of the worlds leading dance music labels Toolroom Records talking to Director of Events & Partnerships Mel McKinlay-Dunn about her career path into the dance music industry.

What do you do for Toolroom?

I am Director of Events and partnerships, so responsible for delivering the live manifestation of the label as well as developing new business partnerships whilst nurturing existing ones. We have a huge year ahead, we are back in Ibiza for a 17 week season and have confirmed a number of global club residencies. Plus, we have a new academy course, some amazing community projects and of course some big records landing, there is a lot going on so watch this space…

What inspired you to want to work in the music industry?

I am a classically trained pianist and was musical from a young age. I had classes every night of the week (as well as Saturday mornings at 8am) which ranged from singing to all forms of dancing, piano and for a short time sax, so lived and breathed music my whole childhood. My dad was big into music and used to play me The Stones, The Waterboys, The Eagles as well as loads of Rhythm & Blues and Soul all on vinyl,he used to wake me up with it at the weekends. I was fascinated by vinyl, the smell, the fragile inner covers, the sleeves, decks. Then I hit my teenage years and discovered clubbing (underage oops) and it got me! The anticipation of the weekend, the escapism, the release, the pre-club rituals, the rush of the bass first hitting you, waiting for a certainrecord to drop, the singing, the chanting the dancing, plus of course, back then the DJs were still playing on vinyl. I loved the fact you would meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and for that moment you would be united on the dancefloor by music. Magic. It wasn’t enough to experience it I had to be part of it. 

How did you go about getting your foot in the door?

I studied Music with Technology at Kingston University and identified with the Music Management aspect of the course, so I set about securing a couple of work experience placements with management companies to get some real industry experience. I then wrote (a letter) to all of the record companies and music companies I could find via a music directory I had access to at one of the placements, asking for any role or training courses they had, I explained I was prepared to start in the post room or make tea. I must have sent 30 plus letters and one company (Sanctuary Records Group) replied and offered me an interview for a Royalty’s position. I went for the interview and got a Job with them but in the Licensing department clearing compilation licences, it wasn’t my dream role but I loved it! I learnt so much, it gave me an amazing grounding and spring board for my career.

What do you love about your job and working in the music industry?

Of course, the music! Being immersed in music and bringing people together to enjoy it and escape the day to day. I also get to work with amazingly talented, creative and brilliant people who share the same passion and vision. It’s a very special culture.

What’s your favourite track out on the label at the moment?

It’s a new one on Toolroom from Illyus & Barrientos called The One. Expect big things from these guys, they have an exciting year ahead. 

What has been a career highlight for you so far?

Gosh there’s loads… from my time doing work experience; taking a call from Robbie Williams (fan girl moment - he played a prank on me and pretended he was Steven Spielberg), to accompanying Ian Brown to the premier of 24-hour party people (I was 19). As a Manager, working with many great Artists and seeing them go on to do amazing things and achieve their dreams. In events, delivering multiple Ibiza seasons for two brands simultaneously and launching and building the Glitterbox brand to where it is today. The privilege of working with my heroes and also the LGBTQ+ community which I find so inspiring, to arriving here at Toolroom as a Director and working with a truly brilliant and supportive team.  Its been an incredible journey!

Best bit of advice you have for those looking to break into the industry and what to expect?

For me the key thing is to live your passion, be persistent and gain as much knowledge and experience as possible even if it means making the tea and not getting paid. Then once you are in, GRAFT!

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