Dedicated to the Business of Contemporary Live Music

Backstage Star – Jess Kinn

Backstage Stars
11 March 2018
Jess Kinn
Inspired by her family – her grandfather founded NME in 1952 and her Dad has an enviable vinyl collection – Jess Kinn knew she was destined for a career in music. Having dabbled with DJ-ing she started out at The Leighton Pope Organisation, before making her way through the ranks to become an agent at Coda, working with acts including Shawn Mendes, Faithless, Hey Charlie and Dusky Grey.


What are your first live music memories?

“As children my Dad would take me and my sister down to his record stall in Camden Market and I would help out selling vinyl and CDs. He compiled mixtapes that we’d play in the car and then test our knowledge – anything from the song name, year it was released, album and name of the musician.

“The first show I remember was the Spice Girls at Wembley Arena in 1998, when I was eight-years-old. I remember us speeding along to get to the concert and we spotted a limo also going the same way. We were sure it had the Spice Girls in it and low and behold it did.

“Another memory that stands out is seeing The Sonics first London show at The Forum in 2008. I later managed to secure a DJ slot to support them at their 2nd ever London show at The Garage.”


How did you get into the music industry?

“I made a conscious decision not to go to university as I always knew I wanted to work in music. At 15 I was working part-time at Rokit in Camden and got really into wearing vintage clothes especially from the 60s. A year later I was still at college and began working at The Diner in Carnaby Street.

“I got more and more into the 1960s scene and stumbled across Garage Rock. Everything changed for me when I heard Count Five – Psychotic Reaction. I began exploring the genre more and collecting vinyl and all the Nuggets compilations. From there I went on on to discover rock and roll, rhythm and blues, freakbeat, psychedelia, funk, northern soul and jazz.

“I managed to get a DJ set at a small and sweaty underground venue called The Bar in Hanway Street. I was still only 16 years old so had to lie about my age but the set went really well and I loved it. After that I got more and more gigs under my DJ name Barbarella gaining a residency at a retro club night started by Christian Laing called Shake, Rattle and Bowl.”


How has your career developed?

“I never set out to be a booking agent, I actually wanted to work in PR or events.

However, when I was 18 a position came up at The Leighton Pope Organisation which I went for and managed to get the job. I stayed there for a year and a half before being made redundant.

“At 19 I heard of a job going as an agent assistant at Coda Music Agency. I didn’t get the job but luckily Coda were impressed with my interview, so they asked if I wanted to start on reception being an admin assistant.

“I was on reception for less than two months when a job came up as agent assistant to Nick Matthews and Dave Blackgrove. I’d been working hard on reception, getting to know everyone and staying late. I began doing all the admin for Dave and Nick for live acts and DJs. This included all the admin, organising and booking all the DJ’s travel, hotels, everything.

“Nick has been incredibly supportive in my success. We have a very honest and open working relationship which I think is extremely important. He knew I had ambition and always pushed me to be the best I can be.”


What have been your greatest highs and lows?

“Being made redundant was difficult at the time but I learnt so much and it’s very important not to be embarrassed to start again from the bottom and build yourself back up. I’ve always been ambitious and had a vision of where I wanted to be.

“DJing at some great festivals and nights across the UK and Europe is a highlight and working closely with and developing new artistes. I love checking out new artistes, signing them to the roster and helping them build their live career. Working alongside Nick on Shawn Mendes has been a massive learning curve and I feel lucky to be a part of it.”


Where do you see yourself and/or the live music business going?

“I’d like to continue to build a roster of exciting acts. I love being part of discovering an act from the beginning and being instrumental in their growth. Being a woman in this industry isn’t easy and I’m determined to break the mould and hope there will be more young female booking agents.”


How do you wind down?

“I’ve collected lots of vinyl over the years but I still love raiding my dad’s record collection [he has a room dedicated to vinyl].

“Every Monday night I play for a woman’s football team in Homerton [I used to play for the junior gunners when I was 10] and I love food, travelling and dancing.

“I lived in Brazil, my mum’s Brazilian, for five months when I was 19 and I would love to travel round Asia especially Vietnam. Being from London I never learnt to drive and it’s definitely on my list.”

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