Lobster Theremin photographer and label assistant Alice Palm talks learning on the job
With a less straightforward route into the music industry, Lobster Theremin’s creative and label assistant Alice Palm is proof of what’s possible when you’re proactive. Realising that they lacked interest in their degree within the first week of lectures, Alice didn’t leave but altered their path, taking photos for the university and friends. With an eye for capturing the ecstasy of gigs and an ear for upcoming musical talent, it only took the encouragement of their mentor, manager and friend, label owner Jimmy Asquith, to set them on this multifaceted path. With insight into what it’s like to navigate the creative industry with dyslexia, Alice talks to us about the power of organisation and the joy of helping artists.
A&R and Label Assistant, Lobster Theremin (2022-present)
Photographer, Lobster Theremin (2021-2022)
Photographer, Queen Mary University of London (2019-2021)
Place of Study
BA Film Studies, Queen Mary University of London (2018-2021)
What I do
How would you describe what you do at Lobster Theremin?
I started off doing photography for Jimmy (Asquith), the Lobster Theremin label founder, and at that time I was working with him one-to-one. He saw a lot of potential in me and I was brought on to assist in merchandising. I would organise things and contact suppliers and artists to help put together pieces.
I have very recently moved to the A&R [Artist and Repertoire] side of things, which I’m really happy about – it’s the best. I feel smug because I can sit in front of everyone and go, “I have the best job in the entire label!”. I listen to new music everyday; people send me demos, and I’m the first point of contact for artists.
I still do photography when I’m needed, such as at LobsterFest (our first festival), where I was the lead photographer. I managed a creative team consisting of two other photographers and a videographer, which was pretty exciting. The whole job, in general, is a blessing.
What recent projects are you most proud of?
There have been so many times I’ve felt proud, but recently I put forward to Jimmy an artist who had submitted demos. I said, “This artist’s really going to do well – consider signing them” – and he did. He assured me that I have a great eye (or ear) for this stuff. What makes me really proud is knowing that I’ve helped an artist grow in their career.
I’ve also felt proud when projects I’ve worked on get released, or when photos that I’ve taken get released as merch. I did photography for a mural campaign, classic Lobster t-shirts and LobsterFest. With the t-shirts, it was really exciting – I went to an event with the artist who designed them, and there was a kid in the crowd wearing it – then he went to talk to the kid. It was a wonderful way to connect with fans.
“What makes me really proud is knowing that I’ve helped an artist grow in their career.”
Would you say that you need any specific training for what you do?
No, I’m a protégé; I’m proof that you don’t need training or a degree to do what I’m doing. I was lucky – I went to university, I have a degree in film, but I sat down in the very first lecture in my first year and thought, “I want fucking nothing to do with film.” While at university, I was doing photography on the side, shooting friends, events and other projects and that’s what I used when I reached out to Jimmy.
When we met up and had our first photography session, it went really well and he inspired a lot of creativity in me. It was great to hear that he liked my work and thought that I had potential as a photographer and creative. It’s great to hear somebody tell you that you can achieve or do anything you set your mind to. You don’t have to be academic, generally – as long as you’re kind and can communicate with people, you’ll be good at the job.
If you could pick a meme to describe what it’s like to work at Lobster Theremin, what would it be and why?
(Below) I just feel this meme resonates within me. If the piercings, tattoos and ‘groovy bby’ persona wasn't enough proof I also work for a record label... watch this space, I’m throwing away my bed frame!
How I got here
How did you land the job?
I reached out to Jimmy on Instagram. A friend of mine sent me his page and said I should check if he has a photographer. I messaged him – super informally – putting myself out there, letting him know that I’m available if he was ever down a photographer. I had no idea who he was and asked if we could meet up. He agreed and we took some photos together and I knew he was going to be one of my best friends. It was fantastic, and after one photography session, we got the ball rolling [on other projects].
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
When I was uni I was very lucky, I had two friends who also really loved the same things that I did. By this point, I had already dabbled in events photography. I took pictures of Maleekaveli’s events and worked for Queen Mary University, taking pictures of the campus and its nightclub. It was all minor stuff, but it was all the things I enjoyed. And then graduation came and it was quite terrifying, but everything happened so quickly.
I was still finishing my dissertation and meant to go abroad to New York and then Covid hit. I was left in a limbo, trying not to think about it too much and didn’t know what I was going to do. Those last few weeks of uni are bittersweet because you’re finishing up your degree but also having to keep it moving and find the next thing. By this time I had already met Jimmy, and then took the opportunity to continue taking photos. When starting out in the music industry or creative industry in general, it’s best to say yes to everything. It will benefit you in the long run.
“When starting out in the music or creative industry, it’s best to say yes to everything. It will benefit you in the long run.”
What has your experience been navigating the creative industries and workplace as a person with dyslexia?
I’ve been very lucky working with Lobster Theremin. They’ve put so many systems in place for support.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that with stuff like neurodiversity and dyslexia, you need to be upfront about it [with employers] – in the interview, in the first meeting, as soon as you know you’ll be working for them. With dyslexia, the person that’s going to help you best is you. Because at the end of the day, no matter how supportive creative companies can be, there are still certain things like spell-checking that not everyone is as patient with.
It’s also generally great to put the mechanisms in place yourself, because everyone is going to see you as a professional. I’m not saying “you can’t hide behind dyslexia”, because it is very difficult and does set me back at times. But if you’re working for a company, ensure you proof your work – I use Grammarly mostly. I wish dyslexic systems, fonts and programmes were free, but unfortunately they aren’t, so being organised is the best tool you have.
“Dyslexic systems, fonts and programmes aren’t free, so being organised is the best tool you have.”
If you could pick three things that you found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
I don’t think there’s one thing specifically that inspires me, but rather, it’s an array of people who have achieved great things.
My mother inspires me every day because she’s just incredible, loving and hardworking.
Within the industry, Jimmy is one of my biggest inspirations, he does so much. He believes in so much, which is incredible.
There are also an array of other creatives that have inspired me during my journey. Those I’ve worked with – Coco Bryce and Estella Boersma. Estella’s doing great things in music; she’s humble and inspires me daily.
Seeing all of these people in my life achieve great things makes me think: “Why can’t you?” A book could never inspire me as much as the people I see working at the things they love daily.
What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
To be honest, balancing work and my personal life. Being in such a fast paced industry, you have to keep up. Sometimes, it’s quite hard and the way I am as a person means I find it hard to say no or that I can’t take anything more on. I try to do everything and take on every project.
It’s been quite difficult, because I care so much about my work and find it hard to put down sometimes. It’s important to look after yourself, though, because the worst thing would be the work swallowing you up, leaving you unable to do the things you want to do or enjoy. Nobody wants to burn out. So check in on yourself, drink water, make time for your mental health, because the second you stop doing that, you start to lose parts of yourself.
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
You’re not alone; you’re never on your own. I know taxes are terrifying – being self-employed is hard. If you’re someone that’s overwhelmed very easily, just ask for help. There are people that have been doing it way longer than you have. There’s always somebody who wants to do the things you don’t. Get an accountant.
What's the best career-related advice you've ever received?
That it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do. Life is short so just throw yourself into anything and everything – and believe it when people tell you that you’re going to achieve great things. They’re not saying this to pressure you, it’s because they believe in you - just as much as you should believe in yourself.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Reach out to people you want to work with. Nobody needs a degree to do what I’m doing; I’ve learned everything I am doing now on the job. So just go for it.
Going to events is also a great place to start. Get involved in the scene that you want to be a part of. I used to go to events (where I paid for a ticket), have fun and take photos – sometimes on my phone camera. Afterwards, I’d post them on Instagram or send them to whoever curated the event. At first it will be that you’ll be working for free, but you’ll have a good time and get your portfolio going.
In the music industry, everyone starts from nothing, as a bedroom DJ. No one was born Peggy Gou, and Aphex Twin’s career was not built in a day. People start off as nobodies and creative minors. Dedication and hardwired passion is what gets you through.
Interview by N'Tanya Clarke
Mention Alice Palm