Posted 08 March 2017

Shelley Wood, lead producer at Music, on budgets, deadlines and “making shit happen”

In her role as lead producer at Manchester studio Music, Shelley Wood spends most of her day “making shit happen”. A lot of this is planning – tracking project timelines, assessing budgets and working out where best to deploy human and physical resources. But a huge part of her role is negotiating with suppliers to make sure every Music project comes out perfect once it’s left the designers’ screens. One of her favourite parts of the role is enthusing these production partners about a new project; but producing also requires meticulous organisation skills and can be stressful. Building and maintaining effective relationships is at the crux of her job, whether with clients Manchester City FC, cancer centre The Christie or Vietnamese restaurant Pho, freelance collaborators or suppliers.

Inside Music’s Manchester-based studio

Shelley Wood

Job Title

Lead Producer, Music (2009–present)




Henry Moore Foundation, London Collections Men, Universal Music, Chester Zoo, Powerleague, Manchester City FC

Previous Employment

Head of production, Love, Manchester (2003–2009)


BA Fine Art, University of Leeds (1993–1996)


Social Media


How would you describe what you do?
As lead producer I bring creative concepts into reality. I am also responsible for assigning studio resources across all clients at Music. I am the focal (pinch) point for project planning, and ensure that we work with the best partners and suppliers to give our clients the best outcomes. I work in collaboration with everyone at Music across senior management, client services and the creative team to enable the smooth running of the studio. My tasks vary from working with creatives to develop their ideas, negotiating better deals with suppliers, sourcing new creatives partners across all disciplines, prioritising the creative resource and trafficking.

What does an average working day look like?
Our working hours vary during busier times but it’s normally 9am to 5pm. When we are really up against it, the office hours are longer, but I’m lucky to have a team that can make themselves available if and when the balloon goes up. Every working day is different – at the start of each day you never know what new things will land. I work across all projects within Music, which means there is wide variety of differing stages that will need to be worked on. The start of the day is spent planning the studio workflow. This constantly changes so organising and prioritising the work continues throughout the day. The rest of my day is spent simply making shit happen! As I work across the whole creative process from the brief, concepts, production and delivery there is always a deadline looming in one way or another.

Where does the majority of your work take place?
While in the office I spend about half of my time in front of my computer and the rest in meetings with the client services team or suppliers discussing projects. I tend to work from home for at least one day a week; this gives me the space I need to get my head around more demanding production briefs. It’s great that Music respects the commitment of team members and allows anyone to work in a way that best suits them and the task in hand.

“My entire role depends on collaboration... I bring the right people together on projects to achieve the best outcome possible.”

How did you land your current job?
I knew Dave [Simpson, CEO and executive creative director] and Matt [Beardsell, operations director] at Music from working together at a previous agency, they were going through a period of growth and dropped me a line. I’d always worked well with Dave and Matt so I think it’s fair to say I already had an edge over other potential candidates, but seeing as ‘building and maintaining effective relationships’ is probably in the job description I think that’s ok.

How collaborative is your role?
Not being practically skilled in anything (except ceramics) means my entire role depends on collaboration; between creatives, between teams, between companies. I bring the right people together on projects to achieve the best outcome possible.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
One of the great things about producing can be the selling in of an idea to a supply partner – they have to understand the value of the idea in order for them to add the value we need. It’s a great feeling when you know they are as enthused about the outcome as we are. Bringing them into the creative process in this way can be the most rewarding aspect of my role. Dealing with conflict is the flipside of managing those relationships and an unavoidable consequence of working at the sharp end of the creative industry. A degree of stress is unavoidable, but I like to think I manage mine pretty well.

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I recently worked on a TV campaign for a gaming hardware retailer; not my natural retail destination but fun nonetheless. Working with Adam Rix, our creative director, I cast 90-year-old gamers, helped design sci-fi costumes, briefed a composer on the audio and let off incendiaries in rural Bolton. What’s not exciting about that?

“Don’t think agency life is all glamour, it rarely is, at any level, but it should always be fun.”

What skills are essential to your job?
Organisation and the ability to communicate effectively. The latter may seem obvious but sometimes people forget this is a two-way street. It’s not enough to just clearly tell someone what you need, you have to take time to listen and understand their point of view.

What tools do you use most for your work?
A Macbook Air and a 27” Apple display screen and my iPhone unlocks the potential to do more out of the office, but this can cause other problems! We use Paprika agency management software for all aspects of the business. We’ve tried numerous ways of planning studio time but we keep coming back to gathering around the kettle each morning and prioritising work with a dry-wipe board and marker system in the kitchen. Our ability to respond effectively, and fast, is an important part of what we do, and this is the only method we’ve found that offers the flexibility we need.

Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance?
I believe maintaining a distinction between the two is essential to a being happy and fulfilled. The flexibility of working in the creative industry helps. On dark days I try to gain some perspective and remind myself that I work in a great industry with great people and I hope I never take that for granted.

Music’s work for HTC Vive VR headsets, directed by Adam Rix, 2016

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be a ceramic artist and in some small degree I am, with a small studio I operate at home.

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
I studied ceramics and I feel I am helping to scratch that creative itch with the job I currently have.

What were your first jobs?
After graduating I bounced around for a bit in temp jobs, then ended up doing an admin job in a small agency. I was lucky that the team recognised my potential early on and as that agency became bigger I grew into the production role.

Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
During that period I was constantly challenged by an amazing creative team, it really tempered my abilities working across disciplines as varied as print, digital, product design, events, interiors, and sculpture. It was these experiences that I was the most grateful for when I eventually moved on.

Is your job what you thought it would be?
It’s hard to carve out a career on your own terms in production, unless you pick the right agency. I like to think I've been very successful in my choices. Cautionary note: Don’t think agency life is all glamour, it rarely is, at any level, but it should always be fun.

“The beauty of working in the creative industry is the breadth of projects which means there are always new skills to be learned and experiences to be had.”

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Music’s work for Vietnamese restaurant Pho

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Music’s work for Vietnamese restaurant Pho

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Music’s work for Vietnamese restaurant Pho

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Music’s work for Vietnamese restaurant Pho

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Music’s work for Vietnamese restaurant Pho

Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next?
Being a lead producer opens up a host of opportunities, and the best producers are in constant pursuit of the next challenge. The beauty of working in the creative industry is the breadth of projects, which means there are always new skills to be learned and experiences to be had. I also believe I could take my core skills of organisation and communication into any role where someone is needed to make great ideas happen.

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a producer for design?
Remember that working as a producer in a creative business is not about buying a product or service, it’s about selling an idea. Too many agencies forget this and build an offer around delivery, rather than creativity. If a client just needs print, they’ll go to a printer.

This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Music.

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