Everyone, meet Marc Saunders. He’s a senior programming manager at The O2 in London, the same place where he began his career in the industry at age 18. Building on a variety of roles and experiences in the industry — including being named as one of IQ’s New Bosses in 2019 — he’s swiftly risen through the ranks at the iconic arena to become a prominent figure in the global industry.
His experience makes him the perfect candidate for the maiden edition of Rob My Job. The new series will explore the progression of industry professionals from their start to where they are now. Through conversations with some of the fastest-rising executives in the international live music industry, you’ll gain exclusive insight into the professional paths of the leaders of tomorrow — and how you can follow in their footsteps. This piece marks a new era of editorial content from the Futures Forum platform, geared for and by the next generation of live music industry leaders.
Marc also serves as a Futures Forum ambassador, a role that assists in keeping the content of Futures Forum as up to date and relevant as possible. The O2 is joined by AEG Europe and AXS as 2023-24 supporters. The annual event is set for Friday, 1 March 2024, and passes are now available.
Can you describe the path you took to get where you are today?
In a nutshell, I began working at The O2 when I was studying for a Music Journalism degree at the University for the Creative Arts (Epsom Campus). My first ever job as a fresh-faced 18-year-old was at the British Music Experience at The O2, where I would primarily maintain the musical instruments within the museum. I then went on to join the Guest Relations team at The O2, which is where I was first introduced to the operation of actual arena events. After graduating, I immediately put myself forward for any music-related roles that I could find; which led me to interning at Vector Management, where I acted as a day-to-day manager for artists such as James, Il Divo, The Overtones, Imelda May etc. From there, I looked to broaden my horizons and explore the world of music publishing, where I worked at Hornall Brothers Music Ltd, an independent publishing company in Bromley (‘round the corner from me!) I spent a fantastic couple of years with the company until the call of The O2 pulled me back in!
What led you to the role of senior programming manager at The O2?
From starting as a junior within the Programming team as programming administrator, I tried my utmost to build strong rapports with all our extensive clients; whether they be promoters, agents, managers or the artists themselves. Eight years down the line, I can comfortably say that I’ve been incredibly lucky to work for a company like AEG, and more importantly the Programming department itself, where opportunities have always been available for anyone that’s willing to devote themselves to the role and express a desire to grow within the industry.
What are your key strengths and skills that make you excel in your role?
It might seem like a cliché, but I’ve found that being your most genuine and friendly self is the most important trait within this industry.
What was the most valuable experience you’ve had in your career?
That’s a tough one! The irony is that despite playing so many gigs in various bands in my past, I had always suffered a great deal of anxiety when faced with the prospect of public speaking. However when I was fortunate enough to be nominated for IQ’s “New Bosses” award in 2019, I experienced for the first time what it was like to appear on a panel in front of industry peers, and since then I have grown to embrace that experience; something which hopefully I’ll continue to do.
How does one level up from assistant to manager?
There’s countless factors that come into play in terms of progression for an assistant seeking to secure a managerial role; sometimes it simply relies on the hierarchy of the team structure whereby someone leaving might create an opportunity. But regardless of any departmental dynamic, anyone looking to progress in their career needs to showcase a desire to excel and demonstrate to their line manager a willingness to go above and beyond and strive to be the best possible employee.
What advice would you give someone in their first role in the industry?
In an industry as sought after as ours, making your presence known is absolutely key to growth and development. Whether you’re starting from square one interning/volunteering at shows, or even directly working on artist campaigns (regardless of how insignificant it might seem), this will provide you with invaluable experience that employers will identify and be attracted to.
Where do you see yourself going in the next 5 to 10 years?
In an ideal world, continuing to book the world’s most exciting acts, whether it be global superstars, legendary comedians, or iconic sporting events.
Tell us about the most memorable experience programming at The O2.
The honest truth is that there’s been so many that it’s impossible to identify one! But if I had to recall any single moment that personally resonated with me, it would be the first time I met my all-time hero Hans Zimmer. To have the opportunity to book and consequently meet your favourite artist is an incredible privilege and our meeting that night will go down as a moment that I’ll never forget!