Alex Field came to Radley on a music scholarship following a childhood career as a chorister at Ripon Cathedral Choir School. After a decade of experience in communications and marketing for luxury brands, music had faded from his life, until an opportunity arose to start his own consultancy.
Now, Alex has dived back into the creative world, and is the Founder of LF Connections – a boutique marketing consultancy advising businesses in the luxury sector. He works with some of the biggest names and organisations in the music and hospitality industries, and is even performing again.
You came to Radley on a music scholarship, so I imagine you did plenty of music at school?
Yes, as a music scholar you really had to earn your place! But that was fine, and I enjoyed it. I was a chorister at Ripon Cathedral Choir School in North Yorkshire, and I studied violin, viola, piano and singing there. The legendary headmaster, Dennis Silk interviewed me for Radley – I think it was one of the last to be interviewed by him before he retired. He was famously a cricketer, and I was a cricketer too, and we both liked music – so he said ‘You’re in!’
I was in the choir the whole way through Radley, and became Head of Choir; I was in a number of chamber orchestras, and was head viola player. I was also involved in things like the Fitzwilliam String Symposium at Cambridge. I also did plenty of drama, and remember playing women quite frequently on stage – I must have had the right legs for a pair of tights!
Was Radley what you expected it to be when you went for the scholarship?
Before coming to Radley, being a chorister was so intense – I was doing two hours of music practice a day and singing in the cathedral for about an hour a day. There was a service every Saturday, and up to three on a Sunday. Radley was actually a step down in intensity from Ripon. Ripon had been great training, because doing a concert every couple of weeks at Radley felt very manageable.
Did you find that your interests stayed the same throughout your time at Radley?
I definitely enjoyed sport more at Radley, though I wish I had done a bit more of it. It’s probably different now, but back then, if you got into the ‘music lane’ then it was quite difficult to break out and also be a ‘sports guy’. I tried to do plenty of drama – a play every term or so.
What did you do after leaving Radley?
Radley really pulled me up, academically, and helped me get into university. I went to Durham and studied psychology, and for my thesis I looked at psychodynamic music therapy versus Nordoff Robbins music therapy, which was quite a novelty because it was not a well-known subject, and Durham University library didn’t have any books on it at all. I had to get all sorts of books sent over from Oxford University. I fell in love with the topic of my thesis because it was a perfect blend of my study of psychology and my background in music. Ironically, I didn’t do particularly well: I don’t think anyone at Durham knew how to mark it, it but I loved writing it.
I continued to play music while I was studying and played lead viola in the Durham Uni orchestra. I also set up a quartet there, which helped to pay my bar bill. I also did a bit of drama – we once put on Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinocéros, set to a Radiohead soundtrack, which turned out to be quite an experience. I had to get naked on stage and be painted green in my first term. It was kind of weird, but very fun.
When you finished university did you feel a bit adrift, or did you have a sense of direction?
I didn’t know what to do, to be honest. I fell into the communications industry. I knew I wanted to do something that was a bit creative, so I went and worked for a high-profile comms agency, called Aurelia. We did a few famous PR moments: the Liz Hurley Versace dress, for instance. I grew to really enjoy comms: we worked on the first brand team of Belvedere Vodka which was a big break because it was ultimately bought by LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a French luxury good conglomerate). I joined LVMH as part of their team and worked on the comms for Dom Pérignon and Belvedere for about seven years. I went on to sit on the board for Pink, the shirt makers, as CMO.
Earlier in my career, I joined the London Charity Orchestra, and around that time, I set up a band which played instrumental jazz and funk. So, at first there was still plenty of music in my life, but it faded as my career got more serious, and I started a family.
How did music come back into your life?
I went to work for a big Chinese investment company, which was a major funder of the London Symphony Orchestra. It felt great to have that connection with music come back into my life. But the big change came when I set up my own agency about two years ago. I knew that the kind of space I wanted to work in was hospitality mixed with luxury brands and high-net-worth individuals and companies.
A friend introduced me to the founder of KOKO, a concert venue and former theatre in Camden Town. He felt that my experience in hospitality, and comms background, partnered with my passion for music, was the perfect fit. KOKO became my first proper clients, and that’s when music properly came back into my life. Now I’m surrounded by music all the time, running the patron program of KOKO.
Having this renewed connection to the music industry has driven me on to other things: I’m now in the Bach Choir, because seeing other people singing made me realise how much I miss doing it; my first concert is in April. It showed me how much I missed music in my life.
Tell me about your involvement with KOKO.
The KOKO patron programme is extraordinary, it’s probably the most interesting contemporary patron programme in London. It is chaired by Elisabeth Murdoch, founder of SISTER (a studio developing, producing, and investing in the creative industries). We’ve built a network of 35 patrons who are all extremely interesting creatives in their own right, and who have set up extraordinary businesses, some are very high profile. What it has really shown me is how important the creative industries are in this country: they drive so much of the economy and are probably one of our greatest assets and one of our greatest exports.
What other types of clients do you have on your portfolio?
I have another client called Kings InterHigh who are an amazing online school. They provide online schooling for talented youngsters, kids who have careers of their own, and might be touring around the world as actors, sports professionals, or musicians, etc. Kids in this position often find it difficult to balance traditional school, physically attending every day, with their careers. Kings InterHigh provides a world-class education online, to fit around other commitments. I work on the Kings InterHigh scholarship programme, not just music, but across the board. It’s really nice to be able to help kids with their education whilst allowing for the centrality of their creative or sporting spirit.
How did COVID affect your work?
A lot of the hospitality industry lost their revenue overnight. So, that was quite challenging. What it made me realise is that I wanted to be in more control of my own destiny – setting up my own business. That’s actually has been the greatest thing, and now I’m completely flexible. I’ve built up a really nice roster of clients that complement each other, and I’m learning to use my strengths better, such as my musical and creative background. The coming year will be a challenge, given the financial landscape, but I keep my business light and mobile, with few overhead costs.
Would you recommend your line of work to career starters?
My big message would be that the creative industry in the UK is probably one of our proudest industries. There’s probably a bit of a stigma when you’re at school – it’s not a sector where you find ‘proper’ jobs, or it is too risky.
Nowadays, I’d actually say it’s the opposite. I think that the traditional sectors are so, so risky now, because they are too heavy-footed. They don’t change with the times. The more entrepreneurial, innovative spirit of the creative industries are better for your career because they are fast-paced and resilient. They are open to new technologies, and global influences. There are so many opportunities out there for young people just embarking on their careers.
What advice would you like to give to boys at Radley and young ORs who are thinking about a career in communications or the creative industries?
My first piece of advice is, never be afraid of going off a bit left field, because unusual decisions and projects often make for great stories to tell further down the line, which can be useful for interviews and things like that. Employers often like risk-taking. The second piece of advice is, don’t follow the cash. Success is not about money. Success is about the life that you live. You can have a fulfilling, happy life without earning an enormous pay packet, especially early on in your career. Start by doing something that you’re passionate about, and you’ll end up being amazing at it, that’s when success follows and, in time, the great pay.
Finally, networking is absolutely everything in my sector. It’s not all about old boy networks, it’s just about having the confidence to go into a room where you don’t know anyone and being able to approach people. If you don’t enjoy talking to new people, then there are plenty of careers, like mine, which probably aren’t for you.