Steven Lee Rachel is the Head of Creative Services at Bopper, a new alternative to stock music, built for the ad industry.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I began a career in music after graduating from university. As a freelance musician, I was able to find and build a music studio that I could live in for cheap while simultaneously renting it out to folks for rehearsals, parties and weird art projects.
I used this as a base to also give lessons and develop my craft as a gigging contrabassist in the local Montreal scene as well as touring with groups. I did that for almost 5 years. At one point I switched career paths and worked for an immigration attorney and later corporate sales role in the healthcare industry.
When I first switched careers I was sad because I thought I was missing music, however making my music practice something purely therapeutic rather than commerce-oriented was an incredible thing.
To this day I know that these jobs made a better musician somehow. Anyways, at one point during all of this, I applied for a dream job at this sync company called Bopper and got it! I was really happy when this happened and even happier now almost two years later.
It is an exciting company for me as I get to curate and place independent music in media and work closely with our partners to achieve their creative music objectives.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Music searches (for those who don’t know, in the music sync industry folks are looking to put music into their ads, TV shows, movies etc. They will send out music searches to companies like ours with the budget, media terms and creative direction (usually a reference track with our partners IE get me something that sounds like the Beatles but isn’t) So I am listening to a ton of music and curating it to send over to our people often as soon as possible as turnaround times can be very intense. Outside of that, I am doing a bunch of meetings both internal and external, attending industry events, researching the music and advertising landscape, meeting new people and putting on presentations for our partners.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, we are 100% remote as a company. We have just under 15 employees now and after everything shut down we made the decision to not renew our office lease. It has worked well for us but of course, the transition was weird for me at the beginning.
I do thrive in being in a social work environment. Really thankful for my life partner Kyla who has been with me during all of this to keep company.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
You know I’m a Polish Catholic boy (on paper, I don’t identify as Christian) and somehow the concept of the Sabbath from Judaism and their cycle of holidays has really helped me find balance.
Besides this quasi-religious aspect, a lot of the balancing we need to do is fairly obvious: sleep well, eat well and exercise. Easier said than done however and I am happy to say I have been doing really well with all of that in the last month or so.
My therapist is amazing (everyone needs a therapist) and has been super supportive. They are acting in almost a mentorship role towards me and they have really helped me learn to relax and shut everything off to recharge and recover.
I can be really intense as a person so it is so important for me to have strong personal spiritual rituals to help protect myself from the craziness of the world. There are certain breathing exercises and meditations I do daily for this.
Also, music continues to be really therapeutic for me. It is really always there for me when I need it although sometimes your ears get burned out because you’ve been doing music searches all day. In that case, I just put on John Cages 4:33.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes and I kind of touched on that above. I only started seeing my therapist around 6 months ago so she has been instrumental in helping me get all of those routines in place. Eating well, sleeping well, exercising and connecting with the one spiritual power. Music is huge for me and recently my friend lent me his hardware sampler/sequencer (SP-404) so that has been so much fun to get my creative juices out.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Favourite book is straight up the old Hebrew Bible stuff in the original Hebrew. Also, gotta shout out Neuromancer by William Gibson and Dune by Frank Herbert (I was a sci-fi reader in my youth). Podcast-wise there is this UK music company called GAS and they do an amazing job with it.
Also, love song exploded like everyone else and love Aaron Starkman’s It’s only F***cking advertising podcast. In terms of my email subscriptions there are many however notably I adore Dan Runcie’s Trapital newsletter, Jesse Kirshbaum’s Nue Agency mailer and Premier Music Group’s mail-outs. BTW does Clubhouse count? That place is amazing.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Ooof, definitely my phone, internet, computer, musical instruments. I mean I could live without them, it would just be really hard.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Remember that besides resting and hustling it so important to find your ultimate meaning in life. I know that is intense to say and what I mean by it is you need to take time to learn about yourself and what you truly were born to do.
Everyone has a purpose and it is never too late to change. It takes time and in those moments where you can kill your ego and open your heart and really speak with yourself you can connect and find it.
Once you find that meaning you need to test it, challenge it, make sure it is the real thing as it may change depending on where you are in life. You may have multiple meanings. The meaningfulness of life is the thing that gives wind to the sails of the soul and allows you to maintain your drive, enthusiasm and playfulness forever.
Without this meaningful life, I think even the most perfectly balanced life (meaning one that is balanced only between work and leisure) can become decrepit, dark and dangerous. Mark your goals and obsessions and reinforce them so you remember why you are here.
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