‘In Sweden you don't have to deal with men cat-calling you in the street’

Nicole O’Sullivan works with musicians like Avicii and Tove Lo, signed to Universal Music in Sweden

Working Abroad Q&A: Each week, Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. This week, Nicole O'Sullivan, originally from Midleton, Co Cork, who is working as a project manager in international marketing for Universal Music in Sweden.

This article was published on April 19th, the day before Tim Bergling (aka Avicii) was found dead in Oman.  

When did you leave Ireland, and what were your reasons for leaving?

I left in November 2015. My boyfriend is Swedish and had moved back there, so I followed on a new adventure. I had been planning on leaving Dublin at some point anyway, to travel and live in another city, but I definitely hadn’t foreseen living in Sweden.

What do you do in Stockholm?

I work at Universal Music, on the international export team. I’m responsible for global marketing for Scandinavian artists. My main priorities are Avicii and Tove Lo, but I also work with lots of exciting developing artists such as Sandro Cavazza, Lova and Amwin.


What career path did you follow to arrive at your current position?

I had just finished a degree in neuroscience at Trinity when I started working at Universal Music in Dublin. I started as an marketing/artist and media relations intern, then moved to the digital department after a year. It was a great place to start as I really gained an understanding of how the company functioned. I spent about six months trying to figure out if I would be able to get a job I loved as much in Stockholm, without speaking the language. Eventually, everything came together and I started what I would consider to be my dream job, at Universal Music Sweden, soon after moving over.

Tell us about your day-to-day working life? Is there a typical day?

No two days are the same. I could be in the office in Stockholm, or at meetings, concerts and on promotion with an artist in different cities around the world. I travel a lot. So far this year, I’ve been to LA, Austin, London, and around Scandinavia for work. I usually spend my day on the phone with managers, pr agencies, radio pluggers, and international colleagues, as well as analysing data on the tracks I’m working with, setting up campaigns for upcoming releases, and keeping up to date with industry trends, and so on.

What excites you most about your job? What are the biggest challenges?

It’s exciting to work with an artist like Avicii, who is a musical genius and global superstar that I had previously spent years hearing on the radio wherever I went. I get even more excited working with new artists, and seeing how I can help them grow and their music travel from Sweden to listeners as far away as Australia, Canada, Mexico, and more.

One of the biggest challenges is understanding individual markets in an ever-changing global landscape. It’s fascinating to learn about markets such as Japan, which are so unique. How we consume music around the world is evolving constantly and consumers in each territory have varying preferred methods of consumption.

Do you think working abroad has offered you greater opportunities?

Absolutely. In Stockholm the music industry is much larger, so I have more room to grow and develop. I have also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and meet people that I probably never would have had in Ireland.

I believe everyone should work abroad at least once, it will teach you things about yourself you never knew, while giving you invaluable career insights and a new appreciation of home.

What is it like living in Stockholm in terms of accommodation, transport, social life and so on?

Public transport is fantastic. Accommodation is of a really good standard, quite different from Dublin as everyone lives in apartments, usually on their own or with a partner. While Sweden has an extremely cold climate, the accommodation has much better insulation than what I was used to in Dublin.

The most notable difference for me is how women are treated. While it is by no means an equal society, it is much more so than in Ireland, and it's inspiring to work alongside women who are constantly fighting for a more equal society, such as through the #närmusikentystnar ("when the music is silent") movement.

In Sweden, you generally don’t have to deal with men cat-calling you on the street; you don’t have to worry about abortion laws violating your fundamental rights, and of course the maternity and paternity leave is wonderful. It’s nice to see men playing a bigger role in raising their children.

Where do you see your future?

I’m not sure about that yet. I definitely need to travel more and would love to live somewhere else for a year or so, perhaps Australia. Somewhere warmer than Stockholm would be a nice change. That said, I feel pretty settled here for now.

Are you still well connected to Ireland?

Absolutely. I don’t get home as much as I would like to. Flights are expensive and sadly there’s no direct route to my home in Cork. But it’s easy to stay in touch.

Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?

As most expats will say, the humour and conversation. I strongly miss the Irish warmth – no country can compare in that sense, as well as the pubs, and good salt and vinegar crisps.