The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Director of Channel Sales at ROLI, Sarah Yule

By Lina Bhambhani


Director of Channel Sales, Sarah Yule, has had over 15 years of experience in leading global sales and marketing, and is now with ROLI, a company who designs digital music tools for musicians. Yule’s experience within the music industry goes a long way as she has worked as an award winning product designer, to an engineer mixer, a published writer, and now an international sale leader.

She creates partnerships around the world professionally, but when she comes back home you can catch her enjoying a philosophical book or spending time with her loved ones.

Check out her interview below to find out a bit more on Yule’s experiences within the music industry.

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WiMN: When did you start your career in the music industry?

SY: I would say that my career in the music industry started aged 15 when I landed my first 2 weeks of work experience in a studio owned by an English folk band called the Levellers. Being immersed into that kind of creative environment was a great experience and inspiration. From then on, everything started to fall into place.

WiMN: How did you get to where you are today?

SY: It’s been an interesting journey. I started out as an engineer, studying a BA in Sound Technology at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. That gave me a great grounding and knowledge base and introduced me to people I would go on to work with and around. During my studies I started a successful club night in the city of Liverpool that helped me financially as well as teaching me a lot around the basics of business, sales and marketing. I graduated 3 days before my sons first birthday.

An initial intent to go freelance to help manage my working hours, got me into retail for a fast growing internet business known as Dolphin Music. I became their first sales person dedicated to Pro Audio and got to know all the products and brands very quickly. From there, I was asked to join TL Audio. Tony Larking the founder of TL Audio is one of the most honest, kind and supportive people in the industry. He really cares about products and is a massive fan of music. He put trust in me and gave me the freedom to create new products, to implement new sales and marketing strategies and move quickly into becoming a Sales Director. I realized that I adored the International distribution side of our business. Over the years I have made great friends as well as business partners and it’s great when you can directly help to build a successful and fruitful business.

I enjoyed 5 years with in Music Brands after this too. Jack O’Donnell is a smart man and it’s incredible how much has been achieved. Whilst I was at that company it grew from 3 brands to 11! It’s a team of hardworking individuals that make it happen and working with them was a special experience. I moved to ROLI in the latter part of 2014. An ad-hoc meeting in the depths of East London swiftly transpired into a feeling of excitement I had not felt since the first time I started to learn about Logic Audio and what you could now do with desktop recording! I fell in love with the product and also the concept behind it. Back then, only 1 handmade product was shipping and there was a 6 month waiting list. Now 2 years on we are selling our range of award-winning products in volume globally and it’s great to know I’ve been a key part of that.

WiMN: What is the most exciting project you have worked on since being at ROLI?

SY: Every day at ROLI is exciting. Working for a tech start up is like an adventure. So many curve balls can happen on a daily basis. Yes, that can be stressful at times – but more so, it’s exciting – as you never have a chance to be bored and you always have to try and use your brain. I think the most exciting project since being here is one I cannot tell you about yet! The RISE launch last October was a big highlight though. So much work went into it, I think we are the first brand to ever launch to that scale within MI and to such high acclaim in all reviews.

WiMN: What is your biggest challenge working with the Retail Market for digital music?

SY: The biggest challenge working with any type of retail is trying to stay ahead of the curve of change. You have to understand challenges and concerns from all angles and always question the routes for monetisation and future desires of the target customer (or “creator” as ROLI likes to call its customers).

Also, these days the most important relationship in a digital world is with the actual product and the creator. All the chains in between should be there just to make that relationship easier, more efficient and most importantly – a fantastic experience.

WiMN: How is ROLI more than a Distributor?

SY: ROLI is the innovator, designer, and manufacturer of our products. We do everything in house; from 2D and 3D design, materials science and R&D, electronics, firmware and software engineering, prototyping and more. We do outsource some manufacturing in Ireland now to help satisfy demand. However, our high end items are still built by hand in East London. That is very rare and pretty special.

WiMN: What other companies do you work with and what is exciting about working with them?

SY: We have been lucky to strike up some great relationships for multiple aspects of our business. From record companies and recording studios, to key education establishments, key retailers and external press and local start up networks. However, for me I really enjoy working with our Channel partners. Never before in my career have I seen such excitement and positivity around something new. I think, for once, it’s because it is a genuinely new technology, then is genuinely useful – and it is genuinely cool! Everyone is embracing that fact and together realizing this industry needs it. If we don’t all innovate more and create new things and new ways of working, how will we preserve and maintain this industry that we love?

WiMN: What are some marketing trends for 2016 you feel are important to focus on to grab the attention of musicians?

SY: I think it’s actually marketing trends for 2017 we need to focus on now. What will define trends for next year? For instance, ROLI is really focusing on the concept of connected music eco systems. Creating seamless environments between hardware, software and social. I would say that for 2016 the growing popularity of modular synths, combined with the dominating popularity of controllers, shows that people want solutions that they control. Ease of use is key, yet the expectation is for powerful tools that enable the creation of unique sounds and music.

WiMN: Any last comments?

SY: Having been a part of the musical instruments and pro audio industry now for more than ten years, I do find it encouraging to finally see some new faces doing the circuit. This is a small and somewhat specialized industry, but we need to attract more people into sustaining it. The worse thing that could happen is the complete commoditization of our industry, leading to many companies becoming obsolete and likely a complete drain of the passion that makes this industry thrive.

This is, most certainly a business. Business rhetoric makes it supremely clear that monetisation and commercial strategy is essential for success. However, this is the MUSIC business. A big part of what makes this industry so wonderfully unique, is the passion of the people who make it, build it and participate within it. Almost everyone was once a musician or engineer (or still is – I still have my studio, although slightly dusty!), it would be great to see more companies embracing new creative ideas, breaking norms – generally being disruptive. It’s exciting to think what creations might be just around the corner that will truly serve to inspire music makers and make their creation process easier, better and faster.