The muso lifestyle is one many would like to pursue. And from the hotel parties and festival performances, it’s easy to see why. But being a performer isn’t the only option if you’re looking to get into the music biz – so what’s the industry actually like? Is it hard to succeed? Is it as glamorous as they make it out to be?
We’ve called up a few people in the industry to give you an idea of the opportunities out there and how to get a hold of them.
Conagh McMahon-Hogan is a music student at ANU and front man of Canberra’s most exciting new talent, The Gypsy Scholars (and he also studies under former INXS keyboardist Andrew Farriss). He reckons studying music trumps walking blind into the industry.
“Studying music at university honestly gives me time to think about my future while at the same time being surrounded by people who have been in the industry for years. Their expertise is incredibly beneficial. Additionally, there are heaps of older students who are always happy to help out and offer their experience. The university has also provided us a meeting place to run into talented musicians. Being in the university environment, you know that the students around you are serious musicians, as opposed to someone who does it for a hobby and this musical conglomerate more often than not brings out the best in people and results in amazing collaborations.”
One of these collaborations is The Gypsy Scholars, a quartet who have taken the Canberra live music scene by storm. Having just released their latest single, things are set to only get bigger.
Andrew Cotman is one of the most loved people in the Australian music scene. Co-founder of national dance icon Stoney Roads, Cotman is responsible for many underground artists and regularly finds himself in Twitter discussions with Deadmau5 himself.
“I heard some generic dance music and sparked off an interest which is what kicked off Stoney Roads. From there I worked at music companies like Fuzzy (Listen Out, Harbourlife, Field Day), a music start up and eventually Inertia – Australia’s biggest independent label.”
From there Cotman began investing all his time in Stoney Roads, who have grown over the past few years into the most respected dance website our fair country has. When asked for advice for people trying to get a foot in the door, his advice was simple.
“Just give it a go. Volunteer at a festival, intern a day at a label or management company or start making music. Also think ahead, create a position for yourself or a product that the industry might need in 5 years and you’ll find yourself in a pretty great place by then.”
Adam Wilkinson is one of the larger names in the Australian music industry. Having worked from Recording Studios to Producer Management, he is best known for the discovery and development of 5 Seconds of Summer, the most successful Australian band since INXS. He started off as a roadie for small time Australian acts and worked his way up from there.
“I became friends with a few people in local bands that I went to school with and used to go along to their gigs on the weekends. I eventually started helping out and becoming their roadie by default. I guess I loved the feeling of ‘being with the band’ but never thought anything serious would come from it.”
Adam quickly discovered that the intense nature of the Australian music industry is incredibly rewarding. While the late nights and endless stress take their toll, it seems like it’s all worth it in the long run.
“Nothing can beat the moment where I stood at the side of the stage at the O2 arena in London watching a band I discovered playing in a pub to under 20 people, and seeing them play their first arena show to over 20,000 people. That was pretty surreal. Work hard, be determined, have a university degree in business, marketing or law (or at least have extensive knowledge of) and get in with the right people. Turn up to gigs and enjoy music. If you turn up to the right gigs and stand up the back of the room, you’ll end up seeing some familiar faces after a while. There’s a good chance that they work in the industry, so go and say hi. Finally, work hard and stay humble!”
Oliver Minnett is one of Australia’s best music photographers and is the creative director for Sydney agency Voena. He’s documented parties, people and concerts, from Kings Of Leon to Coldplay, from Kings Cross to Wee Waa.
“I was really lucky, photography was one of those skills I was able to pick up because I come from a family of photographers; my father was involved in that industry. So I was able to learn the ropes through assisting and asking questions. I showed my friend the basics of taking photos, and he started shooting bands, and I realised “I want to do that”, so I did.”
Since then it’s been an incredible journey for Oliver, beginning to shoot some of Australia’s best acts, but such things don’t happen overnight.
“It often takes a while for those moments to become important, we (Voena) covered Flume as he blew up from warming up and playing small shows at Sydney University to his first big headline show at OutsideIn Festival.
“I find the most important aspect is the storytelling aspect, there are a lot of photographers just trying to get great stage photos, and whilst they’re great, there’s so much more going on at concerts than just what’s happening in the 10 minutes in the pit music photographers get access to.
“The greats have a lot of originality, you look at the guys who tour with Skrillex, Justin Bieber, Peking Duk, etc, and they have a really unique and original point of view. I think it’ll continue to evolve and change, smart phones are getting better, and there’s an epidemic of people trying to capture moments. It’ll become about the best story tellers, not the guys with the best gear, and who shout the loudest.
“Just go and do it, and don’t make excuses. A lot of guys come to me for advice, but I can’t really give advice unless you’re out there making mistakes, and trying things for yourself. Find your own way of doing things, the tools you use are only the start, and don’t be discouraged by not being able to get your stuff to look the way you want it at first. Shoot, edit, and repeat, and continue to hone your skills!”
Alexander Duke spent several years throughout high school as a freelance music journalist. Prior to that he worked with the likes of Angus & Julia Stone, Bluejuice, The Presets & many more. In 2013 he became the youngest journalist to ever cover the famous Glastonbury Festival.
“The music industry, especially in Australia, is amazing. This country has such a rich music scene, and to be a part of it is truly something else. However because of this it’s a tough one to crack. I started when I was 15, interning from Channel V to Original Matters Management, who manage Angus & Julia Stone. It’s such incredible fun, and I’d hardly call it work, but it’s bloody tough. Everyone wants to be the best, and it’s highly competitive. I’d love to say it’s a walk in the park but its not, the pay is average and the hours are worse but it’s worth it. Everyone is in it for the love of it, because we want to be there, not because of the paycheck.”
Duke has accumulated over a dozen internships, from Channel V to Recording Studios and while some may have been a waste of time, they all add something, even if it is just a contact.
“The best way I found to get a foot in the door was to intern everywhere and anywhere. Between your school holidays and term time itself, people are impressed when you’re young and trying to get your foot in the door. You’ll find yourself going to a few places that are worthless, but all it takes is one and you’re set. Just find an area you’re comfortable with and can offer something and people will be very receptive – for me that was writing. It’s a lot of work, and it takes its toll, but in the long run it’s all worth it. Put yourself out there, make contacts and work your way up. Plus the free tickets are a huge bonus.”
The music industry is one of the more demanding ones, and there’s always going to be heaps of others out there trying to work their way up like you are. That said though it is definitely one of the most rewarding industries.
You could be putting on festivals or finding the next big thing (or even becoming the next big thing) – it’s all up to you.
Cover photo credit: krosephotos