BIGSOUND 2020: Meet Some Of The Speakers Sharing Their Knowledge

L-R top: Julian McGruther, Paige X. Cho; L-R bottom: Charlotte Abroms, Stephen Green L-R top: Julian McGruther, Paige X. Cho; L-R bottom: Charlotte Abroms, Stephen Green

Less than a week until BIGSOUND 2020 goes virtual with two days (21-22 October) of dedicated keynote presentations, industry panels and practical workshops, there's still time to register (it's free in 2020).

If you're looking to upskill yourself to gain a better understanding of all facets of the local music scene, BIGSOUND's dedicated Professional Development stream is not only filled with pertinent advice from global industry leaders, but also designed to get you thinking about your own future and how we will exist in the current and post-COVID world.

Whether it's the marketing, financial, performance, social media, and/ or networking aspects of the music industry, BIGSOUND 2020 has the right panels and workshops to assist your progress and development. Register now.

Julian McGruther - Creative Manager for Mushroom Publishing

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
Started out writing and producing cheesy Christian power-ballads, somehow 'pivoted' that into working as a producer and creative director across a bunch of industries. Found my sweet spot in music publishing a few years ago and haven't looked back.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
Looking forward to learning how some really talented writers have built multi-faceted careers, where they are creatively in control, self-sustainable and able to make a real living.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Seeing the resilience of artists here and around the world has been inspiring. A global willingness to collaborate and create in new and different ways.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
Still a lot of hard work and perseverance. Hopefully the return of more live music.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Make music you love and are proud to share. Don't make it to get playlisted, added to rotation or to capture the ears of a record label. I'm a massive believer that the cream always rises to the top.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
Buy music. Buy merch. Buy tickets to shows. Buy an artist a stiff drink! Favourite independent music release of 2020? Ziggy Ramo's 'Black Thoughts'.


Sosefina Fuamoli - Journalist

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I've been working as a music journalist for the past decade, but in the last five I've been branching out into different areas of the industry.

I've done content production for various joints, whether it be editorial or radio; artist PR and label copywriting, and also some speaker/ facilitator work at different festivals and music industry conferences. All of these different ventures have been because I've wanted to keep learning and challenging myself but at the end of the day, I'm a music writer nerd at heart.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
The panel I've curated for BIGSOUND this year gathers four different perspectives to look at the idea of 'Australian Music' and what it means, what significance it holds for artists from multicultural backgrounds in 2020.

Is it a label artists of colour in Australia are happy to be associated with, considering the injustices many people from First Nations or culturally diverse communities experience inside (and outside) the industry?

How does the industry better represent the diverse community of artists creating and thriving within its structures, for this label to be properly inclusive?

These questions and more are ones we will discuss; sharing stories and perspectives, and trying to spur on more of these conversations moving forward.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
The resilience of musicians and creatives during such a time of uncertainty and unpredictability has really impressed me. It's like we've all unlocked some secret power generator we had tucked away in our heads and beings to navigate this period of time the best we can.

This isn't to say that we're all doing wonderfully, because we aren't. But with each small win our industry gets, whether it's in the form of sector funding, new gig formats being trialled successfully or just like, our mates releasing music that is really awesome to hear out of this time, I feel like the scale of those wins feel huge.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
Hard to say. Being Melbourne based, I find it really hard these days to be optimistic about when things will be returning to normal.

I definitely don't think that when things restart again, the 'normal' we know is the 'normal' we're going to get. I think it's a little naive to think otherwise. How this affects the music scene, particularly the independent music scene. . . I think six months is too early to tell.

I hope that we'll be more along the ways of getting people back into venues with appropriate measures in place for gigs to be less sporadic, more frequent; and I hope that people's support of independent artists continues to carry over and convert into ticket sales.

In terms of the actual music though, I'm confident there's going to be a whole swag of material from around the country that will prove career defining for a lot of these artists. Roses growing out of concrete, you know?

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Pre-pandemic, mid-pandemic, post-pandemic, it's going to be the same conditions for bands and artists to turn heads with their music.

You've got to know where you can make the most of your release and where you actually want your music to go. Manage your expectations, study your brand beyond being 100 per cent invested in the music you've made in the studio and tell your story in a way that never relents on the authenticity tip.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
If you can, order some merch or records online. It's one of the only ways you know the artists are getting funds direct. And it doesn't need to be much either – just look up your fave or local shops online and have a suss, you're bound to find something cool and you'll be supporting them at the same time.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
I really like the JK-47 album 'Made For This' and also Obscura Hail's 'Siren/Zero' EP that came out last month. Loving those two right now.


Charlotte Abroms - Artist Manager

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
Born in America, grew up in Australia, studied film, became an acting agent, co-founded Large Noises, creative strategist in creative agencies, moved into full-time music management.

I now guide the careers of Ainslie Wills, Angie McMahon, Haarlo and producer Jono Steer. I also recently founded Kind Face Creative, a platform for artists.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
I'll be discussing change within the music industry since the pandemic hit. I'll be on a panel with some wonderful minds including Gordi (who is also a medical doctor). I'm excited to hear everyone's thoughts, experiences and ideas.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
My concerns are with the people who have directly lost loved ones to this awful virus. I feel grateful to be healthy, safe and reflective.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
I think it will be quite similar to the last few months. Shows might slowly return but they will look different, perhaps seated, smaller capacity, socially distant. In the meantime, artists will continue to show resilience in finding new ways to engage their audiences.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Let your music be your North Star. Trust your gut instinct when it comes to people. Work with people who have a similar moral compass to you. Find humour in your creativity. Value the people who you choose to work with. Work hard. Be ambitious. Always thank your supporters.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
Without touring, this time has highlighted that although artists should have another form of revenue (via people listening to their music), this income stream alone may not be enough to provide artists with a financially sustainable career.

You can assist artists by finding ways to support them financially and emotionally. Buy their records, stream their music, write them a personal message on social media (or via their manager) to tell them how much you connect and encourage them to keep creating, buy their merchandise, share their music with friends who might also like it, book them for your Friday office Zooms.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Pillow Queens record 'In Waiting' is ridiculous. They are an independent Irish band. Their record is like that new adult friend you make when you think you've finished collecting adult friends.



Anything else you'd like to add?
As someone who works behind the scenes, the most important factor about a creative release for me is about having a positive energy around it.

A great song is made even greater when the people who you surround yourself with inject the love, happiness and positivity it deserves. Don't work with punishers! Punishers suck the life out of everything.

Stephen Green - SGC Media

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I run the SGC Media Group, which looks after the PR and marketing for a bunch of amazing artists and festivals as well as the media outlets Countrytown, Purple Sneakers and The Faction.

From breaking new bands to wrangling media for events like Firefight Australia and Wildlands, our group knows how to get music to audiences.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
The panel I'm on for BIGSOUND will discuss the appropriateness of quotas for First Nations artists on Australian radio and festivals.

It will delve into what the most appropriate mechanisms could be for the music industry and public at large to 'pay the rent' and ensure our Indigenous artists get the exposure and recognition they deserve.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Personally, rediscovering going for walks and trying to redress work/ life balance in amongst freaking out about how to keep a business afloat has probably taught me some good things to remember moving forward.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
More businesses going broke, less industry infrastructure to support emerging artists and more desperate people preying on bands to keep cash coming through the door.

If a vaccine is found, then we'll see a flurry of touring activity, but possibly issues with venues being in business to accommodate the shows.

What we WILL see though is people looking forward to getting back out to see shows and an appreciation from the public at how lucky we are to have live shows to go to again.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Write an amazing song and the rest will flow from there. Don't think you can short-cut your way to success by spending cash. Without the song, the rest is just a black hole.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
Purchase an album on Bandcamp, request Australian artists on your local radio station and buy a ticket for your local venue and grab a beer or two when you're there.

With the restrictions they are currently under, they are opening at a loss, so attending is the best thing you can do to thank them and ensure they're there in the new year. Favourite independent music release of 2020? Didirri's 'Sold For Sale' EP.



Anything else you'd like to add?
2020. Please make it stop.

Paige X. Cho - Bolster Senior Music Strategist

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm a Music Strategist at Bolster, Australia's leading culture marketing agency. A bit of a weird job title that my tax accountant never knows how to classify!

Essentially I work with music clients to help them find and engage with audiences. Bolster clients I've worked on include The xx, Adele, Elton John, Splendour In The Grass, Falls, Laneway Festival, Sia and Stormzy.

It's a really nice role that plays into my psychology background, advertising experience and over a decade in the music industry.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
My first session is a foundational masterclass on digital music marketing. No prior experience needed, and aimed at artists, managers, festival/ label marketing managers and SMB owners looking to market to music audiences online for the first time.

We'll go through the typical marketing consumer journey but with a music lens, and take a look at how common social media platforms can add value to music campaigns.

My second session is a literally A-Z look at cool trends and patterns that we've been seeing with music marketing, and I'll be co-presenting that with Carl Redwood (Senior Campaign Manager at Bolster).

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
COVID-19 has been so tough on the music industry, but an unexpected positive has been increased accessibility to music performances via livestreams.

Attending a live gig can be really exclusionary if a music fan is underage, has a physical or mental disability, lives in a regional area or can't afford a ticket. And even without these barriers, attending a live gig for the first time or alone can be really intimidating.

There are still barriers with technological accessibility, but apart from that it's been beautiful to see more music fans have the chance to watch performances.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
My gut feeling is that we'll see reduced opportunities for emerging artists and new industry professionals. It's been really tough for venues and festivals, with a good chance that a lot of smaller operators may not reopen.

Fewer venues mean less chances for new bands to cut their teeth with live performances and start building audiences. I've also seen a decline in jobs and internships paired with huge unemployment in the sector, so it's going to be pretty competitive for any new industry professionals trying to get their foot in the door.

Pretty dire forecast, but I'm hoping that we may get a bit more of a DIY scene back, and the huge demand for events in the general public may mitigate this.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Be genuine and authentic. Don't feel like you need to copycat artists that are currently getting played on triple j, added to Spotify playlists or playing festivals.

You can still be weird and different and find a fan base and still see success on all those above avenues. If anything, being a bit different will give you a really unique selling point and stand out from the rest.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
Support your small to medium music business that's had to temporarily pivot to stay afloat.

For example, Stagekings are using their stage building skills to make flat-pack desks for Aussies working from home, and The Gaso has set up an organic grocer and natty wine store in their front bar.

It would be huge if every music lover continued to support these wonderful businesses with their new ventures to help keep the money rolling until we can return to business as usual.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Not an Aussie band, but I've completely rinsed the new Metz album already.


Vivien Fantin - Next Act Coaching

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
Australian music industry veteran. Publicist. Coach. Counsellor in training. Recovering perfectionist. I help people in the music world set boundaries and manage self-doubt, self-care, perfectionism, procrastination and impostor syndrome.

I also help people cultivate resilience, to uncover their strengths, skills and values and set realistic goals. I basically work to help people get out of their own way.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
The panel is called Facing The Change and features the awesome Gordi, Emily Ulman (Isol-Aid co-founder), manager Charlotte Abroms and psychologist Dr Chris Stevens.

Over the past few months, we've experienced an unprecedented shift in our way of life. This session is a conversation about how we've had to adapt to the relentless changes that have been sprung on us care of COVID-19 and if finding the opportunity amid difficult circumstances is a strategy that can help us feel more empowered.

The topic of change is massive of course. You could do an entire BIGSOUND conference around change – both adapting to it, and creating future change for the industry.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
It's been a rare opportunity to work with people to look at outdated legacy practices and behaviours in our music community and help them figure out ways to move on from those.

We often don't make changes until we hit a tipping point. It can take a crisis for us to really look at what we are doing, how we're living and showing up in the world, and what we're feeling in order to figure out what's really important to us.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
I wish I could say that it will be smooth sailing but I forecast more headwinds. I think we'll gradually see more re-opening of live shows, still in a seated, physically distanced format.

Like all of us, I long to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people in a room or in a grassy field, sweating it up at a live show or music festival. But I'm not sure that will realistically happen until mid to late 2021.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Don't be afraid to try new things and ditch any perfectionism that might be stopping you from being adventurous. People are so hungry for music that they are not focused on your output being 'perfect'.

The best things I've seen this year are artists in their unplugged state, playing from their laundry at home in their PJs. Perfectionism doesn't always equal impact.

Also try not to compare to others, forge your own path. The more time you spend watching what others are doing, the less time you're focusing on what matters most to you – your values and your own creativity and impact.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
If you have the means, try and stimulate independent music artists income directly. They are a small business after all. Buy their merch, stream and purchase their music.

Also, consider a donation to Support Act, a not-for-profit charity organisation that is literally a lifeline to those doing it tough in the music industry at the moment. Know that the money you donate will help a member of this community that is in genuine crisis.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
'Our Two Skins' by Gordi.



Steph Liong - 2SER Music Director

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm the Music Director at 2SER, one of Sydney's longest-running community radio stations (find us on 107.3FM in Sydney, online and digital).

For most of my life I've worked in and around music, starting out in retail then moving onto broadcasting, programming, record labels and touring.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at BIGSOUND?
Radio! Find me at Sounds Good: Radio 101 where I'll discuss my day to day, talk up community radio, try to demystify landing airplay, and why radio is still an important medium.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Less unexpected, but more a reminder of the power of communities and how resilient they can be. Within music, we've seen some amazing initiatives and campaigns like Support Act, Isol-Aid, and Save Our Stages, but it's across the board.

It's been really inspiring to see how communities show up, rally together and support each other – and often it's started at a grassroots level.

The next six months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
A greater focus on Australian artists within the industry. I think now more than ever, there's a demand for home-grown talent, and that's an exciting opportunity for independent and new artists.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Focus on your craft and find your people. When I say people, the audience is only one part of that.

I think it's important to be able to tell your own story, and sometimes the industry can help with that, but there's a real value to building connections (and I don't strictly mean networking) within your community.

How can people who are not attached or involved directly with the music scene assist the recovery, even if it's a minor part?
There's still lots of music being released, especially from independent artists untied to strict release schedules, and now is the perfect time to dig a little deeper and more locally than you may have before.

If you have the means to support financially go directly to artists, independent retailers, and venues. It also costs no money for likes, follows, reposts and organising.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
I gotta give a shoutout to Sydney locals Sachet, and their album 'Nets'. A really strong guitar-pop record with heaps of fuzz, and just really whip-smart songwriting.

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