Indie-Con Australia: Meet The 2020 Speakers Sharing Their Music Industry Knowledge

L-R, top to bottom: Jeremy Sirota, Siobhan Kranz, Hazel Savage, Mike Warner L-R, top to bottom: Jeremy Sirota, Siobhan Kranz, Hazel Savage, Mike Warner

This week, Indie-Con Australia music conference (1-2 October) will be staged virtually.

This year's speaker programme that will explore live-streaming, releasing music in lockdown, maximising revenue streams, international pathways for labels, and new wave A&R, as well as discuss diversity and inclusion policies for labels.

Missy Scheinberg – Mushroom Group, USA

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?

I got started in music by writing for various music blogs, interning at record labels and managing a local band while at university in New York. I also did a semester abroad at UNSW while simultaneously interning at Sony Music Australia, which is how I came to love Australian music.

After graduating I worked on the management side at Lunatic Entertainment, while still based out of the US, working with Mansionair, CHVRCHES, The Temper Trap and Skegss among others.

After three years in management, I moved over to Mushroom Label Group where I look after DSPs and handle international marketing (hiring Stateside press, radio etc.) for our releases that we have rights for in the US.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?

The ins and outs of working an Australian release in the US, mostly based around streaming, press and radio.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?

It's levelled the playing field for international artists – especially for younger Australian acts in the US. It no longer matters that you aren't touring the US around your release (because no one is).

Everyone is having writing sessions over Zoom, so it's the easiest it's ever been to work with overseas talent; and in the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of campaigns were definitely pushed back, making more room across the board for new talent.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?

Per the above, I think there will really be more younger artists breaking out globally without the hinderance of not being able to tour globally, and with the ease of making music and technology/social media.

I think we'll be seeing a lot more Tones and I and BENEE-like trajectories, because location is no longer a hinderance, and the global music industry will adjust as such.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?

While it sounds negative, remember that if you haven't 'made it' yet, 'no one is waiting for your music' – there is no need to rush finishing music, releasing music or finalising any of the creative.

Even if you feel any pressure from getting music out quickly, it's much more important to make sure that you're 100 per cent happy with what you're releasing before you do so – this also makes sure that you give your team (if you have one) enough time to make sure everything is set up properly, so everyone can do their jobs properly.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?

I'm a native New Yorker with roots in indie rock, so it was definitely Brooklyn band Nation Of Language's self-released debut album 'Introduction, Presence'.

Musically, it's the freshest, most modern take I've heard on new wave and post-punk; and on the industry side, it shows that you don't need a label or an agent to build a dedicated following and sell out shows and vinyl.


John Watson - Eleven

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I started out working in recored stores and playing in indie bands while I was still at uni.

After a few years doing freelance music journalism I did A&R and international marketing at Sony Music before leaving to start my own management company in 1995. In 2000 we also started a label.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I've been asked to be part of a panel discussing a possible code of conduct for the Australian music industry.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Well, I've lost 15kg so that was a good start! Dad jokes aside, I think many people have come to a much better understanding of how they were – and should – be spending their time.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
Artists and labels with significant audiences will continue to do well out of streaming, but those who depend more on live work will continue to struggle financially

The good news is that grassroots gigs should slowly start to return but at reduced capacities so it will probably be this time next year before tour revenue starts to get back to something like it was pre-COVID.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Focus 95 per cent of your energy on your audience. Too many people still think some music biz guru can help you avoid all that legwork, but that's rarely the case

Plus careers that are built by strong fan engagement are typically more enduring and rewarding, so it's worth the extra effort required to build an audience one by one.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
It's been great to see Vika and Linda having big success after so many years. They've been part of literally dozens of great recordings by other artists so it's wonderful to see them getting their own moment in the limelight.

Johann Ponniah – I OH YOU

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm the founder and director of a music company called I OH YOU. We're a record label, promoter and management company.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'm on a panel about A&R and labels.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Being forced to think of new ways to release music and make sure it reaches the audiences it should.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Write great songs.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Confidence Man - 'First Class Bitch'.


Emily Ullman - Isol-Aid Festival, Brunswick Music Festival

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
For 18 years I've worked in the music industry as venue booker, festival programmer, producer, publicist, teacher, entertainment manager, mentor, musician, radio presenter, AFLM/W Western Bulldogs fan and live music fanatic.

I'm currently Managing Director and programmer of award-winning online music festival Isol-Aid and the programmer for the Brunswick Music Festival.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'll be speaking on a panel with a bunch of amazing humans about live streaming. I'll be discussing Isol-Aid – the weekly online music festival – different platforms, formats, monetisation, and where to from here.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
This year I've been forced to learn, adapt and grow in so many ways.

Ultimately, I feel like I'll come out of 2020 a stronger, more resilient and capable person. And while times continue to be difficult, I plan to keep moving forward, achieving more and continuing to work to help our industry.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
I feel as though the clouds will slowly dissipate and the sun will shine stronger and brighter than ever before.

That is to say it might be a slow and gradual process of re-opening and recovery, with government assistance and community support required, but I really do feel that our local, independent music scene will continue to adapt, re-imagine, and be better and stronger for it.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Have fun and be kind.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Miiesha - 'Nyaaringu'.

I love the intricacy and intimacy of the production of this debut record. I love the melding and pretzeling of styles and genres from hip hop, spoken word, prose, R&B and poetry. I love it as individual tracks and an entire body of work.


Hazel Savage – Musiio

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I've been in the music industry for 14 years, previously at Shazam, Universal and Pandora. I am now the CEO and Co-Founder of an AI music startup called Musiio.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'm always keen to talk about the future of the music industry, especially when it relates to tech and new innovation.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
I have a heck of a lot less jet lag, and I am sure my carbon footprint is way down this year.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
I actually have tickets for a show in Perth Nov, 2021. Some have said I am too optimistic. I hope they are wrong, I want to be back to live shows ASAP. A vaccine might get us there quicker.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Build a good fan base and get good at marketing yourself. You'll be hard to ignore.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Imogen Clark has a great new EP out. . . not sure she counts as independent anymore, but she was when I first met her. Brilliant artist, brilliant country twang.


Ahilleas Papantos - AZYT Global Talent

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
A background in music and gaming/ esports. Founded and ran record labels, developed an extensive roster of successful music and gaming talent, built Australia's most successful esport team and directed many industry firsts in music and gaming cross over campaigns.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
The synergy of gaming and music culture and technology. How harnessing platforms such as Twitch and Discord can be of benefit to artists and record companies.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
The gaming and esports industries have seen significant growth in viewership on content platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, which has lead to an increased appetite from brands to connect with my roster of gaming talent.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
Australian music companies recognising the opportunity to integrate into platforms such as Twitch and developing strategy to develop these verticals for their artists. Certainly more good music too.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Have purpose and stand for something. The world is a crazy place right now, and art is a reflection of the times. This is the time to say something and push boundaries.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo. A match made in rap heaven.


Terry McBride - Nettwerk

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
Artist manager for the first 25 years of my career (Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Coldplay and others), then decided I wanted my life back and focused back in on my record label in 2010.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
Signing artists from a community perspective and moving within communities on Spotify.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Nettwerk's music on a streaming level has not been impacted to any real extent.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
Growth.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Be real, understand and support your community.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
I focus more on songs, not albums and there are too many to mention.

 

Jeremy Sirota - Merlin

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm Jeremy Sirota and I am CEO of Merlin.

I came to Merlin after time as a tech lawyer, at Warner Music Group (including ADA), and the Facebook music team. My work with Merlin brings together my lifelong passions for technology and music.

At Merlin, we strike the best deals for our members with digital music services like Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Tencent, and now Snap and Triller.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'll be speaking about who Merlin is, how we provide value to both our members and digital partners, and the developments at our company and within the independent music community in this unprecedented year.



I’m also looking forward to my virtual sit-down with Ollie Wards, TikTok's first director of music for Australia and New Zealand. I'll have the opportunity to discuss his move from radio into tech, what TikTok means to creators and artists, and what this bodes for the future of music.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
As a digital-only company, Merlin has not been heavily impacted by COVID.

This year, we've welcomed over 70 new members from all over the world, secured new digital partnerships, and accelerated how we drive value to our members. 

Industry-wide, it's been positive to see the continued growth in subscribers across the digital music services, as well as the way artists and venues are experimenting with live streaming.


We've also been inspired to see digital services and governments step up and support music and culture. In Australia, for example, the Victorian government recently announced a first round of grants for live music venue grants to help keep these venues afloat.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
All of the great independent Australian labels and artists will continue to be a tour de force on the global music stage.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Hone your craft and write more songs. There's always a need for great songs that transcend and tell new stories and find new audiences.

In addition, thoroughly embrace digital by growing your audiences on social media.

Think about the fans you want to reach and go to where they are – the same way you'd find them by selecting the right live venue. Most of all; don't give up! We need music to help us through these times and beyond.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?

I can't get enough of Gengahr's 'Sanctuary'. The band is using this album to explore a tough emotional place – something that many of us can identify with this year.

Despite that, it's not a dark record; there's plenty of the catchy beats that have Gengahr's signature sound. 'Atlas Please', for example, is a gritty and unflinching, but overwhelmingly optimistic song. This record brings me to the place where I want to be.


Mike Warner – Chartmetric

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
Independent streaming focused artist and partner manager. I help artists on and off the charts.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'll be encourage artists and their teams to think outside of the box and different ways to utilise the tools they already have to locate and use data as leverage for future opportunities.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
People are releasing the music they want to create, not thinking about what they can play in a stadium.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
A swarm of new artists will break through online through the likes of TikTok and Twitch. They will be the new headliners when touring recommences.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Music is a small portion of the release, the rest is business. You need to know what's required so you can do it yourself, or find the right team to do it for you moving forward.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Passa Porto. Sometimes we all just need to chill. This music has helped me to relax and drift away to another place.


Siobahn Kranz – Frontier Touring

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm a music obsessive, originally from Brisbane. I've been living in Melbourne for the last six years and in that time have worked in various positions within the Mushroom Group's live and recorded business areas.

I'm happiest when my values and interests intersect, namely inclusion, art, innovation and community.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'm on a panel with some incredible other people and we'll be chatting about diversity, inclusion, and how record labels can adopt policies to make their workplaces and wider environments more equal and safe.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
The unexpected positives to me mostly centre around perspective. This seismic shift has really made me focus on what's most important in life: family, your relationships, and health. Also, it's allowed me to have some extra time to pursue further study.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
I hope to see independent artists pushing the boundaries of their output. The limitations COVID has imposed is no match against creativity.

Also, I imagine there have been some incredible songs written during lockdown, so I can't wait to hear what music comes out of this time.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Don't just do what everyone else is doing. Question the status quo.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever released a corker of a record in June called 'Sideways To New Italy'.

Being a Brisbane girl, anything that's even mildly reminiscent of The Go-Betweens makes me feel warm and fuzzy. So that's been nice in a year when it's been impossible to visit home.


Cathy Oates - Original Matters

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I run a management company including managing Kira Puru, Alex The Astronaut and Megan Washington. I've been managing for nearly 15 years and prior to that spent 15 years in record companies.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I am moderating the panel for New Wave A&R.

There are many ways to discover new artists and I'm very interested to hear from my panel of the more traditional approaches and some of the newer approaches. No matter how you go about finding the next artist you want to sign, a strong instinct for great music is always important.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
I feel we had become too dependent on live music as a marketing tool, no matter if it costs the band loads of money to tour, particularly internationally.

This period has reminded us that a lot of other creative activity can happen to really build a genuine fan base before heading out on the road.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
It's a very healthy scene and now, via new avenues other than radio, there is a lot more variety of music being launched from this country.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Do the music you want to do, the next 'new artist' needs to be unique, not like every other band that already exists.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Flowerkid's new single is a showstopper. I heard it once and thought it was lovely, when hearing it again as I was walking in to a room, I was floored.


Alex The Astronaut

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm a singer called Alex The Astronaut. I'm not actually an astronaut at all, but that's been my music name for the past four years and I've travelled the world singing about my feelings.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'll be discussing what life's been like for me as a musician in a pandemic.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
I've got to be home to spend consistent time with my friends and family and learnt how to use power tools.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
Absolutely no idea. I'll be writing music but don't know if there'll be shows or recording or anything else. Just plodding along.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Tell the truth in your songs in the deepest way you can and remember it's supposed to be fun.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
Phoebe Bridgers' 'Punisher' because it is so well written and produced. She's such a funny and smart artist and her writing on this album show cased all of that.


Stu Watters - Morph Consulting

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
I'm Stu Watters and am unashamedly devoted to making Australia the best independent music country in the world!

I've been involved industry development roles now for over 20 years and also have considerable domain expertise in the music and related content industries and a strong focus on intellectual property management. Rights management and flow can be like a puzzle and I like puzzles.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'm moderating the Music as Part of Developing Tech panel, which being at the end of Indie-Con should really look to the future and how music businesses can position themselves favourably in the tech space to ensure they are finding the balance between supporting new developments and use cases with technology but also ensuring they are remunerated for their involvement given the capital investments they've already made.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
Apart from more work, less money! Community, compassion, imagination, flexibility, and the opportunity to rethink old worn out models.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
That really depends on where you sit in the ecosystem. Those with solid catalogues of rights already in play are going to have a decent buffer given the promise of revenue returns from streaming, but if you're highly dependent on the live market then it's going to be a long ride out.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Diversify your income streams, get organised and get smart with the 'business' of your music. A lot has changed and being able to respond quickly to those changes requires a lot of preparation, particularly around digital.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
No album yet, but Hope D from Brisbane blows my melon – so much talent packed into very few years on this planet.

Australian: 'Sideways To New Italy' by the Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – what's not to love? They just remind me that Australia makes world class music. O/S: 'Ultra Mono' by Idles because they're honest and visceral and we need that at the moment. It came out today and I've given it a fair run already.


Ali Barter

What's your background, elevator-pitch style?
My name is Ali Barter. I am a songwriter and touring musician from Melbourne. I have released three EPs and two full-length albums since 2012 and toured Australia and internationally since then.

I am a prolific songwriter, both solo and with and for other artists – mainly in Australia and the US but I have begun venturing into new territories such as India.

Give us a brief overview of what you'll be discussing at Indie-Con Australia?
I'll be involved with a panel discussing live streaming, specifically a series of performances I did in my house called Live From Inside, which I presented as a 'tour' – each night in a different room.

I also ran an open mic night on Instagram which ran for 14 weeks and travelled from Australia to India, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, USA, UK, Germany, France and Switzerland.

Sieve through the carnage of COVID; what unexpected positives have you drawn from 2020?
The rise of autonomy of one's voice through social media. I learnt that I had a lot more power to create than I thought before COVID. And I connected with artists all around the world through my open mic night, which has built meaningful connections I plan to utilise when travel and touring starts up again.

The next 6 months for Australia's independent music scene; what's your forecast?
A slow start for touring. Small shows, more online performances, more live content made and shared online.

Primary piece of advice for indie artists/ bands looking to make an impact with their music?
Authenticity. Make music that you like and have a voice, through your songs and on social media. Also be prolific, keep writing and recording and playing as much as possible. Don't wait for things to be perfect, just get it out there.

Favourite independent music release of 2020?
I met a musician called Mali based in Chennai, India who put out an incredible song called 'Age Of Limbo'. The clip is made up of footage from all around the world during the first lockdowns. Beautiful stuff.


Indie-Con Australia is FREE for AIR members, trade association members of the worldwide independent network (WIN) and members of other Australian music industry bodies. Non-members can also attend (a monetary fee applies). Register for more information.

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