Ben talks with Freya McGahey, an Arts Communication & Content Specialist, about how to get a foot up and into the industry, her fave interviewee and the changing face of the contemporary music scene.
Freya, how did you first get into writing about music?
I was working for a production company whose main project was a music television show on NITV, after being involved in the industry from that angle I was eager for more and when I saw a request to write for Sydney music blog Happy Mag I jumped at the opportunity. Starting small with premieres and Q&A pieces I was soon being asked to interview for their cover stories, produce my own opinion pieces and present new music to the editorial team. When another blog asked for me to write for them as well it seemed to be the natural progression to making music writing and content a career. Since then I have interviewed some of the biggest acts in Australian music, covered the ARIAS, BigSound and travelled across the country for numerous festivals and shows. It’s been fantastic.
Was it hard to get your foot in the door?
I think that comes down to your personality. When I want something, I make it happen. I took myself seriously from the first day, even small things like my email signature, Spotify playlists, LinkedIn and having a website, which were all in sync and working together. This was key to building a brand for myself as a professional. When people see that you value your own work it makes all the difference, making it clear that you are here to stay and will work twice as hard as someone who is just in it for a free ticket or to meet famous people. It’s all about the impressions you make with someone when you speak to a publicist, a manager, an artist or editor, even the security at the door of the green room. I think I have been given opportunities up to this point because I was the CEO of my own career and took everything as seriously as if I was running a major label, a bank or a corporation. Even if it was just me in my bedroom or the library. I’ve received some of the best offers and opportunities in my career because I treated every story, interview or consulting job as a part of my portfolio. Believing that you are worth being hired and that you are a valuable asset to a team or a project is imperative in making others believe that too.
Who has been the most interesting person you have interviewed?
Baker Boy. I’d worked in the same circles as him whilst I was involved at NITV and so when Cloud 9 started making waves it was just so exciting to see someone who you knew was in it for everything good from day one. His commitment to his family, to indigenous Australia and the stories of his community are an invaluable foundation for the way we are starting to see Australian hip hop and its place in our industry. To speak with him was probably one of the most refreshing and natural conversations I’ve had with a musician. Nine times out of ten with the artists I speak to, whilst they are lovely and many I count as friends, there is always a low hum of an agenda, whether that be a new record coming out, a tour or a publicity issue. Danzal (Baker Boy) wanted to make music with his friends, be proud of his heritage and show people what Indigenous Australia can be. His place in Australian music is truly significant.
How do you see our music market changing? Eg., more punk rock acts, more girl groups or more punk rock girl groups?
Music is becoming a lot less dependent on the institution. Where once artists clamoured for a record deal and that was the gateway to success, publicists were your voice and posters your face, I can see now that artists are creating their own audiences without the need for external support and getting further and further on their own. In the past year alone I’ve seen bands go from playing support slots to five people in Newcastle to selling out shows, headlining small festivals, recording EP’s and managing huge social media followings all on their own. A group of three or five people are taking control of their business and making something of it. Our artists are becoming much more self-sufficient and equipped for the new, independent world of music. The number of messages I get on Facebook for advice on getting music seen or heard is ridiculous and when I go and take a look I realise that it’s a sixteen-year-old kid in his bedroom who had taught himself Ableton and running a small music business with thousands of followers. It’s these kinds of developments which takes the velvet rope away from the door to success in music and gives everyone an opportunity to be heard.
To your question about women and girl groups, absolutely there has been an increase in the number of women kicking goals on stage. This past year I’ve loved watching artists like Alex Lahey, Stella Donnelly and the girls from Rackett making huge strides, but I do think that the biggest changes have been in the industry. I’ve heard more female voices last year than ever before, more offices become balanced between men and women, and I’ve seen incredible feats of entrepreneurship. Bree Wilkinson and Breakeven Records, Brynn Davies and Rachel Bell at LunchBox or Jack River and Grow Your Own Festival are just a few examples of where the playing field has become much more balanced and hopefully something which will continue to evolve.
I also think that it’s important for people entering the music industry to know that your skills are really versatile. If you know about Facebook marketing or like using Photoshop then use those skills, they are always relevant. I remember receiving feedback about an article I wrote where the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) was performing pretty poorly. I realised I didn’t understand how it worked or what good SEO was. I went online took a short video course, read a book from the library and then was able to add my new skills to my CV and to my work from that point forward. Up-skilling is invaluable and any opportunity to learn something new is one you should leap at. You will thank yourself when it’s the one thing that sets you apart at a job interview in the future.