What is your position at Music NT, and how did you get into it?
My role at MusicNT is the Marketing and Communications Officer, my gig is all about celebrating, promoting and sharing the stories and opportunities in the NT music scene with local musicians and music industry on a national level. Honestly, I fell into the role by accident. Anjea Travers (my awesome intelligent and wonderful MusicNT colleague) met me at an event in Darwin and invited me into MusicNT for a chat. I just happened to have a set of skills that they needed at that exact time and they offered me a job. Meant to be.
Describe a normal day in the life of Amy Hetherington.
Haha, that’s my favourite question! I don’t think I have a normal day. I work part time at MusicNT and run a freelance media business. I facilitate media and leadership workshops for young people and perform as a comedian/MC in Darwin so every day is different. I don’t know what a consistent routine is – but that’s something I love about the Northern Territory, there are so many opportunities and interesting things to do here… you’ve just got to say yes to them.
But to answer the question: a normal day in the life of Amy Hetherington tends to be filled with interesting people, lots of talking, Facebook, storytelling, photography and film, laughing and doing my best to help people achieve their musical and creative goals.
“Sometimes artists and industry just get tired, unmotivated and content in the bubble we have here. I try really hard to keep the energy going and encourage the NT scene to keep pushing.”
What challenges do you face being based in Darwin? What challenges do the artists face?
Ah look I love the NT, but there are definitely disadvantages in being here, especially for the artists I work with. There’s a significant lack of music industry in the NT. There’s a very small number of managers, promoters, publicists, venues, recording studios, labels etc. It makes it hard to access information and it makes it hard for our artists to succeed on the same level as our southern counterparts. As well isolation is a huge factor. There’s a disconnect in living remote. Even with the internet – it’s ok to say we can access information with the click of a button, but there has to be some reality to it before artists feel confident. And of course apathy, it’s part of Territory life. Sometimes artists and industry just get tired, unmotivated and content in the bubble we have here. I try really hard to keep the energy going and encourage the NT scene to keep pushing.
What in your opinion are the solutions?
I think events like the iNTune music conference and NT Song of the Year and Bush Bands are excellent ways to fix this feeling of isolation and apathy. It’s amazing how pumped the scene gets after these events, there’s an energy and an enthusiasm that really spurs people to achieve more. It’s like they actually believe they can make things happen. So yes, I think support for projects where industry and inspiring people from the national music scene engage with isolated/remote places is key to supporting some of those challenges. It’s amazing how real everything feels when you’re face to face with someone.
What advice can you share, for anyone wanting to start a career in the industry?
Be passionate about it. There’s a lot of work and you don’t always see the outcomes you deserve. But with most arts-based careers it’s driven by passion and interest and a belief that these industries play vital roles in our cultural existence and community. It’s not like mining, engineering, commerce or sport… where support comes easily. You’ve got to work hard and love what you do. Also be nice to people. It’s a small industry and if you’re mean, people are going to know about it. Be nice, be helpful, be engaged and be grateful – people will like to work with you and you’ll get a heap more opportunities.
A lot of people get burnt out in the music industry – both artists and industry professionals.
What do you think is the key to sticking it out?
I know this feeling! MusicNT punches well above its weight in delivering massive programs with a small team and we get burnt out. I slept for 16 hours after the National Indigenous Music Awards! I think the key is to give yourself opportunities to step back and look at how much you’ve achieved and how awesome you are. It’s really important to pat yourself and your peers on the back. Nothing feels better than a sense of accomplishment, especially when you’re tired. So, take a break and look at all the work you’ve done and actually say ‘yay for me’ every now and again. Also make sure you look after the people you work with. Check in on them and buy them a beer once in a while, because if you do it, likelihood is they’ll do the same for you.
“I think support for projects where industry and inspiring people from the national music scene engage with isolated/remote places is key to supporting some of those challenges.”
What issues/potential issues do you think the current Australian music industry face?
I think there’s a growing level of skepticism about the industry. A lot of younger musicians (and older ones) are getting frustrated and losing their faith in the industry. They understand that money talks and sometimes money speaks louder than actual talent. So a lot of them are giving up on the Australian music industry. This isn’t a completely bad thing – it encourages more grass roots ventures and niche groups who appreciate different types of music without the need for a full industry around it. But I think the industry as a whole could learn to listen without the money filter. We play a role in supporting the cultural and creative reality that Australia experiences and ensuring that music that is creative, unique and high in quality is accessible. This is something I really believe in.
If you were to change one thing about the structure of the Australia industry, what would it be?
This one is tricky for me because I don’t come from a music industry background and I’m still learning how things work. But one thing I’m seeing in the Northern Territory is an issue with live music venues. Venues are closing and struggling with rules and regulations and every time a live music venues closes it reduces the opportunities available for artists to share their music, refine their craft and engage audiences. I think there needs to be more support for live music venues and those small business owners who are desperate to support the local music scene. I’m not going to pretend like I know the ins and outs of the laws that govern these venues, but I think that flexibility ought to exist to promote, encourage and support cultural development and creativity. This is what makes communities healthier and engaged.
Have you had to overcome any challenges/adversity throughout your career? If so, can you tell us about them and how you approached them?
The biggest challenge/adversity I’ve had to deal with is acknowledging that no matter how hard I work I’m not going to keep everyone happy. It’s a hard lesson to learn, especially for me because I’m one of those people that needs to make people happy. But when it comes to creative, passionate people you’re never going to please. People are entitled to their opinions and sometimes they’ve been brutal in their delivery. What I’ve learnt from this is to take everything with a grain of salt and listen to everyone’s opinions. Sometimes people just want to have a whine and then leave it at that. But it’s important to remember that just because someone is being negative doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I’ve learnt that feedback is important, and although I’m still a bit of a sook when it comes to unhappy feedback, I’m learning to take it on and work with it.
What does 2015 hold for you? Any exciting things that you can tell us about?
2015! Well It’s half way through already and I’ve had a huge year… but there’s still exciting things in the pipeline. I’m doing some MCing and comedy at the Darwin Festival this year and then I head to Alice Springs to perform at the Alice Desert Festival. Then I’ll be working on the MusicNT Bush Bands Bash – a huge celebration of Indigenous music in Central Australia.
Then I’m heading over to BIGSOUND (if anyone wants to hang out, hit me up!).
I’m also working on my first solo comedy show… that’s pretty exciting. And of course continuing to support the NT music scene.
What do you find helps you unwind/destress?
I love walking. I go for a walk every morning. It’s gorgeous weather at the moment in Darwin (sorry everyone experiencing winter). So I love waking up and walking around my beautiful home. I always try to walk in the morning and prioritize that before anything else. I’m also devouring books and graphic novels at the moment. And I love a good live music gig! I love taking photos at gigs and just enjoying live music.
Who are your role models in the industry whether they be international/Australian?
You know I haven’t thought about this before. But really for me the NT is home to some really impressive people that might not get recognition on a national level – and I find I appreciate people who work under similar pressures/contexts to me. I’m really inspired by the MusicNT team and how hard they work, Anjea Travers has always been a really impressive person to work with. But also James Gough from NOOK who has really changed the NT music scene by getting touring bands to the Top End and providing support slots for local acts. Nicola Pitt from CAAMA is pretty awesome and has achieved so much in her time there. James Mangohig from Sietta has always been a good person for advice for me. And Sose Fuamoli from the AU Review – geez that chick isn’t scared of anything and she knows how to work hard and play hard.
Who are three Aussie artists you’re really excited about?
I’m going to be biased here and talk about NT acts.
I, The Burden
Young, energetic, focused and always giving back to the NT scene. It’s not necessarily my genre of music – but they’re incredible live and their EP sounds excellent.
At The Dakota
These recently took out the People’s Choice at the NT Song of the Year Awards. I love the indie/pop sound, but more than that I love their commitment and hard work.
This year’s NT Song of the Year Award winner, Broadwing has always been unassuming, generous, humble and a super freak of musical talent. I love his music and I think he’s got a lot to achieve in the coming years.
What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
Baby Got Back by Sir Mix A Lot.
For those that have been to an iNTune Darwin conference before you’ll know it usually ends in karaoke adventures and I don’t mind smashing this tune for our visiting panelists.