What is your current role and how long have you been in the position for?
I am currently the Youth Music Development Officer at Darebin City Council in Melbourne’s inner north. I coordinate a range of music-based programs, recording and rehearsal facilities for young people including a youth-led record label Decibels Records and the Darebin FReeZA all-ages events program. I have been in the role for six years.
What else are you working on at the moment?
When I’m not at Darebin City Council, I also split my time as an Advisory Council Member for the ABC and Grants Panel Member for Creative Victoria.
Describe a normal day in the life of Kate Duncan!
My work life is generally pretty chaotic, involving lots of teenagers, impending event deadlines, local government bureaucracy and Allen’s Party Mix. All the Party Mix.
To enable some kind of organised chaos, my regular daily routine is dictated by my ever expanding to-do list, attempting to manage my inbox using the Inbox Zero method and drinking lots of cups of earl grey tea.
I try and embrace youth participation practices in everything I do, so there is rarely a boring day when our youth committees are always coming up with hilarious and engaging event concepts and release ideas for the artists we work with. One day I might be dressed up as a nun who is holding deer taxidermy for a film clip, the next day I might be working on a Halloween party with Ur Boy Bangs. This is actually my life.
“Gone are the days where the industry made an effort to foster the next generation of audiences and artists.”
How did you get your start in the music industry – what is your story of how you got to where you are today?
I kind of always knew I’d end up working in the music industry. All throughout high school I spent my lunchtimes (and classtime) playing in bands, writing songs, going to gigs, making band merchandise and postering the streets of Clifton Hill and Fitzroy with the gig posters of whatever underage show I was working on at the time.
Throughout my late-teens and early twenties I fumbled around in a few pop bands Jane Vs World and Sarah Sarah – releasing records and touring both nationally and internationally until I realised that I wanted to use the knowledge I’d gained over the years to help other young and emerging artists with their careers.
Throw in a few successful (and some unsuccessful) attempts at university degrees in Professional Communications, Music Business and Youth Studies, I finally came through the other side as a qualified youth worker who has worked in a range of local governments, state governments and not for profit organisations across a variety of music-based programs and initiatives.
What advice would you give to your 18yo self?
Get off Napster. Go to the Punters Club more. Stop drinking Fruity Lexia.
Do you think that higher education is necessary if you want to work in the music industry?
Yes. I think higher education is essential in all industries in 2015. All workplaces are becoming more and more competitive, so the higher the qualifications you can obtain, the greater chance you have of landing that dream job. That said, most industry jobs I’ve had have come through pre-existing networks and relationships, so I think it’s just as important to ensure you go to gigs and industry events to meet people and keep informed about potential opportunities.
“I’d also get in the ear of every major booking agent and live music venue in the country and try to convince them of the importance in including all-ages events in their tour schedules.”
What is your favourite ever memory or experience from working at Decibels Records?
Probably the Decibels Records annual artist showcase events. Each year over 10 months, myself and up to 30 teenagers all work together with industry mentors to record, produce and release EP’s for two local artists. Creative projects can be challenging enough at the best of times, but throw in the opinions and emotions of 30 people – things can get pretty intense! Being able to work through all the individual elements and coming together to celebrate and showcase all the hard work is always a special moment for everyone.
This year’s Decibels Records Artist Showcase & Release Launch is happening on 30 October at Northcote Town Hall.
If you could make any changes to the current Australian Music Industry what would they be?
I’d start by bringing back the ABC TV program Recovery, or at least a format that is relevant for 2015. There are such limited opportunities for contemporary music to be exposed on TV at a national level. Not only did Recovery provide an outlet for established and upcoming artists to perform live and be showcased, it fostered a sense of community and connection amongst the youth audience who would religiously tune in every Saturday morning. Laura Imbruglia and a bunch of her friends have spent the last 12 months working on a web-series ‘Amateur Hour’ which is hoping to fill this gap. It’s awesome. Check it out here.
I’d also get in the ear of every major booking agent and live music venue in the country and try to convince them of the importance in including all-ages events in their tour schedules. Back in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s all Australian artists realised the significance in playing shows to underage audiences. Now it’s a rarity for teenagers to get to see their favourite artist (legally) in a local live music venue. Gone are the days where the industry made an effort to foster the next generation of audiences and artists, but now prioritising the income from bar takings. There has been a real shift in culture (both from artists, venues and agents) in considering youth audiences and it is an incredible shame.
What was the first album you purchased?
Pretty sure it was Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club on cassette from Kmart, Northcote Plaza.
What 3 artists are you most excited about?
Through my work I am lucky enough to be surrounded by some super talented and awesome young artists. At the moment I’m really loving:
Frontgal from Animaux, Alex has stepped away from the saxophone and is writing the most ridiculously catchy pop songs with all your favourite pop culture references. Her live shows are banger.
Tali is the frontgal from my favourite Melbourne three-piece Biddlewood. Tali is working on some demos for her solo project at the moment and they literally the best songs I’ve heard in forever. There’s this one song Mexico. Holy crap. I cry every time. It’s the best. She’s the best.
Greer Clemens is your dream girl. When she’s not playing in The Darjeelings or Frida she’s writing the perfect three minute pop songs about that cute boy you saw down High Street. Last year she recorded her debut EP ‘Reggie’ in her bedroom in Carlton. It got me through the worst breakup of life. Thank you Greer.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off!