Anna, please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in England and was heavily involved in the alternative/heavy music scene as a teenager. I discovered an interest in fashion design while studying Illustration & Graphic Design at University, so this role and becoming a part of UNIFIED Music Group feels both exciting and a natural progression for me.
After studying I interned in the fashion industry for a year to get some real-world experience (working a bar job in the evenings to support myself as I lived out of home) before deciding to travel around Australia. I fell in love with Melbourne immediately and was SO lucky to fall straight into a Buyers Assistant/Warehouse Manager role for a chain of stores. The experience I gained from this job really paved the way for a succession of roles in the fashion industry. I have been so lucky to learn a wide skill set including marketing, design, content creation, buying, planning and general business skills.
Tell us a bit about your role, what does a day in the life look like for you?
Super Special Merchandise are a part of UNIFIED Music Group, providing product development and production, eCommerce solutions and fulfilment for artists, labels, promoters, licensors, venues and brands.
As with most office-based roles my day starts with a quick check of emails to see if any last-minute priorities have come up overnight. We work with many international artists so trying to catch their teams before the end of their day in other timezones is priority.
I then check-in with my team who manage all digital activity; we look after customer service, product catalogues, website development and marketing for twelve different ecommerce sites including 24Hundred, Space Mirror Merch, triple j store, Tash Sultana, Splendour XR, Client Liaison and Tim Minchin.
The rest of my day can be as top-level as campaign strategy with clients or as hands-on as setting up digital ads and creating content: I love the variety.
Why is merchandise such an important part of the industry for an artist?
Selling merchandise and having an eCommerce store provide a revenue stream for artists that isn’t dependant on performing or touring; something that has been highlighted recently by the global pandemic and became essential for the survival of the music industry worldwide. I really love the passion of music fans, it speaks to me as part of that very human need to be part of a community. Plus every band t-shirt worn is essentially free advertising!
What do you love about being a woman working in merchandise?
I am so lucky to work with a largely female identifying team, including four of six of the management roles at Super Special Merchandise. I think that’s wonderful, and certainly unusual in my experience. Representation is so important, having a diverse team can bring so much more to a business, encompassing viewpoints that may not be considered otherwise is only ever a good thing.
Is there anyone you’d like to mention that inspires you or has inspired you in your working life?
Franka Jung-Larsen was General Manager at T2 Tea in the UK and I absolutely adored working alongside her. I had a bit of a fan-girl moment on first meeting when she told me she’d previously been Buying Manager at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong – my favourite department store. Franka was so fun to work with, and a brilliant businesswoman I learned so much from.
What tips would you give a young woman trying to work within this community?
Don’t change yourself to fit in, your perspective and unique experience are valuable.
What do you think is currently the biggest threat to artists or the industry and what would you do to change it?
Definitely the global pandemic we are currently experiencing. It would be great to see support for the Arts from the Government in this tough time.
Do you feel that higher education is necessary to get into the music industry?
Not at all. I have regrets about studying when I did, as I think would have chosen to do something different if I’d been older and had a bit more life experience. Probably marketing and communications rather than design.
Tertiary education can be useful for building confidence and having access to resources (programs, guides, tutors), but I believe the most important qualities cannot be learned; enthusiasm and determination. If you have those you will learn and progress whether you have studied or not.
Have you had to overcome any challenges or adversity in your career, and if so, how did you approach them?
A friend recently told me the average female fashion designer salary is $60k p/a, and the average male fashion designer salary is $120k p/a. Wage disparity is something I have come up against in previous workplaces. I have had to fight for pay rises knowing I had male colleagues who were paid significantly more. I stated my case, provided examples of how I added value to the business and why I deserved more money which was always successful for me.
Do you have any tips for artists creating merchandise that sells well?
Keep it simple! Some of the best-selling designs for artists we supply have been around for years and continue to walk out the door.
Quality over quantity every time. Consider options that are more environmentally friendly, both ethically and as a point of difference.
Who are your top three Australian artists to watch right now?
Amyl & The Sniffers