You’re a solo artist releasing your album Wear It Well, and also work as a venue booker for the Gasometer Hotel and Toff in Town, can you tell us about how you juggle these different personas and positions?
It’s a funny question for me to think about. I don’t think of myself as having any sort of split or divide in personas. It’s almost the opposite. I feel like the one part of me informs the other. In dealing with artists I hope I am a better booker because I know exactly the position they are in, and when I’m looking to book my own shows, I find I understand the needs and wants of the venues/agents I am approaching. But my work and creative brain are quite separate and essentially I feel incredibly lucky to work in a field I am so indebted to, and adore.
Describe a day in the life of Emily Ulman…
I am useless pre-coffee. So that’s the first booking I make. After that I can deal with my inbox, meetings, ideas and lists of bands to listen to and/or chase up.
How did you get your start in the music industry – what is your story of how you got to where you are today?
I was studying occupational therapy after having completed my arts degree, with a view to moving into some form of music therapy. I decided to defer my degree and do NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) to focus on my music for a year and release my second album. A friend asked me if I could fill in at the cloak room at the Prince Bandroom in St Kilda and I agreed because Steve Earle was playing that night, and I needed the money (in that order). That night, the then owner, Dror Erez, asked me if I could help out with administration in the office while his current music co-ordinator went overseas. I jumped at the chance and ended up taking over publicity and eventually bookings and working at The Prince for 9 years. Thank god for people needing to hang up coats!!
What advice would you give someone wanting to become a venue booker? Did you receive any advice when you first started?
I think organisation is the key to being a proficient venue booker. There are any number of hundreds of current bookings, potential bookings, ideas, irons in the fire etc happening at any one time. It’s outrageously stressful, and having systems and being organised to stay on top of it all, is the starting point. I’m not sure I received advice as such, but working with Dror at The Prince was invaluable. Watching how he operated, listening to the process of his decision-making. He is the most direct and fair man and I definitely think about that time as formative to my career.
If given the chance, what would you change about the current Australian music industry?
I’m not sure if there’s a lot I’d change. I’m thrilled Listen has brought issues of women and gender to the fore, and there’s still a ways to go as far as the gender imbalance goes, on and off the stage. But Australia has an ever-thriving music scene and it’s an exciting time for artists and music-goers/listeners alike.
Have you had to overcome any challenges or adversity in your career, and if so how did you approach them?
I think stress is the biggest challenge I have dealt with and still deal with. I know that’s not peculiar to me and my job, it’s the nature of the music industry; it’s so rapidly moving and it’s tough to switch off at the end of a work day. The workload theoretically doesn’t really have an end. There are always emails to write, bands to check out, songs to write.
Do you feel that higher education is necessary to work in the music industry?
I don’t think anything is necessary to working in the music industry. Maybe just passion and the desire. Personally, I adored my higher education, and studying helped shape my outlook on the world in a lot of ways. But is it essential? Not at all. Do I recommend it? For some people I really do. I also don’t think you can put a price tag on education, and I also don’t think there’s any hurry to enter the workforce. But having said that, academia doesn’t suit everyone, and that is beyond A-OK.
Who are you role models in the industry whether they be international/Australian?
Angie Hart has always been the kindest, most patient and genuine person I know. Life lessons are transferrable and the confidence and calm she offered me on stage, I have in my pocket at all times.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Karaoke scares the shit out of me, but I’m not gonna lie, I do a killer George Michael’s ‘Faith’ without much convincing.