Please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
My story started when I first saw Wham!’s Wake me Up Before You Go Go video. It was the day I joined the time honoured tradition in our family of becoming a Fangirl, like my mother (The Beatles) before me and my daughter (Lime Cordiale, The Rions, Cody Jon) now. But like all fangirls, my obsession with music was deemed a hobby or a phase I would grow out of rather than a career path.
I spent the rest of my youth absorbing music – current and catalogue, musicals and video clips – whatever I could get my mind around as I was determined to learn everything. Today I know this was a fool’s errand as not a day goes by where I don’t hear about a new sound, song or artist.
Record stores became my libraries of learning as I was determined to get a job in the industry so by the time I hit Uni I decided that if I studied journalism, I could either be a writer or a publicist. The sudden realization of needing to pay rent, saw me head towards the publicity path with my first job in Adelaide at Sony Music. I spent several years in the major label system in Australia, moving to Melbourne and then Sydney with EMI eventually accepting an international role with them in London. I stayed in the UK for 10 years heading up marketing for Virgin before entering the world of broadcast as head of TAM and Programming for MTV UK. Finally, watching all those video clips had paid off and it was only when I got the title of Vice President that Mum finally said “I guess this music thing isn’t just a phase.” It was a career win for the fangirl.
After MTV I returned to Sony in the UK before emigrating back home in 2009 with a partner and a two-year-old son. The simplicity of raising a family in Australia was a key driver, but the juggle continued as we settled, having to go to gigs late at night and attempt childcare. We expanded our family two years later with a daughter, just because we weren’t tired enough.
In 2017 after several years in the role of General Manager at Warner Music Australia, I decided to set up my own business, which was something I’d never considered and probably did so a little naively. Fortunately, there were lots of incredibly talented female small business owners – publicists, managers, booking agents who took me under their wing and explained that Dropbox wasn’t actually powered by magic and it had a real purpose.
The Annex launched in 2018 with a staff of one and today it’s a team of 5. More importantly though, we’ve moved onto Google Drive because four years later, I’ve realized that I really don’t like Dropbox, it’s made by the Devil.
What does your day-to-day entail?
It usually starts with me either trying to do some form of exercise or justifying in my head why I’m too busy to exercise. It’s followed by coffee and loud vocal encouragement of the kids to get them off to school.
That routine is pretty much the only constant though with the rest of the day full of meetings with clients and managers, discussing issues and ideas, talking to the incredible team members of The Annex in between watching several Lewis Capaldi Tik Toks. Everyday comes with its different needs and wants. Evenings are spent at gigs, and if not it’s an evening of UK calls, emails, TV, the odd glass of rosè, and wishing I was on holiday with Aubrey Plaza in the White Lotus.
Please tell us about how and why you started The Annex.
It became very apparent in 2017 that I had reached the ceiling within the major label system and that the part of the job that I loved, which was artist development, was living a lot more with management and the artists themselves. So I decided rather than find that one perfect role to ride out my final years in the industry – I’d find several different roles and offer my skills and experience to the indie sector en masse. Jaddan Comerford at UNIFIED reached out and offered to help me set up the business and we immediately got to work on Didirri and Kota Banks with them, alongside Passenger and Chugg Music.
Being in a position now where we work for the artist directly and they know we’ve got their best interests at heart has been such a rewarding experience. Watching our artists develop over singles or albums as songwriters or chart toppers is the key driver. Our label partners across the industry are some of the most innovative and nimble operators and which makes our role easy when we can ideate something and execute it immediately. That adroitness is key in such an overloaded and volatile music market.
Have you had to overcome any challenges or adversity in your career, and if so, how did you approach them?
I don’t think there has been a week in my career where there hasn’t been a challenge, whether they are big or small. They can be trying to negotiate with tricky personalities or literally just trying to get single art delivered on time. It can be the challenge of doing the school run whilst on a conference call because that’s what needs to be done. Or it can be a grander more career-defining challenge, where whatever path you take will impact future choices. The hard thing about these moments is that when you’re in the eye of the storm, the issues and the problems can be all consuming and sometimes you amplify it by overthinking it. The key strategy for me to work through it though, is to zoom out and look at the bigger picture – rather than just the root of the problem.
And of course I have a go-to song for that energy.
John Lennon’s Watching the Wheels is an extraordinary song, lyrically detailing how he opted out of being a pop star, how he switched off work for 6 years to stay at home with his son. Reading the story of how people are surprised he would give up the merry-go-round because he chose to de-escalate his career constantly reminds me of choices we all have to make in our life as women. Are we going to give it all up for the sake of maybe having a family, at the risk of losing our spot in the game.?
People say I’m crazy
Doing what I’m doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin
When I say that I’m okay, well they look at me kinda strange
“Surely, you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game”
I think that has been the biggest challenge for me during my career – can I have it all? Honestly, I would say no. It’s like the time I tried to learn everything about music in a year where I was following a strategy that would just set me up to fail. It’s okay not to have it all. It’s okay to admit you can’t do it all. Sometimes I’m awesome at mumming, and shit at email and other days it’s the reverse.
I spent a lot of time getting anxious about how to be at work on time, drop two kids at two different schools and actually have make up on and look like I was in control – and the weird thing was once I accepted that I may not be able to do all of that, my life became ten times easier. John Lennon’s words are all about acceptance of life – things you can change, and things that you can choose, rather than focusing on the things you can’t affect. The biggest lyric of that song for me though and my mantra in the workplace is:
People asking questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them there’s no problem
So that “zoom out bigger picture” strategy I mentioned earlier, well that’s driven by this lyric. Focus on the solution, not just the problem.
Who are your role models in the industry be they international or locally-based?
Aspirationally and inspirationally for their energy – Emma Banks from CAA, Fifa Riccobono, Susan Heymann from Chugg Entertainment and Wednesday Addams.
Who are your top 3 artists or producers to watch?
This is a really difficult question as there are so many I’d love to shout out – however, if we’re applying the rule of 3 I would like to highlight some females that are both artists and producers, cause very rarely do we credit the incredible production work of women in the Aus music industry.
What is the proudest moment in your career?
I don’t know if I’m there yet because I’m in a position where I want to continue to grow, and whatever I am proud of now could be eclipsed by what’s still to come.
I can tell you this though, I’m at the most content part of my career. I look at my team everyday and what they are achieving and I am incredibly proud of them. I look at our partners and their willingness to embrace our ideas and our beliefs and I’m honoured to work with them. The fact that we get support and nurture talent in all its forms is a constant source of inspiration.
What is the best gig you’ve ever been to and why?
Oooh.. this is a tough one. So I can’t choose just one –
- Superock – Canberra – first gig ever! Featuring Kids in the Kitchen, Hoodoo Gurus, Gangagang and Mental As Anything – I had never seen anything like it, nor would I ever forget it
- Radiohead at Glasto 1996 – First trip to the UK, first Glasto, first experience of knee deep mud – it was all worth it
- Kylie’s Showgirl Tour Adelaide 2006 – Such an incredible moment to see her onstage, post cancer battle…. It was hard not to be emotional about it all as it was a showing of truth strength from an artist who was still rebuilding herself physically
- Genesis Owusu at the Enmore this year – both times! The moment where the floor broke was deflating and exhilarating at the same time, but a week later we were back and it was incredible
- Miiesha at Vivid – I had no expectations walking into this one but it was stunning in its intimacy and incredible with her honesty.
What is your greatest lesson or piece of advice you’ve received?
It was from Mum:
“If you’ll regret it, don’t do it. And if you do it, don’t regret it”.
Who has been your greatest champion in your career, who has helped you along the way?
I think my champions have always been the people I’ve worked with – when you are part of a great team or have a great team, they are the people that help you. They are the people that work on the results that you all need. They are the people that lift you up and help you win. They are your champions.
What do you think is the biggest threat to artists or the industry and what would you do to change it?
Fear of the future and the unwillingness to challenge it or change with it.
The key to getting through this for me is being as transparent as possible. A lot of fear is driven by lack of understanding around how the world is changing and what metrics people are using as success. People can follow the wrong path by searching for success with outdated goals and expectations. We don’t celebrate the wins enough no matter how small they can be – so for me the biggest thing to do here is advocate for the new opportunities available now, rather than mourn options we’ve lost through tech, audiences and Covid. There is still success out there, it just looks a little different these days.
What would you tell your younger self if you can tell her anything?
Firstly, sadly you are not going to marry George Michael, no matter how much you love him. And most importantly never be embarrassed about being a Fangirl. Fangirl is often seen as a derogatory term when females feel passionate about music. They’re branded hysterical if they scream at a concert, but they drive the music industry. They engage, they share, buy tickets, buy merch and listen to music. Give me a BTS concert over Woodstock 99 any day. I would not have had the career I have today without the Fangirls – so thank you!
Do you have any activities that you do for self-care that are non-negotiable?
Finding one TV show to share with our kids and making sure we get to sit and watch it with them at least 4 times a week. It’s self care for us all as we come together over shared experiences. And who doesn’t want an excuse to rewatch The Office.
How firm are you with boundaries between work/life balance and how do you try to enforce them?
I’m going to have to take the Fifth on this one. I know I need to be better at this and set boundaries. Not long now till New Year’s Resolutions right?
Any tips for a quick ‘pick me up’ if you’re having a bad day?
In no Particular order:
- Lewis Capaldi Tik Toks
- Seth Meyers: A Closer Look
- Call Mum
- Soup dumplings
- If you have kids – hug them
- If you have kids – embarass them by hugging them in public
- Brooklyn 99
- Put red lippy on
- Play the songs that you still want to dance to – very loud, and then dance like Elaine in Seinfeld
What is your go-to Karaoke song?
For the sake of all humanity I don’t ever commit to Karaoke. But if you’re ever in the car with me you’ll get a spectacular version of Unholy By Sam Smith and Kim Petras.