Meagan, you’re the Head Of Music & Creative Development at ABC, please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
I knew I wanted to work in music radio from when I was about 11. I remember being blown away by the impact a song played on the radio could have on how you felt, thought and saw the world. I also loved the connection that you as a listener felt with a presenter; it’s so intimate and truly unique. I studied Media & Communications after school and started volunteering for 2SER in Sydney, working on the Drive program as a producer and a presenter.
My first real job was at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, where I learnt loads about the value of the community media sector. I started volunteering at FBi Radio in 1995 at its very first, fledgling test broadcast and loved the chaos and energy. I went on to work as the Radio Manager for youth media festivals LOUD and NOISE, built an online radio station in the late ’90s dot com boom, worked for a short but glorious time at Belvoir St Theatre in marketing then went to work for triple j as the Drive producer. I left 18 months later to start up FBi as the Program Manager when the station got its full-time licence, launching it in 2003 with a team of incredible people. I was there for eight years, before returning to triple j as the Program Manager.
After having my second baby, I came back from mat leave to set up Double J and manage triple j Unearthed on digital radio. Double J launched in 2014, where I’ve been lucky enough to be the Content Manager. I also took on extra music teams across the ABC in the last few years, including the amazing Music Show on RN, Saturday Night Country on ABC Radio, ABC Country (our dedicated DAB+ country station) and looking after rage. I cried when my boss asked me to manage rage. A total bucket list moment. Recently I moved into ABC’s Head of Music and Creative Development role – and that’s me!
Tell us about your role with the ABC, what does your day-to-day entail?
I work with the incredibly inspiring teams at triple j, Hack, Double J, triple j Unearthed, ABC Classic, ABC Jazz, ABC Country, rage, The Music Show on RN and the brilliant Beccy Cole on Saturday Night Country on ABC Radio. Anything that our national music networks do – and other music content on the ABC (like The Set).
Day to day is a mix of being across daily and weekly editorial and content, supporting the managers and making sure we have the best structures, processes and resources in place to allow our teams to get on with being creative; thinking and planning ahead for upcoming events and campaigns (like Ausmusic Month or the Hottest 100) and also ensuring we are making the right strategic decisions about our team and content to ensure we’re future-proofing what we’ll look and sound like, as media and music habits continue to evolve. Day to day is heaps of listening. Not only to music and programs on our networks, but also listening to people and helping to develop them, create opportunities and to solve problems as they come up.
What has been your proudest career achievement so far?
I love watching FBi Radio in Sydney continue to evolve and thrive, particularly the way that the annual SMAC (Sydney Music Arts & Culture) Awards that I started has grown, giving recognition to emerging creative communities across the city.
I’m super proud of how Double J continues to connect so deeply with our audience and supports both new and established Australian artists. My greatest joy is seeing the achievements of so many presenters and producers that I’ve worked with since they were teenagers grow into some of Australia’s best content and music creators, like podcaster and presenter Mark Fennell, label boss Nina Las Vegas, DJ & artist Anna Lunoe and presenter Linda Marigliano, to name just a few.
Who are your role models in the industry, be they international or Australian?
In music, there are so many boss women I admire who bring their whole selves to their jobs and are just nailing it year in year out, like ABC Music & ARIA Chair Nat Waller, Chugg MD Susan Heyman, Frontier’s Tour Director Sahara Herald, Fuzzy’s Adelle Robinson and artist manager Jess Keeley who’s just returned from the UK and US having managed Shania Twain, one of the best-selling artists of all time.
In media, I work with super talented people who inspire me every day, including Pam Thornback, triple j Marketing Manager, who always knows how to both read, lead and light up the room. Karla Ranby, who inspires me with her intelligence and compassion, who is now leading our Music teams in diversity and inclusion, having real impact on how we work. Richard Kingsmill is another role model, he works incredibly hard, is a brilliant, creative thinker who leads with integrity and empathy. Presenters Zan Rowe, Lucy Smith, Avani Dias and Myf Warhurst make me want to be smarter and better at what I do every day.
Oh, and I bow down each and every day at my PJ Harvey and Sampa the Great shrines, two artists who remind me to strive to be true to yourself and singular in your creative vision.
What’s your favourite thing about working with the ABC?
My favourite thing is that everyone I work with deeply respects the privilege we have as a public broadcaster, working with the shared purpose of using our platforms for good, to support the Australian music industry across all our networks, and to do what’s best in service of our audience. That’s the best thing to get out of bed for each day.
Who are your top three ‘artists to watch’?
Just three? This question has taken me the longest to try to answer! There’s so many exciting new artists I’m loving getting around ATM, like: Tasmania’s A Swayze & The Ghosts; Pitjantjatjara neo-soul artist Miiesha; African-Australian producer Big Skeez just leaps out of the radio; and I can’t wait to see live Perth’s Adrian Dzuke, Sydney’s Lola Scott and Martha Marlow.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in music who would like to pursue a career like yours?
I’m always surprised by how few people network well… My advice would be to make contact with people whenever you can. Most people love being asked for advice!
What is your big picture career goal?
I’ve done so many of my dream roles and am really grateful for the opportunities and support I’ve had along the way from many mentors, managers and mates. I’d love to always work with creative teams, who take risks and continue to evolve. And music, culture, art drives me.
That said – I’ve also always thought I’d like to create funerals that don’t suck… So who knows what’s in store. After Party?
What is the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
There’s two that have hugely helped. My first ever boss told me that a great manager should teach you everything they do, so that by the time they leave their role, you should be able to step into it. I’ve relished training and developing people and teams ever since.
Second – just before my mum passed away when I was an awkward teen, I asked her how I’d ever feel confident. She said, ‘Everyone has the same amount of confidence as each other. Some are just better at hiding it.’ It’s been a line I’ve returned to often, particularly as I grappled with imposter syndrome for most of my 20s and 30s.
Oh, and third – you never regret a swim.
What does the rest of 2021 hold for you? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
Ausmusic Month in November is such a great celebration of local music and artists across our networks, I always look forward to it. This year, we are hosting the NIMAs (National Indigenous Music Awards) on Blak Out on triple j, Double J and triple j Unearthed which we are incredibly honoured to do. We are relaunching the triple j Unearthed website which is beyond exciting.
Plus, I’m just really stoked to be buying tickets for gigs again for the rest of 2021 and next year. I’ve missed live music so much being in lockdown and can’t wait to see the industry ramp back up after a brutal 18 months.
What is your go-to Karaoke song?
Toto’s Africa… purely so I can attempt the syllable-heavy, ‘I know that I must do what’s right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti’. That line gets harder as the night goes on…