Shannen, please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
When I moved to Australia seven years ago from the UK, I never expected or thought to find such a unique and driven contemporary music arts scene. In many ways, it was refreshing to see a culture where musicians and artists are so motivated to be successful and are embraced for doing so; I felt a strong sense of community. And because of this, I wanted to get amongst it and be involved with the Australian music scene.
With this passion and drive to be involved in music, I focused locally and I started CBR DIG, a Canberra-focused music group that included an online publication and gig series / events all over the city. With time, this became a popular platform for contemporary artists in the ACT. What started as a passion project had turned into a growing operation. After being embedded and working closely with the local music scene, MusicACT, hired me as their first Program Manager.
At the end of 2018, I launched Turning Heads Agency. My roster has included; Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers, The Dead Love, Columbus, Tamara & The Dreams, and more. Turning Agency still continues to have a roster of management and music servicing clients from across the country and growing.
In 2019, I relocated to Melbourne to continue to pursue my music industry career and work at Ground Control as an assistant artist manager to Emma Louise, Kardajala Kirridarra, Robbie Miller and Buttercats.
In March 2020 when COVID-19 hit, I began my collaboration with Emily Ulman and Rhiannon Atkins (Merpire) to found, create and program Isolaid Festival, Australia’s first live stream music festival. We saw a gap in the current live music market and acted and adapted immediately. At the beginning of this project, we worked with 70 artists a week and their teams.
In 2021, I began my role at the Association of Artist Managers (AAM) and still continue to work in many different music industry roles with artist management and gig booking being at my forefront.
Tell us about your role, what does your day-to-day entail?
Where to begin! As an artist manager, your day-to-day can entail all sorts of tasks. From negotiating deals to hiring out a rollercoaster at a theme park for the day. There are no ends to what your role requires.
At the Association of Artist Managers, my role is Memberships & Community Engagement, I work closely with our community of artist managers. I ensure that everything that the AAM is offering is communicated to our members and work alongside the incredible team (Maggie Collins, Kate Adams & Greg Carey) to ensure that our members are getting the best incentives and feel supported within our community.
I fill the rest of my time booking live music events, servicing music, selling merchandise and overall making sure that I am always active and engaging with the music community.
Have you had to overcome any challenges or adversity in your career, and if so, how did you approach them?
COVID aside, I think my biggest challenge would be focusing on my own mental health and keeping a grasp on burnout moments. I’ve been working in the music industry for just over five years now and when I first entered it, I had no idea what to expect or what kind of environment I was getting myself into. As time went on and I began to settle in, I began understanding how to set expectations, and boundaries whilst still being able to look after my own wellbeing which I neglected to do at the beginning of my career.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in music who would like to pursue a career like yours?
Find a mentor in the same field you want to work in
Take part in professional development programs that your peak bodies offer
If something doesn’t work out the first time, that’s okay
If you’re not sure what part of the music industry you want to work in, explore
Prioritise your mental health and how much you are capable of
Set clear expectations and boundaries with everyone you work with
What advice would you give to your younger self, say 5-10 years?
Hmmm, I’d probably tell myself just because I’m not academically smart, doesn’t mean I can’t be smart in other ways. The only person that is stopping you to achieve the things you want in life, is yourself.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the course of the pandemic?
That working relationships will come and go, especially as you’re growing and learning, not only as a music professional but also as a person.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
I think my biggest highlight so far is Isolaid festival which is the streaming festival that was launched between Emily Ulman, Merpire and myself. It was a big initiative and we engaged a massive amount of the music industry and community.
Tell us about your role models – who’s career do you love and look up to?
There are many women that I look up to in this industry, to name a few – Sahara Herald (her open journey with mental health and her career in live music has been very inspiring to me). Also, Cathy Haridy, Maggie Collins, Charlotte Abroms, Sarah Hamilton and so so many more.
Do you have any activities that you do for self-care that are non-negotiable?
It’s not really an activity but I have a hospitality job that I do 1-2 times a week. It’s a stunning little wine shop in Clifton Hill and it gives me the opportunity to focus on something other than what is happening on my email and I work with a fantastic team of women.
What is your big picture career goal?
I am currently building my own music agency and it has been running for four years. One day I would love to be able to sustainably work full-time on it, with other artist managers representing their own artists and servicing music through the agency. I do also hope to say in the music programming and community engagement world!
If you could time travel and see any artist from any time perform live, who would it be and why?
Fleetwood Mac when they were all really angry at each other.
What does 2022 hold for you? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
I’m currently holding many music job roles, some exciting things might be in place! 👀
What is your go-to karaoke song?
My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion