Tips of the Trade: Self Management
Bex Chilcott is the lead singer of Perth alt-country band Ruby Boots. Earlier this year she applied for The Seed Fund’s Management Workshop. On the cusp of releasing her debut album, she was accepted into the program and has just returned from completing it. Here she shares what The Seed Fund enabled her to learn.
Say I’m a self-managed band. We’ve recorded some songs and are deciding what to do with them. What are some practical steps or strategies self-managed artists should take to get their music out there?
For me there are two key starting points. Firstly - knowing who you are and what you want as an artist. And knowing who your audience is and what you want from them. This is the place it all stems from. Putting careful thought into those two points will help guide you through your career. I suggest studying how artists that you admire have done things and take bits that you love from those case studies and go from there.
Starting local - build personal and respectful relationships with your peers and people in your industry is imperative. It’s also one of the best parts of the job. I have met some really wonderful, like-minded people through managing myself.
The most important thing is to have a really clear plan. And a strategy within that plan, based on research into the points I raised earlier. The plan is the road map to your career. It will help you work proactively as opposed to reactively because you are clear about what you want and how you want to do it. Setting practical goals will depict what your plan looks like. Having a start and end date is important too. Correne Wilkie’s session at the management workshop on “executing a vision” was one of the most inspiring hours OF MY LIFE! A lot of my answer here came out of that session.
Is it difficult striking a balance between writing music, maintaining your creativity, and also managing the business side of things?
Absolutely. I would have to say that this is my greatest challenge. Being a manager and an artist are two very big jobs in their own right. Both take a huge amount of time to execute well. Splitting the time between the two (whilst doing bits on the side to pay the rent) can be very challenging. Switching from left to right brains, although I enjoy using both sides, can have a detrimental effect on the flow of creativity at times. Especially when the management side needs the most attention but the artist inside of you is screaming to come out and play. I would love nothing more than to give 110% to my art.
What I have now learnt is to create a balance as best I can between the two. Jen Cloher gave some really invaluable advice about the time management aspect of this. Recognise how you approach your moments of creativity. When do you feel most creative in your day or night? Set aside time every day to nourish that. That really comes down to being disciplined with your time management. I think that’s the key here. It’s all too easy to just send one more really important email when there is a mountain of things to get done. But without nourishing your creative side, all too often you’ll be left feeling spent and uninspired for the project holistically. So creating that balance between the two is now a real priority for me.
Tell us about the music industry mentors you worked with at the workshop.
What helped me the most was the broad spectrum of mentors that covered topics on every angle of your career: managers, agents, artists (managed and self managed), business managers, publicists, press, radio, legal and royalty representatives, the list goes on. It really did feel like there wasn’t a stone left unturned.
We had one-on-one contact with the mentors at the end of each day where we could address questions specific to our own careers. Everyone who attended offered insight to all the crucial aspects of managing my career. There really is nothing else quite like The Seed Fund.
Another incredible aspect of the mentorship is having John Butler and Danielle (Mama Kin) present. Both artists have a great love for independent Australian music. They continue to inspire me and have worked incredibly hard on their own careers for a very long time.
Stacia Goninon, The Seed’s project manager, has seen artists like me come through the program since its inception. It’s her own individual insights that have shaped and molded what The Seed has become today. That kind of commitment and long-term vision is a key reason why I could come out the other side feeling like I had ALL the tools to manage myself as an artist.
What were the key lessons you learned from the workshop and how do you plan to apply them to your own music career?
I’ve walked away feeling I can work smarter now. All the scattered bits of knowledge I had previous to The Seed have now been consolidated and expanded upon.
How to plan smarter is the key now - setting an end goal and working backwards from there. Implementing everything I have walked away with from the workshop, whilst being very clear with myself about what it is I want and where I want to take it. I can’t express in words just how much The Seed has given me the strength and the tools to really be able to do that.
One of the most invaluable offerings is the close connection I now have with all my peers that attended with me this year; the community we have built with each other is priceless.
Having been to the master class, what’s one piece of practical advice you could share with other self-managed artists and bands?
WE ALL FEEL THE SAME WAY! There was an equal amount of laughter and tears over the course of the workshop, and lots and lots of bonding. Understanding that we are all working hard at this and we are all feeling the same pressures was paramount. So lean on your peers and each other because all the knowledge in the world will only take you so far – but without that community around you there is no room for growth. If The Seed Fund family had no vision of creating community and connections, it in itself wouldn’t exist. So we all need to use that ethos, take that with us and help each other grow as well as ourselves.
The Seed Fund relies on the music community’s contributions to remain self-sustainable and flourishing. Seed grant recipients and The Seed Management Workshop attendees are invited to become part of The Seed Social Club to raise the profile of the fund and its activities to continue supporting the emerging scene. Donations to The Seed Fund are tax deductible and can be made via the website www.theseedfund.org.