Tips of the Trade: from five new APRA AMCOS Ambassadors

Tuesday, 10 Nov 2015

What do the five new APRA AMCOS Ambassadors, KLP (Kristy Lee Peters), Katy Steele, Catherine Britt, Caitlin Yeo and Barney McAll feel about diversity in the Australian music scene? Read their tips on staying true and achieving dreams.

New APRA AMCOS Ambassadors

Does a career as a songwriter or composer CHOOSE YOU or do YOU CHOOSE the career?

“Both ways. I grew up with a musician as a dad, so it was running through my blood. I think creativity and songwriting can be something that is worked on like a muscle and developed - so in that sense you can choose to do it. Some days I wake up and songs are pouring out of me, others I have to decide to sit down and give it a shot,” said KLP.

“I think people can come to composing at any age really and are often spurred on by life experience... My favourite composers are those that need to articulate things they see and experience and in that sense, their composing isn't a career but rather just a large piece of their life puzzle,” said Barney McAll.

“Even though I have actively sought work in the film industry, I often feel that my career as a screen composer has not been by choice or design… what I would call a fortunate series of events. Every film I work on seems to be a stepping stone to what's next,” said Caitlin Yeo. 

APRA AMCOS is working hard to engage our female songwriters and composers to develop their careers and open up opportunities - did you come across any barriers to your career and how did you overcome these?

“Luckily I've been doing music professionally since I was extremely young, so over the years… [I've built] up a fairly solid thick skin. Every year that goes by, I get more courageous in my approach to obstacles, be it from other people or ones I put in front of myself in my mind. I hope through my music and my general day to day vibes I can pass off that mentality to other females (and males too!) and encourage them to have true self faith and fearlessness,” said KLP.

“There just aren't enough female or ethnically diverse composers studied and represented as young composers going through the ranks of study. I think initiatives that focus on female and more ethnically diverse composers could inspire confidence in those people as they progress. Andrea Keller, Sia, Kate Moore, Joseph Tawadros, Gurrumul.. these people are changing the Australian cultural climate in a big way and these people point to a 50/50 split in the future. I feel like perceptions are changing too slowly, but they are changing!” said Barney McAll.

“I haven’t come across many barriers in my career being a woman… it just means you have to work that little bit harder, but I’m not afraid of hard work. I make music for people who want to hear it,” said Catherine Britt.

“Obviously (this is)… a daily battle for women. I'm happy to say though, that the number of women working behind the scenes seems to be dramatically increasing, which is great. I am surrounded by people who I trust and want the best for me. I think there is power in numbers so the best thing women can do, is just keep writing amazing songs and keep creating. And most importantly stick together and support each other,” said Katy Steele.

What opportunities do you think would particularly benefit female songwriters and composers?

“It's actually a really exciting time as there are more female-focused things popping up. I see radio events, workshops, seminars all focused on females in the music industry. One thing that would be so cool though on a more general scale, would be seeing not only woman talking about gender equality and ways to progress - but seeing some men stand up and chat about it too. We're all in this together,” said KLP.

“I think women’s music could be used a lot more in female-related advertising and everyday life. We could really push women’s music for almost anything… I know my team are!” said Catherine Britt.

“The best opportunities are ones that provide education and experience, amongst a diverse group of peers. Once a young composer starts to hone their skills, learn their own style, and find others in the industry who are like minded, hopefully, their individual craft and skill will unlock a rich and diverse career, regardless of race or gender,” said Caitlin Yeo.  

“I don't think women need special treatment. We are tough and intuitive individuals. I think songwriting workshops are really great for anyone, regardless of gender, to build confidence and learn the art of writing,” said Katy Steele.

What words of advice do you have to the 16 year old girl sitting in her music class in Bass Hill High wondering whether to pursue a career in music?  

KLP said, “Be kind. Be fearless” a thought echoed by Catherine Britt, “Go for it and back yourself” and Katy Steele said, “Fads come and go, so find your inner voice and sing about things that you believe in and that inspire you. Then work hard, stay focused and never give up.”

Caitin Yeo said, “When I studied screen composition at AFTRS, I was the only girl in my class. I never questioned it. I just went out there and tried to get the gigs, chalk-up my experience, and learn my craft.  The hardest thing has always been to juggle demanding film schedules with my demanding family life. But as my mum used to say to me ‘women can do anything.’”   

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