Interview: Kate Duncan, CEO of The Push on Changes 2018

There are few things less certain in this world than change; an inevitability that demands recognition and pure folly for those who would pretend that it does not. Like any industry, the music business faces its own challenges to react to and continually evolve in the face of Changes, which is also the chosen title of a new industry summit that will kick off in July.

“It’s come about in response to us really wanting to provide a platform for the whole Victorian music community to come together and set a future direction for our industry,” says Kate Duncan, CEO of Victorian youth music organisation The Push, who have partnered with Yarra City Council and Music Victoria to create the event.

Over two consecutive days and nights the summit aims to address the current state of the Victorian contemporary music industry and, through a series of workshops, discussions and performances, to incite actionable positive outcomes for artists, labels, agencies, managers, promoters and other industry professionals at all career levels. The program identifies the areas of music, tech, talks and ideas as its focus.

“They’re really good themes that can draw out conversation and allow people to set the future direction of how we should be doing things more collaboratively and celebrating our unique community here in Victoria,” says Duncan. “We felt like there wasn’t really an opportunity to do that previously, and the way in which we’ve programmed this and that in which it is being delivered, we feel is going to create meaningful outcomes for people to continue conversations post those two days of activation across Collingwood and Fitzroy.”

Using those suburbs where the majority of Melbourne’s popular live music venues are located, not only for the discussions and workshops being held at the Australian Catholic University (ACU), but for the many showcase performances, is indicative of the event’s focus on the here and now of the contemporary music scene. “We’re so uniquely positioned that we are the live music capital of Australia, so why are we not celebrating our artists, our labels, our industry and our audiences?” says Duncan.

“This is an opportunity in which to do that and, particularly around the tech and talks side of things, we really want to be using this as a platform to have new voices and new ways of doing things highlighted and showcased.”

Consequently the team have abandoned the usual panels populated by professionals discussing the same old topics and replaced them with programs that will allow participants to be involved in the discussions and workshops with experts in the various fields.

“On the first day it’s a series of short 30 minute talks of individuals talking innovation so that everyone can walk away really inspired and energised about new ways of doing things,” details Duncan. “On the second day we’re calling it ‘Focused Interaction’ and it’s very much about small group workshops, one on one meetings and giving people the opportunity to have those conversations that they want to with the people they need to. Because that’s something that the old format of a conference, we just weren’t seeing that people were getting out of it what they needed to. After you walk away on that last day, then what? So we hope that this new model will encourage people to continue the conversation going for weeks and years.”

The program is divided into streams for artists and professionals at different stages of their careers. Sounds Australia are managing the section dedicated to helping artists who may be at an international touring level and aims to create immediate business outcomes by putting them in the room with the international delegates. These include SXSW’s Music Festival Programmer Stacey Wilhelm, Coachella’s Rishi Shah and Michelle Landry of New York’s Bowery Presents/Rough Trade.

The emerging stream is being handled by The Push, helping to disseminate information to those who are just starting out, while Music Victoria and APRA AMCOS are in charge of the mid-career stream, and covers much of the technology discussions and workshops. “I think the key particularly for artists is just around the importance of using data to guide your future decisions and career choices,” explains Duncan.

“We’re seeing more and more the role in which streaming plays in your career and how you can be using that data to future plan where you’re going to tour and who your audience is. That’s really important and I think a lot of artists just aren’t tapping in to right now, so there’ll be workshops particularly on the second day that will be teaching people, breaking that down, how to access it and how to use that to make sensible decisions moving forward.”

Finally, the showcase performances are being curated by some of Victoria’s most exciting labels, artists and organisations, with over 80 acts taking over ten venues in Fitzroy and Collingwood. These include Barely Dressed Records, IOHYOU, Milk!, Bad Apples Music and many others bringing together an impressively stacked two nights of music.

“It’s the right time to put these new thought leaders in front of our audience,” says Duncan. “At the core of it it’s a celebration of our community across Victoria. This has been a project and an event that everyone will truly own and be proud of.”

Changes is taking place on July 4-5 with tickets and information available at changes.melbourne. Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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