Women put yourself forward. It’s no longer a man’s world!
The following is a transcript of the keynote speech given by Linda Bosidis, Head of A&R at Mushroom Music Publishing, at One Of One’s inaugural Women In Music breakfast on Thursday 8th of March 2018.
I’ve always been a music fan. I was 5 years old when I hounded my grandfather to buy my first vinyl single, ‘Sorry Suzanne’ by The Hollies.
In the 80s I finished my schooling, I didn’t have a career plan. Instead I was enlivened by my new independence and like-minded experimental friends. I needed money to save for my European back packing trip, so I took a job as a law clerk and was thrust into the corporate world, despite dressing like a goth and 80s Madonna. I hung out in record stores like Missing Link, Greville and Polyester. I spent nights slinking into pubs and clubs, absorbing a vibrant and exciting music scene. I didn’t always blend in. Many of these venues and punters did not conform; it wasn’t a polite crowd or scene. There was anger, destruction and rebellion. If you could make it up the stairs to the Prince of Wales band room in St Kilda without getting spat on it was a victory. I also worked behind the bar at The Club in Collingwood and community radio dominated my life, it’s where I discovered new music and heard female DJs. This 20th century underground music movement formed my passion for sonic innovators and punk rock attitude; saying, doing and playing whatever the hell you wanted.
I was obsessed with music and particularly sought out, collected and fixated over Australian & NZ artists like The Stems, Killjoys, Died Pretty, The Clouds, The Hummingbirds, Lime Spiders, The Bats, Blue Ruin, Hard-Ons, Straightjacket Fits, GOD, The Church, Falling Joys, Underground Lovers, The Chills, The Triffids, The Go Betweens and Dead Can Dance with a bit of Wa Wa Nee thrown in for good measure.
In 1990 I took on a temp position at APRA, which then led to full time employment. It was an unusual beginning to my career as I wasn’t intentionally looking for a job in music and had no idea what APRA was at the time. I’m very grateful that the Manager of APRA Victoria, Jennifer Gome, took a chance and offered me a permanent position heading up the first Melbourne Writer Services Department. I was determined to take advantage of this streak of luck and I really wanted to work hard and get to know my shit. I had an ingrained ideology that came from my European immigrant grandparents and their stories of struggle and war. So I set about thoroughly learning this perplexing area of performance royalties, protecting copyright and how songwriters make an income.
It was sometimes challenging to inform creative people about their performance royalties and keep them interested and awake. It’s just not a sexy part of the industry but it’s an important one. To build rapport between the artist and APRA and get the artists enthused, we introduced social events…and alcohol. We hosted evenings with independent Melbourne labels like Augogo and their artists, started the annual APRA xmas party with the likes of Frente, Joel Silbersher, Tex Perkins, Barb Waters, Spencer P Jones, Caroline Kennedy, Meanies, The Fauves, Spiderbait and Fred Negro attending. We set up stalls at music festivals and talked frequently at TAFE’s and music schools. All of these efforts resulted in creating a relaxed and informal atmosphere, moving from a ‘businesslike’ setting to one where writers felt confident in visiting the office to ask questions in order to get a handle on how it all worked and how their songs could impact them financially. It also simultaneously created an environment where they could meet and interact with other artists.
This was pre-internet, we worked face to face, it was before email had everyone by their short and curlies. Songwriters across genres, mostly Triple J and community radio artists and managers, came into the office to join APRA, register their songs, lodge their Live Performance forms and find out how to split their songwriting. It was raw, hands on and at times voyeuristic. I witnessed successes and failures, the changes that come about after making money, the disagreements, the egos, the disappointments, the band break ups, good managers, ineffectual managers. It was a fast-track course on how to deal with an array of temperaments that can manifest in the creative process and taught me the invaluable skills required for navigating around different personalities. Foremost friendships and relationships were forged with artists and the industry.
It was the 90s, and it was way too much fun. There was no social media getting in our way. We weren’t subjected to a barrage of photos of what people were eating for lunch that day, no being bombarded by random shitty opinions or consistently having to compare our real lives with the fake lives being manufactured on Facebook. We were out of our bedrooms and into the real world where artists and the music industry were enjoying a thrilling and healthy music scene. Consumers actually paid for music, and Gold and Platinum records were frequently celebrated. Big Day Out, Meredith and Livid festivals began that decade. New artists were mostly discovered by hanging out in venues and by word of mouth. Music TV shows like Recovery existed, and our social networking happened at Punters Club in Fitzroy. It was a different time, not so structured or conservative. No one had a back-up plan; people were experimenting and pushing boundaries.
In early 1996 I left APRA for a music publishing job at Shock, however our values were not aligned and I quit 3 days in. I was unemployed and broke for most of that year. It was a massive blow to my confidence and identity, and I questioned my decision making. What the fuck did I just do? Not many jobs existed in the music industry. The disappointment and failure was intense but short lived, I was young and positive. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and embraced unemployed freedom and boredom. To fill my time and fuel my interest, I volunteered to share the driving and bummed rides to Sydney and back with bands. Until one day my housemate who worked at Mushroom Music, told me about an A&R position in publishing and pushed me to apply. I started in December 1996 on half the wage of my predecessor, compromising the coin to give rise to my passion.
Music publishing was a natural progression from APRA. In this new position, in an autonomous environment and with something to prove, I began thinking about my true focus and setting foundations. What am I cultivating? What are my parameters? Who am I relating to? There has to be a purpose and how do I empower myself as a female? It was seriously hard and disheartening to compete with male controlled multinational publishers who at times had a passionless disconnected approach to signing artists with an open cheque book. Mushroom Music is an independent company and I needed to set myself and Mushroom apart. In those early A&R years, I had imposter syndrome, an anxiety for not fitting into the boys’ club. But I decided to take advantage of being overlooked in a very male dominated industry. I worked and built on the catalogue from a point of difference and vulnerability. All the while I sought out and received valuable tuition, advice, inspiration and help from encouraging female and male role models within Mushroom and outside of Mushroom.
This helped to sharpen my aim and initiate my philosophy of discovering and signing authentic artists early in their career. Which in 1996 was not a common approach in publishing. My focus was not to be a publishing company by numbers but to help develop and support our writers on an individual needs basis, by way of finding them a label home, a manager, a booking agent, a producer and setting up co-writing. To be a reliable communicator. To sign and support new female artists. To connect with artists and understand their needs, strengths and weaknesses. To value their art and copyright. To challenge the songwriter to progress and develop. To inform on how to make the best of their publishing deal. To care and listen. To speak logically with facts and reasonable conversation. To not bullshit. To work with music we love. Not every artist needs or wants all of that. Some have a do-it-yourself approach. Some prefer to remain oblivious. Others are blocked by teams that are overpowering, controlling or just ineffectual communicators.
I’m a cursed Virgo, I have an inbuilt need to be pragmatic and a ‘just get the fucking job done now’ approach. My career didn’t emerge from being a tough go getter or businesswoman or being driven by money. I love bringing a female perspective and voice. I don’t try to operate, speak or interact like a man. I am a quiet achiever. I don’t like to talk about myself. I don’t know how to sell myself or make people like me. I do speak out on issues that are important to me. I do know about publishing. I do love music and harbour protectiveness over the songwriter. Especially guiding the songwriter on how to balance their expectations of the business and the craft. My professional experience has been designed from a combination of choice and circumstance. By choice I’m attracted to humility, compassion, freaks, reflective and curious types, not a show pony with a salesman’s personality. But I still have to manage big personalities and adjust to different characters.
My experience is that men and women, generally, handle ego problems differently. Men I think suffer a bit more than women. I think women have better coping mechanisms for ego issues. And men I think also have way more ego than women. As a female I have struggled and continue to struggle with double standards, subtle forms of bias and judgement from mostly men but sometimes surprisingly from women…If you go out at night. ‘Why aren’t you at home looking after your kids?’ If you are at home with the kids, ‘Why aren’t you out doing your job?’ Would I get those comments if I was a male parent? There are the men who ignore me and speak to the male in the room, interrupting mid-sentence or talking over me, or look at and address the male in the room when I’ve been doing all of the speaking. These dismissive encounters are different to shyness, they are intentional.
Men claiming successes that I have been entirely responsible for and who 10 years later will tell me the story of how they made it happen. It’s staggering to still hear a man say that women are not able to operate the same in the work place after having a baby. Which I’ve heard firsthand. I’ve been accused of hedonistic behaviour yet not doing anything different to what others partake in. Judged for being with my musician partner Dean even though many couples exist within bands. The perception that being pregnant and on maternity leave is similar to having a holiday. I don’t let any of these actions inform who I am or my values.
I think people harbour a lot of inadequacies and don’t know how to deal with them and inevitably it comes oozing or spewing out onto others. The music industry is no different to any other aspect of life. It cops a lot of shit from people who just don’t know how to cope with their own frailties or aren’t even aware for that matter. We experience both positive and negative in the music industry, it’s a multi-layered process and ideally we need to take responsibility individually for our thoughts, words and behaviours.
I work for a company who has historically hired females in management and higher positions. The women I work with at Mushroom Music are the backbone of that joint, something which I am extremely proud to be a part of. I love my invaluable, humble co-workers and former co-workers who are proud of their jobs, who care and are funny, ingenious and complex. We respect each other and embrace individual human personality; it’s why I’ve never left. I’m grateful for the many friends, mentors and colleagues who are supportive in this industry and are teaching and demonstrating different formulas of success.
And through the industry I met an extremely rare human being, Dean Turner. Dean was my husband, best friend, lover, and father of our two beautiful daughters, Charlie & Evie. He was our everything. Dean passed in 2009 after an intensely private battle with a very rare cancer, he was 37. Life changed in an instant. In the last year of his life, we completely dropped out of normal life. He was enduring unimaginable and unspeakable suffering and in spite of this, Dean did not complain. Dean was a songwriter, musician, record producer and the co-founder/bass player of Magic Dirt. He was deeply respected, honest and inspiring. He was supportive and committed to the growth of young developing Australian artists. Always very generous with his time, Dean shared his vast knowledge with humility and integrity, and he had a profound effect on people.
Dean understood me and supported me. Family always came first, we had a deep love and devotion. He spoke with a gentle voice, staying calm when I was upset, we laughed a lot, we figured things out together, we shared everything and we didn’t like to be apart. We were meant for each other and we were always better together. When Dean died, time slowed down, nothing made sense anymore. I felt the most intense anger and hatred for life. Full of grief, I howled like a savage beast. Asleep or awake a vast emptiness filled my entire body and mind. Fear, dread, terror, exhaustion and rage consumed every part of me and restricted my ability to think or breathe. I was trapped in a dark cave, endless and overwhelming.
I would never hear his voice or laughter again, we would not share our thoughts and daily happenings again, we would never kiss or hold each other again, he would no longer parent our two precious daughters. I would no longer see his clothes on the line or his shoes at the door. The pain of losing Dean was piercing, the sadness and loneliness was acute, it will always be with me and a part of me.
And so began a new world, a life I was completely unprepared for. Our daughters were five and two when I had to tell them that their father had died, my greatest fear being that their happiness was stolen from them.
Grief is consuming, I felt utterly and totally destroyed. I was struggling to get through each day. Going to the supermarket, school drop off and pick up, making lunches, reading to the kids, attending ordinary events were all paralysing and enormous tasks.
During this time, Michael Gudinski provided support, compassion and financial assistance. He enabled me to take whatever time off I needed and allowed flexible hours when I returned to work. I remain forever grateful to him.
My first weeks back in the office were foggy. Everything felt unfamiliar but the same. I put on my ‘everything is okay’ mask but the pain and fear did not subside. My mind wandered during meetings and my interactions with work mates and artists were disconnected. I began having panic attacks, generally triggered by leaving the house, social events and sentimental song lyrics. Some saw my grief as a hindrance but most had empathy and supported me. Throughout this entire time, Michael Kucyk who worked in A&R with me was my absolute rock.
Loss and grief are profoundly personal. I had to learn to live without Dean and this remains a continual process.
I’ve been a single mum for nine years. My girls and I are extremely close. I lead a busy existence working, raising children, and maintaining a household. I’m time poor, I’m always running late and fitting in too much. I daydream about drinking mojitos for breakfast, reading a book without interruption, long sleep-ins and being spontaneous. I constantly juggle family and work life, and the guilt that comes with it. I’m transparent and speak up about my needs in the work place. Flexibility is vital for me to maintain balance and be a valuable contributor.
The strength and joy that my two daughters bring has been transformative. Raising them to hopefully one day become non-judgmental, original, crazy, complicated, beautiful feminist adults is a job in itself. I want my kids to be kind and gentle to themselves and to others and not possess a victim mentality.
What we do has an effect on people, our decisions bleed across all parameters in life. Support each other, be inquisitive, share your knowledge and experience, make mistakes and learn from them, trust your gut, be inclusive, allow no tolerance for sexual assault and indecent behaviour towards women, respect the art and the business, speak up continually, stand your ground, be driven by art and emotion, be grateful, be vulnerable, be yourself, have fun. These principles benefit not just the music industry but society in general.
Women put yourself forward. It’s no longer a man’s world!