TRANSCRIPT: The following is a transcript of a speech I delivered at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) Sydney campus for their 51st Graduation Ceremony.

15 March 2019.

I acknowledge we are gathered today on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I pay my respects to the Elders past present and emerging. I ask we take a moment to consider the songlines that have traversed these lands for thousands of years. I pay respect to the generations of songmen, and songwomen, that have maintained connections to country through song, dance and cultural practice.

I acknowledge :

  • Professor Guy Bentley- CEO
  • Paul Zahra, Chair, AIM Board of Directors
  • Professor Marie Carroll, Chair, AIM Academic Board
  • Dr Alistair Noble- Director Academic Affairs

Hello to all the teachers, students and family members celebrating this special day together.

My name is Leanne de Souza my professional roles currently include:

• Executive Director, Association of Artist Managers (AAM)

• Co-founder and Curator, Rock and Roll Writers Festival

• Curatorial Advisor (Music) for the Museum of Brisbane’s “High Rotation: 30 Years of Brisbane Music” (exhibition opening in late-August 2018)

• As a facilitator I have some work in the pipeline with Music Victoria, Splendour in the Grass and the Woodford Folk Festival.

• As a board member I have governance oversight of the Qld Performing Arts Centre and Nightlife Music. I am on a number of advisory groups for various organisations and institutions including the Contemporary Industry Advisory Board (CIAB) of AIM. Thank you to Guy and his staff for the invitation and travel support to speak with you today.


• 1987 I graduated high school wanting to study as a professional flute player (!) I crashed out of music at university before the starting gun – literally. I auditioned for a music technology degree at the Qld Conservatorium with NO understanding of what that event meant! #earlyfail

• After working in a Myer “Record Bar” for a few years I started my first business as a booking agent in Brisbane in 1992. I was 21 and technically insolvent at the time! I was living in a share house community with a bunch of, mostly jazz, musicians that never seemed to get paid or organised. I started booking all my friends and got my hustle on to get them work in pubs, clubs, cafes as regulations opened up in the post-Bjelki era.

• I was a ‘front-line’ artist manager for an eclectic roster of artists from 1996 – 2015.

• I also did whatever I had to do to make ends meet. This included casual and contract work including teaching, mentoring and working for friend’s businesses. I learnt on the job how to be a a facilitator, planner, strategist and evaluator.

• My family of origin is fiercely connected to social justice and politics in Queensland. Following the Australian Government’s 2013 “Apology to the Stolen Generations” I accepted the challenge from a local Elder to embark seriously on listening and learning how to be a better ally to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the greater arts community.

• All these ‘threads’ of who I am, and what I stand for, came together a few years ago when my own mental health unravelled and I took time out from the business of music. I re-evaluated what I really wanted to do and how. I decided to invest in managing myself for the first time ever. My goal was to ‘steer a course to 50’ that was congruent with my values. I have the privilege to only accept work offers that I believe could make a meaningful impact on the cultural life of Australia.

That led me to now!

Although, I most love being a mature age student, as an undergraduate at the University of Queensland. I have 7 courses left to complete my Bachelor of Arts with a major in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and minors in Gender and Digital Media Culture. I am aiming to graduate with honours before my 50th, fingers crossed!

Enough about me !

Now to you amazing young people in the room and your parents and teachers.


In the contemporary world it is, at times, not easy to finish anything! Sometimes a simple meal or a facebook book post is impossible without interruption – so amazing effort to have finished your undergraduate degrees. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Firstly today I wish to share with you a few things I believe are WHAT NOT TO DO when it comes to seeking success in the music, arts and entertainment business.

DO NOT expect others to :

• Discover You

• Make You Famous

• Make You Rich

• Create You – powerful “starmakers” and gatekeepers of multinational organisations, acting as puppeteers, cannot guarantee anyone a fast-tracked career from TV shows or Instagram influencing

• Pay You a Wage – there are very few permanent jobs in the industry that will pay you superannuation (less than 1%). A bureaucracy will, but they are not the music industry nor are they the drivers of creativity

No-one owes you anything for being talented eg. free ‘stuff’, easy gigs, legs up for charisma, nor handout money and/or grants. Managers are not banks. Recording and publishing advances are not free money.

In my opinion, if you are told any of the above by a producer, a manager, an agent, a famous person or your mum or dad be alert and/or alarmed!


I would like to share a quote from the late Mandawuy Yunupingu of Yothu Yindi.

“Making money can be one thing. Building bridges can be the other one.”
  • Music is most profoundly about connection.
  • Music is for everyone.
  • Music heals & nurtures and music education is vital.
  • Music innovates and inspires.
  • Music is FUN!

So, what advice do I have for WHAT YOU CAN DO when it comes to your career in music, arts and entertainment ?


i. Own the agency in your arts practice, creativity and ideas. Focus on what you can control : hone the craft of songwriting, performance, production. Work on the power of your words and images to tell your story.

ii. Embrace the agility required to learn and adapt to the business. Know and understand the economic, political, social and cultural possibilities and impact of your work. Your IP, your songs, your recordings, your performances. Understand and know the value of your social and cultural capital.

iii. Health & Wellbeing – work hard, look after yourself and be a good person. Be kind to yourself and others. Tap support systems and own your emotional and physical boundaries and capabilities. Manage your time.


True collaboration begins in the room with nothing. Start from nothing and create and build something with others. Share ownership willingly.


PWC’s Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2018–2022 is Australia’s leading industry forecasting report into consumer and advertising spend across 12 segments of the entertainment industries.

The research demonstrated that “The New Trust Economy” is where success lies.

Trust = Advocacy, Consistency, Success and Transparency.

Advocate for something/someone other than yourself. It is NOT all about you.

Be consistent in your message, what you do, what you stand for, the quality of your work and your story.

People trust success. Share your successes and those of your collaborators.

Be transparent. With your story, your fuck ups, your data, your communications, your message.

Advocacy, consistency, success and transparency build trust. Trust in yourself, your intuition, your abilities, your training, your product, your experience, your business and your art. If people trust you, you will be successful.

So, when you think about a future CAREER in music, also think about what MUSIC means to you and how you will build bridges with others.

Ask and understand what drives you – what are your VALUES – what do you stand for?

My personal values include Respect, Safety, Inclusion + Diversity.

We have an opportunity now to increase gender equity and representation in the music industry like we’ve not seen before. Let’s no longer tolerate sexual harassment and abuse as part of our own lives, or those of our colleagues, artists, friends, families and children.

I am grateful for the spirit of community and knowledge sharing between many women, and increasingly men, who are working toward positive cultural change in the arts and the music industry.

To the men here today: what small individual action could you take every day in your professional and personal lives to drive change toward gender equity, inclusion and diversity in the Australian Music Industry?

To the women and gender non-conforming folks here today: you have the right to be heard. You have agency in your own unique creativity, decisions, style, perspective and opinions.

To all of us today: let’s always ask who is NOT in the room? the studio? the production suite?on the stage? on the lineup ? in the boardroom?

Demand seats and spaces for gender and cultural diversity – people that are not from the same background, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation as ourselves.

An inclusive music industry is good for all of us, our audiences and the impact of music on the cultural and social life of all Australians.

Thank you for having me speak with you today.