Tell us about yourself in your own words.
I’m Ash. I’m from Sydney. I’ve been moving about in music for the last 12 years, and I currently work in touring.
Tell us about working in touring.
I actually just moved over to touring from venues about 6 months ago, so this is still fairly new to me. There’s a distinct lack of live music venues left standing in Sydney, so it was sort of a forced move but one I’m stoked on. I’d never had confidence enough to see myself in a job like this, so when I got this offer I was a bit floored. It’s super enjoyable and pretty different from what I’ve done in the past.
What sort of things do you do?
We run tours for international and local artists throughout Australia and New Zealand. There’s typically around 20 tours in their various stages of operation at any one time, so I get hands on with a heap of different aspects of promoting. I’m with what I guess you’d call a boutique company, and we handle almost everything in house – so I’m there from routing and booking, to the ticket builds, writing scripts for radio ads, advancing with tour managers up to the show days where sometimes I’ll be the one running the Meet & Greets.
You have done a lot of work in venues. Can you tell us about your experience with that and some of the things you’ve been involved in running in Sydney?
Over the years there’s been a heap. A K-Pop party, I used to do a mid week Singer-Songwriter evening, there was a club celebrating femme which featured an all female-identifying line up and soundtrack in more recent times. But I guess the biggest and by far best chunk of time was spent on Oxford street at The Exchange Hotel. I miss that time and space a lot. I was basically one half of the assigned care takers of a giant historic building, booking events in 5 different spaces across 7 really different parts of the venue. I suppose throughout the years it sort of changed a lot, but it was really rewarding to look after an area of Sydney that is known for catering for the queer community and held a lot of events that are considered alternative or niche. That was pretty pivotal to my experience, sort of cutting my teeth there really.
What are some of the events you put on there?
I worked in the venue both in booking and an operational sense, and then as a promoter who essentially hired the space. Of all the events that were conceptually mine, my favourite was definitely Wasted Years – which was a weekly Saturday night. It was a heap of fun, and a really good space to play around with running events that were a little more tactile than most.
So what was the idea behind Wasted Years?
I was trying to fill a bit of a gap for I guess broadly speaking, the alternative community but more specifically, what was still growing out of the Emo, Hardcore, and the sort of Indie scenes. Everything felt like it was in the beginning of a gear change and a lot of those communities were starting to dabble with Hip Hop or Trap. A big part of it was wanting to look after smaller bands and mates who were making art. I wanted to showcase that live format. Then there was the skate community. Mostly because everyone was getting into trouble for drinking in skateparks and I thought well we can do this in a licensed premises so… let’s do that! I kind of just combined all those things into something that felt like an immersive experience, a night where you could really hang out and enjoy a heap of new and familiar. Getting back to the essence of clubbing - I like putting like minded individuals in a space where you can socialise, but also in this case where you could put forward stuff you were working creatively on. Getting amongst people that might book you or want to work with you.
It was also just the perfect space for it.
It was. The Exchange was always this place that was perfect for expression. We’ve just clicked over on the second anniversary of it’s death and oh how I miss it.
Have you also managed bands in the past?
Sort of, I mean I dabbled in it early on. I wouldn’t put it on my CV. I did it for a while by looking after a couple of friends’ bands. It was really a combo of me being into music, hyper organised, and wanting to assist friends with the limited knowledge I had, while trying to figure out whether that was an area of the industry that I wanted to go into. I had some money to spare, I felt creative and I just really wanted to make things work for people.
You didn’t find that managing bands was for you?
I definitely enjoyed it, I just don’t think it was the thing that I got the most satisfaction out of at the time. I kind of hope it’s something I go into later, at the time I didn’t feel like I was really strong at it. It didn’t fan the flames.
What do you think you’re super strong at?
I really love putting together an experience that people enjoy. My favourite part of any event is just standing back after the months of stress, sweat and tears and watching everyone really enjoy themselves. I live for that quiet moment of ‘I played a little part in this somehow’, while being witness to people throwing themselves into a good time whether they’re a performer or part of the audience.
Have you played music yourself?
Yeah but not for a good while now. I play drums. Or I did. I was obsessive. All I wanted to do was play in a metal band. I just felt really ousted as a woman and the idea of being some token piece of a band terrified me. The phrase ‘chick drummer’ makes me shudder. It’s really only been the last year that I’ve started to recognise that’s why I don’t still own a kit … and newsflash to me, it’s not just that fact that I live in an apartment. I’ve just picked up guitar and am getting back into making music myself. It’s just taken a while to feel comfortable enough to imagine myself taking up some space as a musician and enjoying the thing that got me into working in this industry in the first place.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a Booker/ Tour Manager/ Promoter?
I think the biggest challenge has been learning how to kick goals in a business sense without compromising on what you personally believe in. Juggling the goals of a business owned by someone else, and making sure you include things along the way that you really believe add value for not only that business, but for society. Things I feel are essential to shared spaces and events – like gender neutral bathrooms or inclusive line ups are things that I’ve had to learn how to navigate in a way where I recognise that not everyone at the table has had the same exerperiences that lead them to the conclusion of seeing value there. I ask myself, how am I delivering on the promise that I’m going to make positive change, when I’m in a space where there are varying levels of understanding, willingness to change, or business contraints. How do I work towards closing that gap. Doing all this while remaining employable is another one. That’s a personal challenge that I hate to admit is a reality. Where I sit in this industry, I come across a lot of people who think there are no issues because there are women or GNC people in these kind of jobs. It’s pretty obvious that there is. If I disengaged or moved away from everything I don’t agree with, I think I’d have to leave every job weeks after I started. I don’t think it’s the right way to actually make change either. Some things are a work in progress, and that’s a personal challenge I’ve had to grapple with.
How do you navigate that?
I think you have to be good at working hard and working with integrity at all times. Being honest and open and having honest and open conversations. If you work with integrity and you work hard people have trust that you are a reasonable person with good intentions, whether you agree or not. Sometimes that faith of character will give you the space to forge new ground. Then you can each rely on the facts, which in a professional sense would be that you’re working hard to not only achieve a common goal, but to improve on how you do it. It’s important to have integrity as a business. I think trying to incorporate those things in the every day is the way to navigate it.
What sort of bands would you look for when you’re putting on an event?
I try to book based on the overall tone of an event, rather than genre, because I’m really into the experience you’ll have. I love fairly mixed bills in terms of who is performing. Sometimes on paper it won’t seem like an obvious fit, but when you’re in the space and moment, the experience as a whole is fitting. I try to look for that and keep it balanced in terms of different areas of creativity or talent to showcase. Ensure people are getting what they paid for and what’s on the label, plus something new to discover. I’ve found the majority of people don’t always actively seek out something new with events, but it you can combine something loved and familiar with something new but fitting to their experience you can create something pretty special.
What’s been the most rewarding thing you have booked or worked on?
I think curating The Exchange takes out the number one spot. It was home for a lot of people, I know I really found myself there. There were a lot of nights I’d just sit back and think how amazing it was that something like the Hellfire Club was happening in a space I was taking care of. Wasted Years hosted a Soundwave Festival After Party one year and one of my favourite things about that event was having all these artists mixing in for the party with the punters who had forked out a stack of money to watch them perform earlier that day. Lee from Trash talk was up having a whip on the mini ramp with fans, and wanting to get an art wall. There was a lot of creative exchange and a lot of gigs that people booked after just going out for a night of fun. Seeing all of these people that are like minded in their sense of appreciation for creativity, in the same space having a blast and maybe networking or booking themselves more gigs at the same time that they’re having a dance or smashing a bev.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to young women and queer folk who want to make art or music or just be seen and heard?
Work with integrity and work hard. Work 10 times harder than you have to because that work ethic is something you can always fall back on. If you make your work strong enough to stand on top of, you can use that to climb over any walls you come up against. Don’t ever let fear or self doubt steer the wheel, because if you let that happen it will take you off the path.