How giving it a crack paid off

Because they took the plunge, three emerging musicians are $25,000 richer and on the path to success thanks to a mentorship with Powerhouse Museum, Create NSW and Astral People.
How giving it a crack paid off Olivia Abbott, Blake Rhodes and Tanaya Barat. Photo: Cassandra Hannagan
No image supplied

Gina Fairley

Thursday 16 April, 2020

There are some moments in a career that are defining, permanently changing one’s professional pathway.

For three young emerging musicians that moment came last week, when they received the news that they had each been awarded a $25,000 Generations Fellowship.

‘I was on the bus when they called, and I started to cry,’ said Olivia Abbott, adding that people reached out to comfort her, not realising hers were tears of joy. ‘Just making money to live can be overwhelming as a musician starting out.’

The Coogee-based musician makes electronic pop with an experimental twist. She is joined by Tanaya Barat (North Strathfield) and Blake Rhodes (Lismore) as the first recipients of the inaugural Generations Fellowship from Powerhouse Museum, a new mentoring grant presented in collaboration with Create NSW and music management and touring company, Astral People.

Making it is tough at any stage in a musician’s career, whether it’s convincing band bookers to put you on a bill or cutting through the competition and being signed. Just paying rent in a gig economy is a challenge for many.

The Generations Fellowships aim to advance emerging musicians’ careers to the next level by helping them develop their skills and knowledge base and gain autonomy in the music industry.

Blake Rhodes told ArtsHub that the Fellowship came as a surprise. ‘Grant applications are overwhelming – they’re not the easiest,’ he said, adding that it was an incredible validation of his career so far.

Rhodes, who approaches rapping and producing from a soulful and conscious angle, said that he is ‘looking forward to being creative in new ways.’

Tanaya Barat, whose sound marries shoegaze and R&B, said the grant will help her ‘invest in developmental things like buying plug-ins and equipment, to music lessons to help brush up on skills, which will open up more avenues to work.’

For Abbott, one of the great outcomes is the sense of connection the Fellowship offers. ‘Given we all make music individually, it can be an intense process where you feel pretty alone. This feels like a community,’ she said.

Rhodes added that he’d beenhovering around the arts for a bit, and finding people who are willing to be open is really tough. Even just attending a conference is a daunting task as a young artist. While you’re all there for the same reason, to shake hands, the idea of networking is so awful.’

SEEDING CAREERS: FROM MENTORING TO MARKET

All three musicians are excited to be supported by the Powerhouse Museum. Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah said the museum was excited to be playing a more active role in nurturing the career development of artists working across a range of disciplines.

‘With the new Generations Fellowships, we are able to go further, and help invest in their future and the future of contemporary music. We have a well-established and growing music collection at the Museum, and this new fellowship is an indicator of the new direction the Powerhouse continues to move towards,’ said Havilah.

The Fellowships will also help these young musicians focus on the business side of their practice.

As Abbott explained, ‘Making music is one step, but getting music to people is really hard. While I’m excited about the studio space [at the Powerhouse], I’m really looking forward to learning and being challenged on how to get an audience – to have those discussions with Astral People. When you are not business inclined, but creatively inclined, that is really daunting.’

She continued: ‘Astral are pretty cool, and they have a sick line up of artists that I have looked up to for ages – they’re killing it!’ She added that she was insanely pleased she gave the grant ‘a crack’.

Rhodes agreed with Abbott that knowing where to start was the greatest challenge.

‘Getting your music out is the hardest thing, unless you have some money to push it yourself, and then branding is hard enough without having to try to describe yourself. All that side of it can be a struggle.’

Abbott said that when she first considered applying she thought it was really ‘random’ to be supported by the museum. ‘I didn’t really get it, but now I see how beneficial it will be. The Powerhouse is a hub for all sorts of creative people and that will be really helpful in this learning period.’

‘There is so much that is weird and wonderful here!’ Rhodes added.

Create NSW Executive Director Chris Keely concluded: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for our musicians to take stock of their musical ambitions and work to turn these into reality.’

Learn more about the Generations Fellowships program.

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
Instagram: fairleygina