Merida Sussex has a unique perspective on both sides at the negotiating table. She has seen the world many times over as lead singer in the celebrated Australian act The Paradise Motel, and in her capacity as managing director of the award-winning indie label Stolen Recordings. Quality, fairness and transparency is at the heart of everything she does.
Sussex, a board member of Merlin, the independents’ digital rights agency, will share her deep knowledge on music, the indie landscape, and a new blockchain project when she speaks next week at the second annual Indie-Con summit in Adelaide. TIO caught up for a pre-conference chat.
You’re part of a select group of artists who’ve made a successful leap into the label world. Why did you get involved in the “industry” side and what’s your mantra?
I was already in the industry and as an artist that recorded our own materiel and created our own art work we were only one step away from being a label. So we thought, let’s just have a try. So Stolen is an artist-owned label, it then just grew and grew to release other people’s music as well.
Our manifesto is: let’s work together to put out the best music we can. We strongly believe in transparency and fairness. All our dealings and transactions reflect that.
Have you had a mentor or did you learn as you went and applied your knowledge to the label and publishing business? How did you figure it all out?
We were lucky to work with Chris Morrison, an amazing manager, and Andy Heath from Beggars Music. I was then on the AIM board with Alison Wenham and she is an incredible inspiration and source of knowledge. We also joined Merlin quite early on. (Bella Union chief and Cocteau Twins co-founder) Simon Raymonde is great too. I’d often have long chats with him getting advice.
When we started, in 2005, we knew nothing and we just had to find out as we went along. Make those mistakes, take those risks and sometimes find better ways to do things.
What are the biggest challenges facing indies right now? And artists?
Transitioning digital process from their current analogue form, so the music industry is optimised to work seamlessly with the music online. So data and transactions are transparent, fair, accurate and immediate. The technology is there, it just needs to be put into practice.
And trying to protect copyright in the face of YouTube‘s value gap and political apathy in some countries.
Of course both those challenges are also the biggest potential opportunities.
You made the jump from Australia to London. It’s a huge adjustment, I know. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned which Aussie artists and professionals ought to know?
Take inspiration from who you are and where you are from. If you’re inspired by London, great. But if you need to return to Australia to understand yourself again, and therefore create better art, then do that. When we moved to London there didn’t seem to be an option. It’s what you had to do. In the grand tradition of the Bad Seeds, you’d move to London, suffer, get scurvy and go on tour.
Watch Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s clip for ‘Continental Breakfast’ below:
You’re coming to Adelaide for Indie-Con. What will be speaking on?
I’ll be talking about a blockchain pilot I am doing with Envoke, Resonate and RChain and 100 other labels. It’s a revolution for the industry and aligns with my values for being fair, transparent and having immediate transactions with artists whilst protecting their copyright. It’s a ledger. But better.