Mojo Juju knows as well as anyone how long a road it can be for a musician.
After years of work stretching back over a decade to her time fronting Mojo Juju & The Snake Oil Merchants, the last few years of solo work have been a breakthrough. Not a planet-shaking one that turned her into a household name, mind you, but a moment nonetheless.
Her latest record, 2018’s Native Tongue, was her first to crack the ARIA charts at #76, while her previous album gained her an Age Music Victoria Award nomination – both milestones especially important in an industry that can often leave artists in the dark, wondering if they’re even heading in the right direction.
“It’s a demanding industry with no limit to what you can do, or real definitive end game where you can go, ‘Oh, I did it, I made it,” Mojo believes. “No ‘I’ve made the perfect album,’ or ‘I’ve sold out the biggest venue’. There’s always more to do – you can always create something better. And likewise there is no limit to what people might expect of you.”
“For me the biggest struggle was just making that first leap. That first moment where you promise to yourself that you are going to commit to a career in this industry at the expense of any kinda stability or normalcy. And then it’s just about the hustle to make ends meet and get it off the ground.”
Mojo Juju is one of the worthy recipients of this year’s American Express Music Backer’s program
After a decade in the game, Mojo downplays how hard that hustle can be for an artist, but even with fans and the industry backing you, breaking through to the next level can still feel like an uphill battle. Money’s tight, and everything you do – from recording to promotion – is a new expense to juggle.
“It’s expensive to make records and it’s expensive to go on tour,” Mojo explains. “As a business model, it seems wild and very risky. Particularly nowadays as physical sales are down, and streaming is up.
“But it’s still the thing that we do, and I love it,” she adds. “When it works, it pays off – it’s worth every bit of it.”
This is where something like the American Express Music Backers program steps in, enlisting some of Australia’s most respected industry figures to work behind the scenes and bestow mentorship – and $1,000,000 – to the local artists, venues, and members of the music community that most deserve it.
Alongside Mojo Juju, another artist who earnt the recognition of the program this year was producer and DJ Young Franco, a festival mainstay who’d seen what it had already done for other emerging artists.
“I reached out knowing that Amex had worked with a few friends (Ricochet Songs, Kota Banks), supporting their musical endeavours, and thought it would be worth applying for. I was surprised and stoked finding out I was a Grant Recipient!”
For Franco, the grant will be invaluable in helping him carry forward the momentum that sees him on festival lineups like Splendour in the Grass and Falls, and allow him to release music with the regularity he feels the industry – and his creative development – demand.
“Having a song that connects on radio and online is quite tough,” he explains. “It takes a lot of time working on music for something to breakthrough. I think the best way to break through as an artist starting out is to release music consistently.
“If you’re constantly releasing music it’s easier to be in people’s minds,” he adds, “and I think you also learn a lot from the process of finishing and putting out music.”
Young Franco will use the American Express Music Backers grant to help him break into new territories
Mojo, too, wanted to keep things moving along after the well-received Native Tongue – a record that took four years to produce.
“The album has been doing really well, and I’ve been really inspired to get back into the studio and start my next project as soon as possible,” she says, explaining that the Amex Music Backers could help her next release stand out even further with accompanying visuals, which can often be an expense too far for acts at this level.
“I released a music video for the title track. It was received really well, and it really drove home for me the importance of creating strong visuals alongside the music.”
Now, with a well-deserved grant in her back pocket, Mojo is hoping to piggy-back off her current buzz with and get straight back to work.
“This funding has allowed me the opportunity to continue making new work with less budget restrictions,” she says. “This means I’m able to follow my creative instincts, get back into the studio sooner rather than later, and also collaborate with the right producers and filmmakers for me.
Franco, meanwhile, has got new music ready to roll, and looks forward to getting it in front of new listeners around the world.
“This funding is going to help with reaching out into markets which I feel I am yet to make an impact on,” he explains. “I think it’ll be great to be able to reach more people in different territories and hopefully break through in those areas.”
The grants also brought with them support slots with international acts as part of the American Express Twilight at Taronga concert series. Needless to say, they can’t recommend American Express Music Backers enough to any artists in similar situation to their own.
“I think it’s a great initiative and will greatly impact a lot of artists’ careers,” Franco says. “As the music industry is quite a hard one to crack, it’s great to be able to get the support that’s needed. You’ve got nothing to lose!”
“This is an incredible opportunity for people in the Australian music industry,” Mojo adds. “I’m extremely grateful for the support, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a way to get their next project off the ground.
“Get amongst it!”
The American Express Music Backers program is open to all sorts of members of the Australian music industry and wider community, even giving out streaming subscriptions and gig tickets to the fans who make our scene what it is.
If you want to get involved, head to the American Express Music Backers site to apply, and check out the short recap below.
Mojo, Franco, and more tell us what the American Express Music Backers program is doing for them.