Our March Manager of the month is Lorrae McKenna, who — as we speak — is representing her artists in Austin, Texas, at the massive South by Southwest conference. She was kind enough to share tips about juggling numerous talented acts, give some advice to first-timers, and to chat about how sick she is of chatting about gender imbalance.
You manage five artists (Jade Imagine, Jess Ribeiro, Poppongene, RVG & Totally Mild) and four of them are headed to SXSW this year. How much strategy and discipline goes into a venture like this?
Well it’s taken a hell of a lot of organisational planning to get a touring party of 18 people to the USA. We just arrived in LA yesterday, well most of us, Totally Mild are on tour with Perfume Genius in Australia currently and will join the rest of us in Austin on Monday, Now that I’m finally in the states with nearly all of the bands with me, it’s good to get some perspective. It’s been a pretty hectic few months preparing for this trip and I have been incredibly lucky to have great assistants (Sophie & Bianca) working closely with me to make it all come together. Between my four bands playing at SXSW there are 33 shows and then following that we’ll all go to NYC and do a special showcase at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on Monday 19th March which will be a lot of fun I reckon. I feel like I’m sitting in the eye of the storm right now in my air bnb in Silverlake looking out the window and hoping that I have done enough so that each one of my acts achieves exactly what they hope for our of this trip, only time will tell if that happens I guess.
You launched your own label and management firm Our Golden Friend in 2015. What do you remember about that first year of business?
The first 12 months after quitting my stable full time job in the music industry to go out on my own and set up Our Golden Friend properly was hectic! It was a real baptism of fire. Sometimes in life the only way to learn how to do things, is to take a blind leap of faith and just jump in and do it. There are times when you think what the hell am I doing, and that’s ok, that’s probably the best part, learning and growing and developing and doing things that you have never done before is exciting. Although I had to learn about BAS statements and tax and other boring business things that I don’t really care for but at the end of the day it’s all part of the ride. It’s been an incredible journey and I’m super glad I took that leap of faith.
Our Golden Friend announced an exclusive record label partnership with Island Records Australia last August. Has that partnership benefitted your artists in any way since?
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In July last year the label part of Our Golden Friend partner with Island Records, it was an amazing opportunity that presented itself to me and I feel grateful to have been approached by Michael Taylor and George Ash who were fans of the things that I was doing and the way I was doing it. Since the partnership kicked off I’ve only signed two bands RVG and Moonlover, slow and steady wins the race I guess, I’m hoping to grow the label roaster a bit more then next 12 months.
How did you come to manage Totally Mild?
I was such a HUGE fan of Totally Mild for a really long time. When I heard their first album Down Time, I was blown away and then when I saw them live, Elizabeth’s voice just shook me to my core and it still does everytime I watch them perform. I finally met the band a few years later at Bigsound and basically was just fanning out and telling them how much I loved them over some really delicious Japanese Whiskey and then Liz asked me if I could recommend a good manager for them because they were looking for one, and I said yes I think I know someone and the person would be me… And from then it’s be true love. They’ve just released their second album Her, and I could be prouder of them, very much looking forward to them joining me and the other OGF bands her in the USA!
What do you wish you knew back when you first entered artist management?
I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to work for Rae Harvey at Crucial Music for several years in my early 20s. She is an incredible artists manager and I learnt so very much from working with her all those years ago, it really set the foundations for how I’ve learnt and grown as a manager. I truly believe that artists management is one of the hardest jobs there is, it’s also one of the most rewarding. You truly get to me a part of something with your artists and be a part of the journey which I think it just so special. It’s an extremely challenging job, you end up doing so many different and varied things and I’m constantly learning every single day.
You’ve had experiences in the past where your success has been questioned because of your gender. Why do you think comments like this continue to be made and what changes would you like to see?
Quite frankly I’m sick of it, I’m bored of it, can we please just all get over gender, please! It really shocks me when certain things get said or situations develop because I would really like to hope that we have moved forward into a new time where everyone is actually treated equally but, then in a instant, even men who I think are educated and smart will do things to take us back 50 years. I know there is a huge stigma going on with call out culture currently, but for me I think it is incredibly important to make people aware that their behaviour was wrong and that it is not acceptable. I think we’re in a very important time for women and GNC people, which is great and I think some men are scared of that, and move towards tactics of harassing or calling women outspoken feminist instead of just sitting back and educating themselves and then learning growing and moving forward.
What the best career blunder you’ve ever made? i.e. the mistake/gaffe that taught you a valuable lesson or lead to an opportunity?
Well last year at SXSW, Totally Mild were playing a showcase and there was this women there watch and dancing and having an incredible time. And then after the set she came over to Liz and I and starting saying how amazing she thought Liz’s voice was and I just turned on my manage spiel and starting tell her about the other showcases Totally Mild were playing that week and gave her a flyer with them all listed on it. And then she turned and walked away, and it wasn’t until she left and went back to her group of friends that I realised that we had even talking Ke$ha… and then I felt like a real chump for giving her the whole spiel about the band… the lesson was get better a recognising famous people and also you’ll never know who might turn up at your SXSW showcase, so be ready!
Any closing words of wisdom for young artist managers out there?
For me it’s all about authenticity, I just want to work with people who are authentic and come from a good place and want to work in the music industry because they love music and not for all the other crap that comes along with that. It’s also a hell of a lot of hard work and you need to be prepared to start right at the very very bottom and work your guts out for very little to make any ground. But in the end if you’re an extremely hard worker and good at your job and come from an authentic place, it will most likely work out for you if you put in the hard yards.