To shine a light on all the incredible LGBTQI executives and creatives in our industry, TIO has teamed up with Wonder founder Matt Emsell (5SOS, Matt Corby) to launch an article series. We’ll ask industry figures and artists how their sexuality and gender identity has shaped their experiences in the Australian music business. And, of course, why marriage equality is important to them.
With the final day of the Same Sex Marriage Postal Vote happening tomorrow (November 7), the music industry has an important role in the discourse playing out in the public space.
Below is our Q&A with Sydney music media entrepreneur Nic Kelly, who manages a team of content creators at Project U, runs a collaborative label with EMI Music, Night High Records, and through his Nic Kelly Production company, is an in-demand writer, presenter and radio producer.
Why are you taking part in this campaign?
As much as I think music is one of the easiest industries to be a queer person in, we’re still systemically cast apart from our straight colleagues. Music’s always been a boys club, and I go out of my way to work closely with so many incredible women, NB folk and queer people, to make our collective experiences in the industry more positive and to stop people second-guessing whether we’re strong enough figures to maintain a presence.
I see involved in this campaign the powerhouse that is Brendan Maclean unapologetically reaching for the stars and hitting them along the way, I see Trent Titmarsh, someone who I really look up to within the industry and Matt Emsell, who’s had incredible success – and I know we can achieve great things together, and I want to talk to my fellow LGBTQI friends in the industry through this forum.
The marriage equality plebiscite. Discuss!
The marriage equality vote is a landmark moment in my history as a young queer person in the wider world. What I’ve always believed about the legalisation of marriage equality, from before the plebiscite even began, is that the change in legislation will be a big needle-shifter in the normalisation of LGBTQI lives.
I think about those who are much younger, who haven’t had an opportunity to explore their personal identity. I think particularly about those from conservative parts of the country, conservative families and those who are surrounded by communities that don’t allow them to search their soul. Before you’ve managed to begin that self-searching journey, you tend to abide by what’s ‘normal’ – even if you’re surrounded by a more progressive community.
When one group of people in relationships has the right to access the legal bond of human love, and the other group does not, you begin to think that other group is ‘not normal’. Everyone having this equality under the law will allow for future generations, kids just born and yet to be born, and my kids (maybe one day) to know that love is love, and we’re all the same in that way.
I’m also excited for a Yes vote because it means we can move our attention forward to fixing really core issues of our LGBTQI community – particularly the injustice our trans community, particularly trans people of colour and with a disability – experience daily. And I’m really passionate about increasing the visibility and understanding of bisexuality.
On the positive note of this campaign, I have been continually amazed but not surprised at the strength of our LGBTQI community. We’ve turned every aspect of this into a celebration of love, a celebration of unity and we’re all closer and more honest than we’ve been before. Led by incredible voices like Sally Rugg, every twist and turn of the campaign and every bit of hate directed at our community has been combated with the same thing – love.
That said – I acknowledge living closer to a city centre gives me that privilege – and I can’t wait for this to be over and done with so that vitriol from the No campaign ceases and we take that little step forward.
Tell us about your experience of being LGBTQI in the Australian music industry
I started my journey in commercial radio on the Central Coast (I’m still here!) when I was 15 and I initially felt pressured to hide my real self. I donned a deeper, more #masc voice to try and make more sense as a man on radio – but now at 22 I am empowered by my inspiring Content Director, Peter Yiamarelos, to express my real self on air – I can actively mention that the Rita Ora song I’m playing next is me and my boyfriend’s favourite to dance to, I can promote the Yes vote when I’m spinning some Gaga, and just be that real, slightly flambo kid I that naturally is in me.
Journeying into label land has been an incredibly positive experience – a big part of my choice to join EMI for a label venture is that I felt they respected me for my love of music and as a person. My friend Troye Sivan had a similar experience in joining the label to release his work and I’ve continued to see in my two years with them that they love music from a diverse group of people, but also actively care about our rights.
Running a blog has been a unique experience – as we’re an entirely independent operation I can steer us with a direction where, without even thinking, we prioritise promoting queer artists, artists of colour and female artists – and it’s assisted by the fact those artists are so good and so exciting.
But to be honest, the place I feel most self-assured is behind the DJ decks. I get to create a beautiful environment for my fellow LGBTQI kids constantly through clubs like Hudson Ballroom, Heaps Gay and Birdcage – play songs queer kids resonate with and create a safe space for them. It’s something I am going to continue to passionately pursue and hopefully break into the festival world at some stage, and bring that love and inclusiveness to that environment too.
What are your hopes for the next generation of LGBTQI kids hoping to break into the Aussie music industry?
I really hope, and I believe this will happen, that you’ll see LGBTQI people running music boards, major music companies and leading the thoughts and vision of our industry. LGBTQI people are amongst the most resilient, honest, tough people on the planet – and the one thing the majority of us do is fight for what is right, and extending that belief into the music industry will make it a better place. Also, I dare say we have better music taste. Just a thought.