APRA AMCOS’s Director of Member Relations Milly Petriella has seen her beloved local scene decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarded as one of the Australian music industry’s most respected advisors, Milly Petriella works with over 103,000 songwriters, composers and publishers to help collect their worldwide royalties and create global songwriting opportunities and programs to raise awareness of our talent. The Sydney-based executive has been with the company for almost three decades, and the past year has been her most challenging to date.

With lockdown and travel restrictions playing havoc with live performances, Milly and her team successfully transitioned most of their established events to a virtual or part-virtual model. Her experience, wisdom and mentorship are invaluable for the sector’s near future.

How have you and the industry at large experienced the COVID-19 pandemic?
“We’re still suffering the on-going effects of travel restrictions, border closures and lack of funding for the music industry. I’ve personally struggled with the greater connection with our members and having to work within the virtual world rather than in-person, which has always been the best part of my role at APRA AMCOS.”

Have you suffered a loss of income during the pandemic?
“As an organisation, APRA AMCOS has suffered a significant revenue impact since March last year and it’s ongoing. That means less money going to our music creator members in the form of royalties, which is devastating for them. In some ways my work has been busier as we quickly adapted our existing programs and initiatives, to support the rapidly changing needs of our members throughout the pandemic.”

What are some of the barriers that have prohibited you from cultivating, guiding and encouraging art as you normally would during this pandemic?
“As a response to the challenges that COVID threw at us, we created new and exciting models and platforms we can continue to use in the future. The loss of income and lack of funding for the music industry caused a huge barrier for individuals and businesses over the last year, and for many this is ongoing. Our priority as an organisation was ensuring our members could continue to write, compose and produce music and had money in their pockets to survive as well as continue to create.”

To what extent has your everyday life changed in periods of quarantine?
“My everyday life has changed dramatically. Pre-pandemic I would travel internationally 3-4 times a year to help support our overseas based members, now it’s hard to foresee when I will get on a plane again.

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“I have also had to adapt to not connecting with our globally based members, friends and peers in person. My focus during the pandemic was to set a goal of connecting weekly with at least 10 members globally via zoom or one-on-one catch ups (where permitted) to run a ‘health, well-being and business check in’.”

How have you adapted to pivoting more to a digital space since the pandemic?
“APRA AMCOS was incredible in the way we swiftly moved our entire ecosystem online. Initially it was a challenge to adapt to working from home. Not being able to yell something across the office or meeting with our members in our APRA café or offices was lonely and confronting. As restrictions began to ease I was able to take in-person member meetings, which is something I cherish!”

To what extent do you think the pandemic has influenced art created by our local musicians?
“The pandemic has had a huge influence on music. If not from the way creatives view and experience the world, then from the challenge of how many people have suffered from mental health issues as a result. It would be impossible for something as devastating as COVID-19 to not affect artists and the work created in its wake.”

Are there any other activities you do at home, or anything to keep you busy?
“My saving grace is my morning two-hour walk which I religiously take around beautiful Pyrmont Bay. It’s my time to reflect and plan my day and think of new ideas, and it’s also the time I catch up on new music. This time each day saved my life during the pandemic.”

Do you feel being a mature-age woman in the music industry added to the challenges of working during this period?
“My years of experience and the well-developed, well-established friendships formed over the 26 years working at APRA AMCOS has actually been a blessing for me during this period. My maturity was invaluable as I specifically used it to comfort and support those around me struggling and not coping with the changes forced upon us all.” 

What have you been working on, and what do you have coming up?
We’ve just wrapped up the first completely in-person SongHubs event since COVID-19 began. It was an idea I’d been working on since April last year, to take the remarkable opportunity of having so many of our talented expats at home at the same time.

apra amcos songhubs
APRA AMCOS’ Songhubs songwriters at 301 Studios in Sydney this year

“The event was curated by the incredible PJ Harding and featured an extraordinary calibre of all Australian and New Zealand writers, producers and artists. 30 songwriters, producers and artists gathered together from all over the globe and created 40 new songs. We also held our APRA Music Awards not long ago, and it was completely in-person too. It was a special moment to have so many of our industry in the same room together again.

“We’ve also announced our Women in Music Mentorship Program and the winners of the Professional Development Awards for 2021. There are a couple of SongHubs events in the pipeline, including our first Musical Theatre, and Screen and Games SongHubs, and we are partnering with VIVID to present an event in August.”

Tones And I won two at the 2021 APRA Awards

In the midst of a pandemic, what message do you want to convey to the artists whose work you champion?
“Never give up, use your mind and talent to continue creating. In times of hardship we all look to art, so keep creating. Keep your body, mind and heart healthy and strong and surround yourself with like-minded, supportive friends and family. Do not be afraid to reach out to ask for help!”

What are you most proud of about yourself, through this year-long pandemic?
“I’m most proud of how I have adapted to this new way of living. It’s been really challenging to watch my family, friends, peers and the broader music industry struggle so I made it my mission, alongside the incredible APRA AMCOS team, to find ways to continue to support our members.

“We worked so hard to find ways to pay our members early, lobby the state and federal governments for funding and create opportunities for our members to continue to connect and engage with one another and to keep the music playing.”

This interview article was commissioned by Diversity Arts Australia as part of the Creative Lives During Covid series, with support from Create NSW.