Nando’s Music Exchange (MX) program is designed to help emerging music creatives aged 18 to 24 progress their music career by connecting them with experts in the industry, supporting the next generation of Australian music talent.

Hosted by radio presenter, television personality and DJ Jane Gazzo, the MX line up included some of the hottest industry talent including artists such as KLP, Ecca Vandal and Kwame through to industry stalwarts including Marc Sousley, Promoter at Secret Sounds.

Between planning some of Australia’s biggest music festivals (Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival) and working with a roster of global artists, Marc Sousley took a break to share his personal advice to young musos at MX on breaking into the industry, including tips on building relationships and how networking helped him get his foot in the door.

Your first job might not be a paid job, but it will pay off 

Internships and volunteer work can be a great way to break into the industry, build meaningful relationships and learn hands on skills that will help you stay ahead of the game.

“I volunteered for four straight years of festivals. I’d fly from London to Austin, Texas for Austin City Limits and Chicago for Lollapalooza and do all the jobs that no one else wanted to do. I learnt a lot and met a lot of interesting people.

“I then decided to leave my job and moved to the States. Through networking, I started working with people C3 Presents, producers of Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. I had a friend who was working as a booker at C3 Presents and he told me I had the mentality for booking bands and invited me on board to work full-time, so I did.”

There is plenty of work behind the scenes  

The music industry is buzzing with professionals who are passionate about music, but being a performer isn’t the only option if you’re looking to get into the biz.

“I was never a musician, I’m terrible at playing an instrument. But I have a passion for music and live events. Before I entered the music business I was working as a finance journalist in London but at the same time I was knee deep in the electronic music scene. So, I pursued the business side of things.

“Half of my job is dealing with agents on a day to day basis and booking their talent. The other half is making sure that the shows we’ve booked work. This usually involves contracting, ticketing, venue deals, marketing and immigration. There’s so much that goes into it. It definitely keeps you on your toes.”

There’s an art to effective networking

Networking in the music industry is more than just attending a gig or adding someone on Facebook.

“Networking is standing toe-to-toe with opportunity, shaking hands and selling your brand. It can be the most instrumental part of a blooming career.

There is always opportunity to connect and meet people in the industry. When you go to gigs, don’t just watch what’s on stage but watch who is in the room. Watch the sound tech, watch the door person and strike up a conversation. No one will know who you are until you tell them.

“Festivals are full of people who have connections, I know the parking officer at Splendour in the Grass works with Childish Gambino and is now the unofficial local tour manager for him when he’s in Australia. So just get out there and network. See people. Meet people. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid.”

Always put relationships first

Every album release, tour, festival, event or PR campaign involves collaboration between a mix of music industry professionals. Building relationships across the industry is the essence of networking, and the music industry is built on it.

“Money makes the world go around, but relationships are the key to securing talent in the music industry. The biggest challenge is getting bands to accept my offers. That’s always a tough one. At the end of the day you realise that money doesn’t always make people say yes. It’s got to be the right opportunity, the right play for that artist.

“There needs to be an element of trust and respect between the booking agent, artist and promoter. It’s important to build this, and if they say no you just have to move on and go to the next person.”

Panellists and participants at the nando's music exchange
Panellists and participants. Credit: Pat Stevenson

What next?

Nando’s, a proud supporter of Australian music, developed MX to provide opportunities for creatives to network with a community of like-minded people, and support the next wave of budding artists to further develop their craft and industry know how.

The Global Music Exchange, kicking off on Monday 9 September 2019 will take six early career music creatives to the famous London Roundhouse, in an all-expenses paid trip to work with artists from South Africa, UK and Australia.

This feature was created from the knowledge shared at the Australian Nando’s Music Exchange workshops, which were held in Melbourne and Sydney this year.