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 on November 7, the music industry has an important role in the discourse playing out in the public space.
Below is our Q&A with Todd Wagstaff, who over his 20+ year career in the music industry, has personally signed, recorded, marketed or managed artists including The Vines, Empire of the Sun, The Veronicas, You Am I, Pnau, Gypsy and the Cat, Bluejuice, Evermore and Holly Valance.
I think it’s the most important social evolution I am going to live through, so of course I want to be a part of that. The baby boomers did the heavy lifting on race, peace, feminism and the environment. The kids beneath me are going to need to reshape democracy, define morality in technology, end the economic and educational disparity in the world. They are going to be busy. The least we can do is pass on to them a society that has moved on from homophobia. Marriage equality is a cornerstone to creating that world.
The marriage equality plebiscite. Discuss!
Everyone I know thinks that if a leader from any political party created legislation for marriage equality and championed it through parliament then they would be a total hero right now. Revealed as an actual leader, locked in to government for years and fast-tracked for legend status. Kids would be talking about them in history classrooms forever. What politician would not want that?
But we are in a contradictory era where politicians persuade through fear to win an office that paradoxically succeeds through optimism. They get in to power but then with no mandate to lead. Right now Turnbull is drowning, turned into a terminal bore peddling a barrow full of coal and rifling through the filing cabinets of the CFMEU looking for a vial of poison that $46 million worth of Royal Commission could not locate. The will of the people shall succeed when it comes to justice despite our politicians.
The only good to come from the plebiscite is that it allows us to identify every hateful person in our community and from here I suggest we do what Eminem said and we “draw a line!”
Tell us about your experience of being LGBTQ in the Australian music industry
Thankfully, the music business doesn’t attract a lot of homophobes. So I never felt discriminated in that way. However, it is top heavy in chauvinist and misogynist. I think for those guys, the risk of a gay person in their midst is that we present a mirror to their poor behaviour. So for that I got left out from certain parts of the industry for sure. Thankfully, I was too busy signing interesting artists and building a reputation based on merit and originality.
Alongside that, the boys club who trade in entitlements and history and anything to distract from their lack of initiative or creativity was dwindling. That club is still around but it’s checked by the many brilliant creatives now, both men and women, who no longer see through the world through filters of sexuality, race or gender.
What are your hopes for the next generation of LGBTQ kids hoping to break into the Aussie music industry?
We all have our pros and cons. I have plenty of cons but on the pro list would be “good ears”. Many in the music business have said I have “good ears” for a great artist. So to the next generation of LGBTQ kids wanting to be break into music I’ll share with you a secret, I got shit ears. What I have got is instinct, and it’s one that comes ready-built into the DNA of the entire LGBTQ community. People call it a “gaydar” but I would say its an inherent ability to see through and around subtle nuances in peoples personality and charisma.
We use it to find partners from our minority position, but you can apply the same observation to the complex evaluation of whether an artist is the real deal. It’s no fluke that the Beatles and the Stones and so many of the greats have been found and managed by great gay music entrepreneurs.
So I say to the next generation of gay kids: tap into that instinct and run head on into the music business. This idea could not have been better said than by writer and actor Lena Waithe when she won at the Emmy Awards this year when she shouted to the LGBITQ community, “I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers — every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it!!”