Updated: Jul 31
The Women in Music Mentor program is a nationwide mentoring and training program run by the Australian Independent Record Labels Association and supported by the Australian Government. Aiming to empower women and non-binary people in the Australian music industry, the program is designed to help people navigate their career and leadership pathways; develop professional decision-making; governance; and commercial and corporate engagement skills.
Maybe a mentorship program sounds intimidating? Maybe it sounds silly? Maybe you don't even know what you need help with? I get it. But you should do it anyway. Let me tell you why.
"I wanted to throw myself into giving music a shot..."
- Isobel Knight (artist, mentee)
I was sceptical as I raced to get my application for the Women in Music Mentorship Program finished by the deadline. Why am I even applying? I can't even articulate what I need help with. Why should I let some mentor guide me through my journey? Do I deserve to be mentored?
Sending in the application was the first step. An announcement to myself that I wanted to take the leap forward; I was going to back myself. It was, however clichéd, very empowering. In the chaos of speed-writing a formal application, I had to reflect on what I wanted in my career and accept that it was okay to ask for help. I didn't know whether I would be selected for the program but admitting that you don't know it all but want to learn more is powerful in itself.
I want to assure you that I'm not going to babble on about myself - maybe my singular positive experience was a fluke? I've roped in some kick-ass women/mentees from last year's program to share their experiences too.
"It feels like intentionally building the table and pulling up more chairs."
- Isobel Knight (artist, mentee)
Local artist Isobel Knight had some reservations at first. "I wasn't sure I was 'qualified' enough - I don't have a label or manager, I'm running an independent ship - so wondered whether I was at the right stage for it", but decided to "throw [herself] into giving music a shot".
To her delight (and my jealousy) she was paired with Aussie icon, Lisa Mitchell.
"Lisa is wise and kind, and her model of moving through music as an industry is something that struck me in a big way: she makes beautiful things, tours with people she loves and releases music that is new, interesting and her - that's the dream really. I think one of the bits of wisdom I was struck by was the idea that as an artist, you are the goldmine; a manager isn't doing you some huge favour by deigning to work with you, it's art that makes the whole thing happen."
The program has helped Isobel see the Australian music industry in a new light,
"Both the mentorship itself and all the training and growing opportunities that came with it have changed the way I feel about the Australian music industry, and how much space I feel there is for new and exciting things."
This mentorship initiative is more important than ever with the #metoo movement highlighting the inequalities we face as an industry. Representation matters. Creating a safe space matters.
"It feels like intentionally building the table and pulling up more chairs. It made me realise how many legendary women and non-binary folks there are in the small village of the Australian music world. It felt safe and exciting, not like a test I had to pass, which in the music industry world is quite a feat," said Isobel.
Music photographer and journalist, Georgia Griffiths, praised the program for encouraging its mentees to empower others. "It's important to help lift up other women and non-binary people around us, and I felt this program gave me [...] the tools to do so."
The program provides mentorship and connections for people from all sectors of the industry. Georgia was able to receive guidance from freelance writer and editor, Bryget Chrisfield.
"Bryget was a great sounding board for me during the program. One of my goals was to be pitching to publications more and get paid more consistently for my work, and Bryget had lots of advice about how to make that happen. She also made some introductions for me which have been very useful."
Being personally matched with a mentor is not the only benefit of the program,
"I would recommend this program to any woman or non-binary person involved in the music industry in any capacity because it's so important to have a strong community around you! Beyond the support of the actual mentors, I found that other mentees were also full of great ideas, advice and opportunities," said Georgia.
The program also provides access to many courses, including the invaluable Fanbase Accelerator, a self-paced course that gives you the tools to build a promotional plan that scales your music career.
"The professional development program was also a great benefit - I tried to attend as many as possible because I think it's important to understand the other facets of the industry so you can work with them effectively. I found this program really helped me formulate my career trajectory for the next year or so, and provided me with ideas and opportunities I would have never had without it," said Georgia.
"It was also good to be able to have conversations about how the industry is changing [due to covid] and how we could navigate things going forward."
The 2021 mentorship program coincided with the peak of the pandemic and lockdowns. Covid created many hurdles for people in music and was definitely on the forefront of everyone's minds during the program, whether this was the changing landscape of the industry or the mental toll.
This was the driving force behind Andrea Robertson's, an experienced artist, application to the program.
"I thought it might be worth applying for, to see if I could get some inspiration, motivation and try to gain some of the momentum that had been lost as a result of Covid."
- Andrea Robertson (artist, mentee)
Andrea found herself in a different dilemma to Isobel, "I wasn't sure if I was the 'right fit' to be honest, I have had quite a lot of industry experience and often find myself in the mentor role."
The program can provide value to mentees at all stages of their careers and Andrea found that it helped her in ways she wasn't expecting.
"I ended up being paired with Emma Wiking who had experience in music PR and Marketing...I had thought I would be (and had been hoping to be) paired with another musician thinking that would be best for me and what I was wanting,"
"Being paired with Emma helped me focus on this in a very practical way, reminded me of the importance of PR and marketing [...], and how necessary good planning is to run a successful campaign."
I had a similar experience to Amber; I didn't expect my mentorship match to be with Kim Roberts (former General Manager at SA Music). I certainly did not predict what parts of my career she would help me with - but it seems like the program knows best!
Kim has a lot of experience working to support local music communities and had endless advice that could benefit JAMs. Not only practical advice but emotional and mental guidance from someone who has walked the path in front of me. Kim helped me in more ways than I could have imagined and has helped me get to a place where I feel like I deserve a seat at the table.
"Knowing there are so many women wanting to help other women grow and succeed and extending an opportunity that might establish some really great connections, is pretty cool."
- Andrea Robertson (artist, mentee)
The overwhelming feeling coming out of the program is that everyone involved, including the mentors, just really cares. "It's run by a team of legends who want to see you do well, however that might look for you," said Isobel.
And these relationships span past the allocated time period; "it feels like a nice little friendship has been developed," said Amber.
I can definitely echo that feeling. Kim went above and beyond; we celebrated my new job, her new career path, talked about anime and much more. It's wonderful to know there are people in the music industry that have open hearts and will champion your dreams.
Andrea is right, "knowing there are so many women wanting to help other women grow and succeed and extending an opportunity that might establish some really great connections" IS pretty cool.
So what are you waiting for? Apply now.
Entries close Wednesday, 10th August 2022.