Why the indie sector is so important: Q&A with etcetc’s Aden Mullens
Image credit: Natalie Jones
Ahead of tonight’s AIR Independent Music Awards, TMN’s Vivienne Kelly speaks to etcetc’s general manager Aden Mullens about the label’s nomination for Independent Label of the Year, why the indie sector is so important, and what ‘success’ looks like in a year with limited touring, constant lockdowns and never-ending uncertainty.
VK: Let’s start with why you think you’re nominated for this award this year. What has the label achieved?
AM: That’s a really good question. I think there’s so many amazing independent record labels in our country right now. They all stand for something, which is awesome. So, to be nominated as one of five is phenomenal.
It’s a bit hard to articulate why we’ve been nominated. I think we’ve had really good success, strong success with PNAU. It’s been the premiere dance act in this country for the last few years. We’ve also helped migrate some international artists such as Jax Jones, who is a big UK artist, to starting to mean something in foreign markets like ours.
And we also I think we have a commitment to a diverse and eclectic roster of individuals who do their own thing and are unique. I think one of the prerequisites for our is someone who has a unique opinion and perspective on music and their place in it.
VK: And why do you think the indie sector is so important in 2021?
AM: I just think the independent label structure has a lot more fluidity to be able to offer a different way of working. Structurally we can achieve a lot more than what a major label can do, and we can deliver more of what artists need based on the changing market as well, I think. The market changes so quickly, I think indies’ ability to be able to pivot to deliver what artists need from a label is unique.
VK: And what’s been the biggest challenge that the label has faced this year?
AM: I guess just remote working, which I think is probably common. We were setting up to do a lot more remote working anyway pre-COVID, and thankfully we hit the ground running last year when we went into lockdown. But that has been a significant challenge.
From the business side, there is obviously a knock-on effect for our artists who aren’t able to earn a live income to supplement what they’re doing on the recording side. That has been really damaging.
So, artists’ ability to spend time writing music, recording music, has been limited, purely just based on access and income, compared to when they used to have income from live more regularly coming into their pockets. They don’t have that anymore.
VK: And given this wasn’t really the year that anyone was hoping for, how will etcetc define success for 2021? What are you looking to achieve?
AM: Ideally I want all our employees to feel valued and happy and supported, as well as our artists. Ideally I want everyone to be healthy at the end of this period as well, be happy, it’s a really tough time. Mental health is a big part of the training that we’ve had over the last 12 months, and addressing mental health in our industry from an employee level and an artist level.
So I think success will be having artists that feel like they’re being supported in their vision, and also from a mental health perspective as well.
VK: And how about in your role, what’s the most rewarding thing?
AM: I think having a diverse roster that does different things and that they feel like they’re achieving a vision or they’re achieving a road to their own defined success. We have a whole bunch of different artists that have different ideas of success, and I think having the sense that they’re all moving forward on that or they’re making plans to move forward with that, that makes me very happy.
VK: And is there one thing you’d like to see from the music industry this year in terms of any milestones, or are you just looking to navigate your way out of this COVID mess?
AM: Well I’d love to see more government at State and Federal level supporting recorded music – and not just key headline labels and agencies, but also the indies. There’s a pretty rigorous process for grants and whatnot, so it would be great if there was a body that was really championing indies, support for indie labels at a federal and state level.
VK: How about f you weren’t in this job, could you see yourself doing anything else?
AM: No, I’d probably be stacking shelves…
VK: Well then you’d be an essential worker…
AM: Well that’s true, very true.
I’ve been in the music industry for almost 20 years, after doing a business degree and realising that the only business that I want to be involved in is with other passionate people, and that’s driven me straight to music. It’s a highly passionate industry and it takes a lot of hard work and support and commitment. And I think that really, really suited me.