Features October 27, 2015

Hot Seat: Making it in the music industry… with Ruth Daniel, music activist

Former Editor

TMN has revived Hot Seat to offer our young industry subscribers an insight into what it takes to make it in the music business.

Ahead of Melbourne’s eighth annual Face The Music conference, TMN chats to internationally renowned music activist Ruth Daniel. The founder of global grassroots event and community Un-Convention, and Co-Director of In Place of War – the program supporting artists in sites of war – Daniel’s entrepreneurial programs challenge community models and push for social change. 

Next month she’ll introduce Face The Music delegates and Melbourne Music Week attendees to Brazilian music group and scene creators Fora Do Eixo. She’ll also discuss Off Axis Network, a cooperative networking model that has its pilot currently running in the UK.

You’re an artist, a label founder, a serial entrepreneur, and a music activist. What’s left on the Bucket List?

I really love pushing myself, it’s important to me to make change. I believe that everything happens organically, I certainly never thought I would be travelling the world working with music and social change when I was in my teenage years… So it’s hard to say what is left for me to do. If I can continue to make more ambitious projects, in more places in the world, then that will be wonderful!

I am always inspired by the worlds of the late, great Tony H. Wilson: ’You can either make money, history or art’. I feel that I will only be here once and I’d like to positively change the world, however I can. I feel that creativity, art, technology and human drive will make this possible.

What do you wish every independent artist knew back when they were just starting out?

Stay true to your art. 

Never compromise. 

Make music for you. If other people like it, that’s a bonus. 

Make an impact, rather than thinking of making money from your music. 

For those not familiar with In Place of War, what sparked the program and where has it taken you thus far?

In Place of War emerged out of recognising the value of art, music and creativity in all its forms to make social change across the world. It started by looking how and why people make theatre in sites of conflict, it then looked at youth led hip-hop movements across Latin America and then expanded out to a global programme of creative initiatives, where we work across 25 countries – in Africa, Latin America and across the Middle East. 

All our work is about working with grassroots initiatives in areas of extreme disadvantage – we build cultural spaces in Zimbabwe, DRC and Uganda; we mobilise artists, musicians and change makers from across the world giving them a platform to tell their stories of their realities; we make festivals across the world; and we have a creative entrepreneurial programme that we are rolling out across 25 countries aiming to build a community of global entrepreneurs from places of extreme disadvantage. Our strength is that we are connected and work with people from revolutionary, grassroots creative initiatives in some of the most incredible places in the world – from townships in Zimbabwe, to favelas across Brazil, to the jungles of DR Congo. 

Your Un-Convention event has a presence in 25 countries; do you have any plans to launch it in Australia?

We made a series of Un-Conventions in Brisbane in the past. The focus of Un-Convention is now more about building live music networks. 

Most of my work is about connecting musicians, music networks and music organisations together across the world at an independent and grassroots level to strengthen the sector and opportunities for musicians. I hope to connect the scene in Australia with our more global networks to help build a new global grassroots and independent music infrastructure that works FOR musicians.

What can everyday Australians do to help music activists like yourself?

It’s about supporting local scenes and connecting to the independent global scenes, looking at how you can become part of a more global narrative about the future of music. Being open to collaborations and working with those communities around you to create new sounds. Donating unused equipment is really useful for our projects across Southern Africa and any music activists who are interested in coordinating this, should get in touch with me. 

What can attendees to Face The Music expect from your workshop?

Globally influenced ideas about how to nurture, develop and promote talent; build new systems and infrastructure and to think more globally about an alternative grassroots music infrastructure. 

The session will explore how music can act as a tool to make significant social change, drawing on grassroots examples from across the world – it will draw on real life, grassroots examples from Colombia, Brazil, Southern Africa and India – showing how young people, entrepreneurs and musicians are changing the face of music forever. It will look at revolutionary new models for the mobility of music and culture influenced by Fora Do Exio in Brazil and how this is being applied in other parts of the world. It will explore how regardless of geographic location digital tools, new networks and new technologies are enabling the music infrastructure to become closer and to work together in different ways.

If you could go back, what would you say to ‘2008 Ruth Daniel’ who had just founded Un-Convention?

Get ready for the most incredible life-changing adventure of your life… 

Face The Music takes place at the Arts Centre, Melbourne on November 13 and 14. Passes are available at facethemusic.com.au and member discounts are available from Music Victoria, AAM, APRA, AIR, Collarts, AIM and The Push.

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