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exclusive Features August 19, 2019

BIGSOUND Hot Seat: Frontier Touring’s Sahara Herald

BIGSOUND Hot Seat: Frontier Touring’s Sahara Herald

Sahara Herald has worked as a tour director for Frontier Touring since 2018, having first started with the company four years prior.

Born and raised in Brisbane, Sahara started booking venues in 1991 as she studied at the University of Queensland.

She was an instrumental part in the running of one of Australia’s most-loved festivals Big Day Out, working as its national event coordinator

Now she’s at the front line of bringing new business to Frontier, and maintaining the well-established industry relationships that the touring company has built worldwide.

Sahara caught up with TMN ahead of her keynote at BIGSOUND 2019.

What are you most looking forward to at 2019 BIGSOUND?

This will be my first time attending BIGSOUND so I’m excited to actually be there and hopefully soak in some of the atmosphere and energy. Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of an international tour so I’m literally flying in and out on the day of my keynote and will have limited time on ground.

What panels, performances or events are on your ‘must-see’ list for this year?

Well there’s some tremendous speaker content that I’d love to see if I was there longer (or they weren’t programmed at the exact same time as me!): my dear friend and ex-Big Day Out colleague Viv Fantin has her own business called Next Act Coaching and has such wonderful insight into workplace well-being, Elise Huntley is an event logistics and OHS wizard (Secret Sounds GM), I love Casey O’Shaughnessy’s energy, taste and work ethic (Select Music), Kathy McCabe always has a brilliant way with words (News Ltd) and Lindy Morrison has such an incredible story to tell, not just as an iconic performer, but as a fierce advocate for artists’ rights and livelihoods.

How important are events like BIGSOUND to the continuing development of our industry?

I think BIGSOUND has not only helped to “legitimise” the Australian industry on the global aspect but also for Australia itself. When you have events that pull together the wealth of talent and experience we have here and showcase it in a professional, modern and respectful way it gives us pause to reflect on the level of diversity and excellence we have here and negate any remnants of cultural cringe.

What are the biggest challenges facing the music industry today?

From the perspective of the live music landscape in which I work, scalping continues to be my personal bugbear. Scalpers are a plague of insidious weeds, always finding new and devious ways to shaft the legitimate industry and rip off punters. Whilst we’re still waiting for laws and technology to catch up, the current focus has to be on educating the public. Frontier Touring, Michael Gudinski and many of the artists we work with have been consistently vocal on this matter for a long time, calling for change and the legal protection of patrons and primary ticketing.

Additionally, I’m concerned at the level of bureaucratic interference without consultation and the politically motivated over-regulation and policing of festivals, venues and events. I’m grateful to people in the industry such as my friend Jessica Ducrou who are at the forefront of engaging with policymakers in this space, particularly in regard to the issues of pill testing, audience safety and harm minimisation.

How can we future-proof the Aussie music industry?

Looking toward the future, Frontier Touring, which is part of the Mushroom Group of Companies, has formed strategic alliances with Chugg Entertainment here in Australia and AEG globally, both of which strengthen our position in the live market but give us increased access to information, experience, networks, opportunities and resources whilst still allowing us to maintain a level of personal attention and dedication to our roster of artists.

Most of the fast track changes I’ve seen in the rest of the industry are primarily in how we consume music and how artists can create and sustain a financially viable career in that environment

On the positive side, what new technologies or innovations should we be celebrating or looking forward to?

The move away from major labels is part of a general disruption of traditional formats and services and will potentially provide interesting opportunities for those with foresight and ingenuity, but does also create blurred lines between those services when labels become live promoters, streaming services sign artists to try and create new revenue streams etc.
Personally, I would celebrate any technology that helped us in the continued battle against scalping!

Are we entering the age of the DIY artist? What is driving artists towards becoming entrepreneurs and remaining independent or starting their own labels etc.?

I think we’ve always had a healthy element of punk DIY mentality amongst Australian artists, particularly in Brisbane. For example, Fun Things literally paid to make and distribute their first EP themselves back in 1979 literally gluing the sleeves together in their parent’s garage in The Gap. 500 in the original pressing and worth a mint today and seen as a seminal moment in the history of Punk.

Obviously, technology has changed rapidly in the last few years and enabled artists to exist out in the world and be heard on multiple platforms without a record label or publishing deal or even a manager. They’re able to keep a level of control and autonomy and still have market impact which previously was near impossible. Which is great for new and emerging artists, but potentially raises challenges as their success hopefully grows.

Having an industry around you doing that work, and it is hard work, means that in theory, you’re able to concentrate on being creative. So, the balance would be keeping a level of control and ownership without becoming burdened by the administrative workload of a business.

What are your big predictions for the industry over the next 3-5 years?

Probably not the angle you’re looking for, but I have great appreciation of the changing conversation around the health and wellbeing of those that work in the industry. I’m hopeful that technology will allow us to work smarter rather than harder, that there’s a degree flexibility in work environments.

There are so many passionate people across all aspects of this industry but unfortunately, that passion can end in burn out, disillusionment, financial insecurity, mental and emotional instability and potential drug and alcohol dependence. I’m a great admirer and advocate of the vital work that Support Act does, but what I’d love to see more of is proactivity and accountability around these issues to hopefully address them before damage is done.

Sahara Herald will deliver her BIGSOUND 2019 keynote speech at Rainbow Room – Cloudland on Thursday, September 5 at 2:45pm.


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