Burnout, birthdays and battling through: Q&A with UNFD’s Luke Logemann about making it through 2021 (so far)
UNFD is having a big year. The indie is celebrating its 10-year milestone and is tonight nominated for the Independent Label of the Year at the AIR Independent Music Awards. Ahead of the big reveal tonight, general manager Luke Logemann talks to TMN’s Vivienne Kelly about a decade in business, the risks of loving what you do just a little too much, and doing something which has broken many people in lockdown – attempting to build IKEA furniture.
VK: Just to kick things off, what is it about the year that you’ve had that makes you worthy of this nomination? What are some good things that have happened for UNFD this past year?
LL: Well the most existing thing is that it’s actually our 10 years as a label. We’re celebrating it all of 2021. We kicked off the label 1st January, 2011. So that’s been an exciting development. It’s a really cool milestone for us to hit.
And I guess, just the past year, I feel like any independent company that’s been able to survive and keep their people employed and keep their artists relatively stable, that’s worthy of a win in 2021 I’d say anyway, right?
Plus the work we’ve done with eco-friendly vinyls. I just found that to be a really really inspiring thing for us to work on, and I think was a huge achievement for our team. And now… we’re actually doing a 10-year vinyl series, which is 10 different records all done using completely recycled materials as well with all the energy carbon offset. So, to me, that was one achievement that was such a big, big thing for us … and that was something that was also really important that we were able to achieve.
VK: And so how have you navigated the challenges of COVID, particularly when the arts have been so hard hit?
LL: As en entire company, we’ve got a lot of different elements of what we do, and I guess what we did is just tried to focus on what we can control, and as a label for us, direct-to-consumer sales became a massive part of what we do, and it’s a massive way that we can reach the community that we operate within, and just try and get sales out there when retail stores and JB Hi-Fi and that kind of thing aren’t open.
I guess the other thing for us is that half of our artists are from either the US or the UK signed on global deals. So for us, we had people in different territories, and we were all able to work in our own individual territories and try to keep our artists running, using new technologies to try and help them survive such a difficult year for artists.
VK: So why do you think the indie sector is still really important and needs recognition like this?
LL: I think that the indie sector, it’s massive, it entails so many different types of music and so many different types of communities and teams around the world. And I think these labels are quite connected to the grassroots music scene that is the foundation of how artists develop their sounds, how musicians develop their art and that kind of thing – whether that’s independent promoters, small venues or anything like that, or record labels. I think it’s just really, really important to always acknowledge the people that are working their arses off to service their communities and service this kind of music.
VK: And how will you define success when it gets to the end of the year? What is UNFD looking to achieve in 2021 beyond your 10-year milestone?
LL: That’s a good question, actually.
VK: Just make it through the year?
LL: Well, it’s funny. I actually just wrote our goals, and I’m just having a look at them.
Look, for us, knowing that the touring market is, touch wood, globally going to be coming back probably towards the end of this year and the start of next year, we realise that a lot of our content creators are going to be out there, finally able to tour, and in a lot of cases finally able to make an income for themselves. So for me, success will be deemed as us being able to have gotten to that point, and our artists are still able to create and still able to make art, and we’re still able to promote art. Getting to the end of that and all of those artists still being around and all of our records still able to come out. I think that’s going to be the real challenge for the rest of this year and has been the challenge – and if we succeed and still have a live music scene in six months or 12 months’ time.
VK: And what’s the best part of your job?
LL: Listening to music all day, every day, and being a part of it. I’ve wanted to run a record label since I was about 14 years old, so I’ve never not wanted to do this. And being able to do that is a dream come true for me.
VK: And what about the most challenging part of the role?
LL: The most challenging part of the role is just that I guess we’re all massive fans of what we do, and we’re all fans of the music that we get to be a part of, and sometimes that means that your hobby is mixed up with what you’re working on, and so you’ve always got to watch out for burnout when that happens because you don’t kind of have a place to go and recover or hide out, because your recovery is literally the thing that you’re working your arse off on.
I think that’s a challenge that people in the music industry face across the board. But definitely at record labels, personally, I feel that as well.
VK: So could you see yourself doing anything else? What would you be doing if you weren’t in this job?
LL: It’s hard for me to imagine. I’ve been in this exact job for 15 years.
So look, I’m never going to not do what I’m doing. But if I was going to do anything it would probably be something with my hands. I’m terrible at using my hands, but I’d try and build something. I built a piece of IKEA furniture on the weekend, and I’m starting to feel like an absolute legend because of that….
Look if I was going to do anything else, it would be something else involved in music. That’s my passion and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
UNFD is nominated for Independent Label of the Year in tonight’s AIR Awards. You can watch the Awards here from 8:30pm (AEST).