Features June 6, 2016

Q&A: Jeswon from Thundamentals offers advice for emerging artists

Former Editor

This month, local hip hop collective Thundamentals will deliver the keynote at Indent’s annual music conference for young people, Feedback. Ahead of the conference TMN chats to the group’s Jeswon (Jesse Ferris) about why now is a golden era for indie artists, the one question emerging acts need to ask themselves, his top songwriting technique and more.

Given the rise of self-publishing and self-releasing, Thundamentals are at the unique forefront of this new economy in Australia. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from being and leading your own business?

One of the biggest things we have always tried to emphasise is to be respectful towards everyone within the industry; whether it be fans, promoters, roadies, media or bar staff at the venues.

The industry in Australia isn’t actually that big, so if you can establish a reputation for being respectful and professional, there is a good chance of securing repeat business because you will find you are dealing with the same people over and over again.

Also, don’t take the people that believe in you for granted. Take the time to nurture and maintain healthy communication and relationships with your fans, management and other creatives. There are a million other artists that fans could be supporting, the fact that they are interested in the art that you are making and are there to support you in your journey is amazing. Make the fans feel like their support is appreciated and they will stick around for the long haul.

Was there ever a time in your career when you thought entertained the idea of pursuing another passion instead of music?

Definitely. There will be many times in a musician’s career where you become disheartened at being broke or perhaps not receiving the recognition for your work you feel you deserve.

I got halfway through a degree in teaching before the music thing got to a point where it finally became a financially viable career path. And by viable I mean I was finally able to pay my rent from making music haha! It is by no means comparable to the salary that someone else would earn if they spent ten years working on a career in pretty much any other field. I guess musicians aren’t generally embarking on a career in music because they are financially driven. If you are, then it’s probably worthwhile rethinking your motivations and goals.

Would you say there are more or less opportunities as an emerging artist now compared to when you were starting out in the early noughties?

I feel like there are more opportunities for emerging artists now. The rise of the internet means that there are more and more platforms by which emerging artists can have their voices heard. Social media means that artists and fans are more closely in touch than ever before. The fact that a fan can have that direct contact with the artist I feel fosters a closer relationship and a heavier emotional investment by the fans in the music.

What are the key questions an artist should ask themselves before pursuing a career in music?

Ask yourself, why do I want to pursue a career in music? If the answer is to be a rock star and make a boat load of money, then by all means use that as motivation but be realistic in the fact that the reality you are dreaming of is a Utopia reached by a very small minority. I’m not saying that reality is impossible, but it is highly unlikely.

If the answer to the question is you want to share your voice, your music, your art with the world because the joy you get from making and performing music is incomparable to anything else on this earth then I would encourage you wholeheartedly to pursue a career in music.

Some streaming services are valued higher based on revenue than some record labels. There are a lot of examples of independent artists starting movements without a major label, yet all the highest-selling artists are linked to majors. What’s your view on label deals vs. self-funded?

I think that now, more so than any other time in history, it is more possible for independent artists to have success without the support of major labels. But the fact remains, that major labels have the resources to push the voice and product of the artist further than they could if they didn’t have major label backing. And by resources I don’t just mean money. It is the difference between doing and paying for everything yourself as an independent artist (writing the music, paying for mixing/mastering, paying for marketing, video clips, designing the artwork, mailing out the product, etc. the list goes on and on) and having the support network of a team of professionals whose job is to maximise the reach of their artists product.

That being said, the gap between independent self-funded and major label artists is closer than ever before.

You’ll chat about your songwriting process at Feedback; what’s one writing technique that works for you?

Sometimes I like to put some beats on my phone and go for a walk or a run and freestyle ideas and thoughts over the beats. Invariably by the time I get home I will have the genesis of a song idea. Maybe not the exact words of the chorus, but perhaps an idea for what I want to say in the song or a melody that I can hear that I want to develop further.

Feedback is tailored for 12-24-year-olds, what do you hope young people take away from your keynote?

I hope they take away the idea that making music is a hell of a lot of fun. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world as a result of making and performing music with my best friends and have had some incredible experiences and seen things I don’t think I ever would have seen if it wasn’t for music.


Feedback – A Music Conference For Young People is a jam-packed day of music industry insider info for 12-24-year-olds. Held at Sydney’s iconic Museum of Contemporary Art on Monday 13th June this year’s conference includes Thundamentals’ keynote, a songwriting session with Thelma Plum and three panels featuring industry representatives from triple j, Arts Law, APRA AMCOS, Bloods, WME and more. 


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