Features August 3, 2018

Take 5 BIGSOUND: Levi Strauss & Co marketing director, Nicky Rowsell

Take 5 BIGSOUND: Levi Strauss & Co marketing director, Nicky Rowsell

BIGSOUND is one of the biggest events on the Australian music industry calendar.

A jam-packed three days which sees industry and artists come together to hear some of the foremost community minds speak, network and discover the next big thing in Aussie music.

2018 promises to be the biggest year yet, with keynotes from the likes of Paul KellyVirginia Hanlon-Grohl, Erin Kelly-Burkett and stacks more. Not to mention the 100+ musical acts that will be bringing their A-game to showcases right across Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

To prep for the massive conference, TMN is catching up with all the people that orbit around the event.

This is the fifth and final instalment of Take 5 with BIGSOUND.


Brand partnerships at BIGSOUND are nothing new, but Levi Strauss & Co’s collaboration with the festival has resulted in one of the most coveted grants at the moment.

The Levi’s Music Prize is a cool $25,000 awarded to four artists annually that have played a BIGSOUND showcase within the last five years. Although still in its infancy, the prize has boosted the careers of Stella Donnelly, Alex Lahey, Hatchie and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

We caught up with Levi’s marketing director Nicky Rowsell to find out what goes into the prize, how it was born and what artists can do to be in the running.


Can you tell us about how the Levi’s Music Prize came about?

Levi’s has had a long involvement in music dating back generations. We have various music programs that give back to youth and community around the world and as employees, we are encouraged to make a difference in the world by making a positive change and impact in everything that we do by leading with our values.

Both the Levi’s brand (and myself personally) are passionate about music, and for these reasons I had wanted to do something meaningful to give back to Australian musicians and the industry as a whole.

The Levi’s Music Prize was a few years in the making and was born out of the desire to provide an export grant to our local talent so that they could get out there and conquer their creative dreams in providing them with the best opportunity at cracking an international market.

A career in music is not an easy journey and has its own unique challenges, and so offering some financial relief to assist an artist along the way with any career momentum that they may have gained to date is effectively the main driver behind the prize.

Being a creative person myself and having a lot of muso friends, I understand the financial hardships of touring and choosing a creative career path, and so I wanted to try and provide the funding to assist in allowing Australian artists to get out on the road and play more dates, travel overseas to play international festivals/gigs and have them seen and heard by a global audience; go meet that record company or publicist in the UK or Europe, make that new EP or video clip in the US, go record with that LA or Nashville based producer; or whatever that seemingly unattainable goal may be at the time.

We have such an amazing pool of talent here and it’s always such a proud moment when an artist finds success in another market.

Hopefully, in providing this financial leg up of offering $25,000 a quarter,  plus a $5,000 travel allowance from Stage and Screen and a content piece around their career journey to date – we will see the next wave of emerging Australian artists reaching their full potential in the coming years.


What drew Levi’s to BIGSOUND and emerging artists as collaborators?

We first became involved with BIGSOUND back in 2014. It was my first time at BIGSOUND and was such a great vibe.

We took our Levi’s Tailor Shop up there and hosted a Levi’s Showcase featuring Kingswood, Holy Holy and Thelma Plum.

BIGSOUND is one of the most professionally run music industry events that I have attended and the BIGSOUND team are a dream to work with; so it made perfect sense to align the Levi’s Music Prize with such a well-respected event that really delivers on its mandate.

We’ve been dressing key people in the music, fashion industry and creative space since our inception (165 years ago); so collaborating with emerging artists is truly a part of our brand DNA.


Take us through the process of picking the recipients of the prize? 

Selecting a winner each quarter from such an array of talent is never an easy task.

The selection process is handed over to a panel of well-respected international judges that are chosen each quarter by both BIGSOUND and Sounds Australia – (who are our other industry partner in the Levi’s Music Prize).

The judges submit their votes based on a number of criteria in order to ensure the judging process is consistent. It’s been pretty close between the short lists to date – so it’s always a great surprise when I find out who the winner is myself at the end of each quarter.


What are your top tips for BIGSOUND acts that are eyeing off the prize in the next year?

Be sure to get your applications in by the cut-off date is always a good first step!

Make sure your application is detailed and considered.

All of the information on how to enter can be found HERE.


 What’s in the future for the prize?

I am always wanting to improve and build on things – so this BIGSOUND will see the Levi’s Music Prize pool increase to $25,000 in cash and $5,000 in travel from Stage and Screen – plus a Velocity Virgin Gold Membership – which is a substantial prize haul… Hopefully we can keep adding to this opportunity to make it bigger and better each year.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the future, so stay tuned!

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