This article first appeared May 7th, 2012.
I moved to Australia from New Zealand during 2000 in my early twenties.
Until then, I’d never had a job that paid a wage. I had met Grant Thomas, manager of Neil Finn and some big Australian bands, when I organised a Youth Suicide Awareness festival in Wellington a couple of years earlier.
I’d never considered working in the music business until after the show. Grant said he’d love me to come and work with his company if I wanted to move to Sydney. I’d be his assistant and would find and manage my own artists too.
Grant offered me a basic wage of $25,000 per year and said I’d earn a share of any bands that I brought into the company.
It sounded like a fun business and I would forge my own path from within an established brand and organisation.
Within three months I discovered and signed an unknown band from Brisbane called George – and fell in love with the chaotic, exhilarating music business.
The industry was full of delightful characters: gig promoters, record company executives, venue owners, merchandise makers, radio programmers, producers and musicians. There were no rules, anyone could make it and everyone was so passionate about their projects.
I managed George for two years; there were tough lows and soaring highs. But every day I came into the office with a spring in my step, ready to take on the next challenge.
In March 2002, George’s début album hit number one on the ARIA chart. I was still only earning $25,000 because we hadn’t ever worked out what my cut would be.
Although I didn’t care much about money at that time, I was now 24 and my friends all earned much more than I did.
They dined at pricey restaurants and travelled on holidays I couldn’t afford. For the first time I started to think about getting a “real” job.
Sony Music had advertised for an A&R Manager, so I applied. My interview went well and HR gave me a form to fill in.
One of the questions was “what is your expected salary?”
This stumped me. At the time, I earned $25,000 and was pretty sure this job paid at least three times that. $75,000 would represent a massive lifestyle upgrade.
It occurred to me that since I wasn’t passionate about Sony Music, whatever number I wrote down would be the price for which I’d sell one year of my time.
The year was 2002-03, my 24th year on the planet. What was a year worth? Surely, more than $75,000.
Was it $100,000? How about $200,000? The truth is I couldn’t come up with a number so I never finished the form!
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