A Week In The Life Of… Donna Woods

This week’s WITLO is a little bit different. We wanted to shed some light on some music industry workers other than the artists and managers working behind the scenes. This week, we were privileged to chat with Donna Woods from APRA AMCOS about the in’s and out’s of her role as a Writer Representative based in the Northern Territory.

For those readers who don’t know, APRA AMCOS is a music rights management operation that pay royalties to music creators when their music is played or copied, either locally and overseas. There work is vital to ensuring musicians get fairly paid when others appropriate the copyright in their work. You can check out their website here for more information. 

Over to you, Donna!

A job description in your own words

I’d like to say that I’m a touch point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songwriters, composers and their teams in the music industry, but specifically acting as an interface between them and APRA AMCOS, it’s various departments and services.

I’d also say that I’m at times a: pseudo-comms officer, project manager, spreadsheet and words nerd, sounding board and at all times an original music fan.
 

A brief daily journal over a week

Presently I work from home in the spare room of my flat in Mparntwe on Arrernte Land.

MONDAY

Not having worked on the Friday, means there’s always plenty to greet me, but there’s generally an anticipation at what might be waiting. It’s always a mixed bag.  Add to that the fact we start later here in the Centre than on the East Coast because ‘timezones’, most people already have a half an hour jump on me so Mondays always feel a like playing catch up, or that I’m late when I’m not. 

I start by catching up on internal comms via Teams. Notices of recent procedural happenings etc and then getting up to date with Inboxes – my direct inbox and NATSIMO inbox – building my to-do list as I go .

I have a couple of  internal meetings today – one with my ‘Interstate’ (meaning ‘out of Sydney or Melbourne’) Writer Services colleagues: Alana in SA, Tenille in WA, Phil and Leah, also in the NT and Kellie and Andrew in QLD. It’s always a fun and informative time  – they’re some witty folks.

Later I have a ‘Brains Trust’ meeting – a small group of Writer Reps provide feedback on the elements in progress of our member app and member portal development teams on things like functionality, language etc. ensuring the best experience for users with each update that gets released.

Here’s just a couple of queries that were waiting for me today:

  • Prompts to follow up with a small number of members/artists to request the setlist for their performances at a recent licenced event for which there are royalties to be paid to copyright holders in the songs performed.
  • Licencing request for the use of two AMCOS members’ collaborative work in an online campaign. I spoke to one writer on Thursday Island and a follow up call to their MGMT to provide all the details for their consideration.

Also in advising the cowriter of the opportunity, had a solid catch up with them, a member mate who I’ve not seen in some time. It was exciting to hear of their new and extensive bodies of work in language and even a sneak preview of a recently tracked work in progress. Major.

 

TUESDAY

Today my priority is preparing our monthly News From the NATISMO email. We have been putting together these monthly mailouts since the February Launch of the Virtual First Nations Suite. I’ve just last month started putting the final product together myself via Mailchimp.

To send it out by my Wednesday PM deadline, I need to create all the Survey Monkey forms for EOIs and RSVP Forms with details of this month’s events and presenters, and the Zoom meetings so that links can be included. We request our in house graphic designer to develop assets for us to use from supplied press shots for our presenters and curator for the month’s programming which she always does in record time!

We also include some links to opportunities and stories of celebration for Aboriginal and Torres Islander writers, artists and organisations as well as links to some APRA AMCOS news. In the weekly scheduled catch-up that my Manager, Leah Flanagan and I have , we will finalise this month’s content as well as discuss our other priorities and activities for the week. I’ll then source images and appropriate links from and to the sources for the final content.

Amongst all or this is a variety of member queries, including a request to call back a senior member from Broome who is needing some clarity on their royalty payment history. It was a great chat and I learned a lot from the stories they shared about the early days of Aboriginal Contemporary music from their youth and of language revival projects in their community. It’s always an honour to listen to our Elders spin a yarn and help how I’m able. Amongst it all, we were able to resolve their query too.

Lastly I had the lovely task of notifying the two successful writers NATSIMO 3-2-1 who’d been chosen by our Curator for last Month, Joel Quartermain for this cowriting opportunity which is part of our Monthly Virtual First Nations Suite (I’ll email you this Month’s Media Release tomorrow if you want to link it?)

 

WEDNESDAY

This morning in partnership with a colleague from our Broadcast Licencing Team, the NATSIMO are presenting and short talk at CONVERGE (First Nations Media Australias  National Conference) on the land of the Widjabul/Wiabul people of the Bundjalung nation. We’d delivered this Powerpoint presentation once before so should be smooth sailing.

I tuned in prior to our session to stream the CONVERGE morning program while I chipped away at things on the side. Too solid! Such a valuable event bringing together really vital individuals and organisations not just to our sectors but to our communities as well. Media and Broadcast organisations do so so very much for the communities they serve and are such a valuable network. The event was exceptionally well delivered online and on the ground from all I could see. Congrats First Nations Media, delegates and team. Oh and the presentation went just fine.

I then spent nigh the rest of the day finalising the member mailout to a soundtrack of First Nations Led playlists to keep me motivated. So much copy and paste, formatting,  google search and save as, and ‘which window was I in?’.  But I secretly love it.

I managed to get the member email looking good, working right,  proofed by a Comms Team colleague and away she went. That’s me done for the day.
 

THURSDAY

I arrived to a message from a colleague who’d had a difficult conversation before COB the day before with a revered senior member based in a remote community who was in financial crisis. Due to an immovable obligation they were unable to assist today, so would I be able to reach out and also see whether there was any support we could offer internally or connect him with?

After speaking with Uncle in the morning, I reached out to the First Nations Community Engagement/Social Worker at Support Act to see how the Charity might be able to help and what the processes were to apply for funds.

I can’t speak more highly of the value of dedicated crisis support such as Support Act for our sector and of the culturally aware support Cerisa provides for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through her role. We both reflected on how much of an honour it is to serve our communities and to have been able to mobilise on behalf of our Elder to provide support for someone who gives so much of themselves.

 

FRIDAY

So, I don’t work Fridays! But, I am doing some grant assessing outside of my APRA AMCOS role and although I did get a small sleep in, I was elbow deep in Letters of Support, project outlines etc for most of the day.

Usually this’d be my fortnight to go and buy my pay-day plant friend – I’m still new to Mparntwe, so still have much room for new plants –  but I’m trying to not get distracted today. Deadlines..!

But I did manage to see out the week with my hair down – I was stoked to have been invited to The Rubens show at my local tonight, featuring the solid local Arrernte band South East Desert Metal as the support – LOVED the contrast.


Challenges and accomplishments in your week

  • The responsiveness of the job means that often you don’t get to the bottom of your to do list
  • Similarly, with many irons in the fire or projects/threads on the go, it’s difficult to keep track of them all
  • I do appreciate the variety of the work. No two days are the same
  • I value being able to connect with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in both industry roles and in connecting with our members
  • There’s a sense of accomplishment in each resolved query, each to-do list check box ticked, and in each email sent.

 

Highlights of the week (pros of the job)

  • Seeing live music!
  • Working alongside Cerisa at Support Act to provide crisis relief to a living legend
  • Sneak previews of incredible new music
  • Witnessing and being a small part of an incredible multi-day, First Nations led media conference

 

Lowlights of the week (cons of the job)

  • This is a constant one: never feeling like I’ve done enough by the end of the day/week.
  • Another near constant one: regret over things you may have forgotten/run out of time to do or over people you didn’t get around to getting back to.

 

Words of wisdom for people considering a job in your field

  • You can try, but you actually can’t do everything
  • Forgive yourself your short comings and mistakes. Maybe try a “you did good” to yourself.
  • Play to your strengths and the strengths of those around you.

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