From corporate lawyer to managing one of the most famous musicians of the late 2010’s , Jackson Walkden-Brown joins us for another Week In The Life Of. Jackson has been apart of the music industry for a quite some time now, exercising music law, playing music, artist management and being a CEO of his own company, Artists Only. Although he keeps busy with his management service, you can also find him at Bond University as an Entertainment Law Professor.
Now, for the good bits. This one has a bit of a different take to a regular week in the life, but think of this as a story. Imagine yourself, as an artist manager or a musician, being apart of this experience and what it would feel like to sky rocket so quickly to touring on the other side of the world.
Your job description in your own words:
By way of brief background, my name is Jackson and I’m the CEO and founder Artists Only, a music services agency. I’ve been messing around in the music business for about 15 years or so. I provide management, legal and consultancy services. I began my legal career in 2003 as a corporate lawyer and transitioned into music law a few years later. These days my primary professional expertise lies in copyright and the transactional aspects of the music industry. I advise clients on a broad range of issues and, as a passionate advocate for artists, particularly enjoy working with emerging Australian talent. I also teach Entertainment Law at Bond University and regularly present at industry conferences. I’ve been playing in bands for over 20 years, my favourite of which was Aerials.
I took on my first management client, solo Australian female artist ‘Tones and I’, in November 2017. I found her busking on the streets of Byron Bay and it’s been a wild ride since, to say the least. Tones is currently one of the hottest acts on the planet. She released her first track in March 2019 and has been smashing records since. Her most successful single, Dance Monkey, held the top spot on the Australian charts for longer than any song in history. It reached No. 1 in 30 countries and is the most streamed song of all time by a female artist. She’s sold out every tour she’s ever embarked on, including four international tours. She took home four ARIA awards and has performed at the AFL Grand Final, as well as major US television shows such as Ellen and Fallon.
It goes without saying that managing Tones has been taking up the majority of time in the past 12 months. So the vast majority of any ‘week in my life’ recently is consumed by matters relating to Tones. My weeks have been exceptionally diverse in recent months. The only consistent elements are countless emails and calls. I have chosen to write this ‘week in the life’ in the last week of Tones’ first international tour last year, simply because I think that was one of my favourite weeks on this wild ride.
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A journal over a week:
We arrived in the US off the back of a sold out European tour. The team was exhausted, but excited for a massive week in NYC and LA. We had a lot on the agenda… sold out shows in both cities, a US television debut on Jimmy Fallon, a guest appearance on The Voice, an event in Time Square, and a bunch of media commitments. I was desperately sleep-deprived when I arrived. I got a few hours sleep when I got the hotel room, but jet lag had struck hard.
When we woke up, the team got together for a quick breakfast before heading to Jimmy Fallon for a rehearsal. The rehearsal went perfectly and it was a real buzz to watch one my favourite TV personalities gear up for an episode. I went to Fallon as a punter many years ago, but it was something else being behind the scenes. When we wrapped up, we slipped off to Time Square to capture video footage of Tones seeing herself on massive billboards for YouTube’s Artist on the Rise platform. What a surreal experience that was! She was on four massive billboards. Lots of high 5s in that hour.
While Tones went to the venue for soundcheck, I slipped off for a meeting with Lyor Cohen at YouTube NY headquarters. Lyor is the big dawg at YouTube and he wanted to chat about a bunch of things that we’re collaborating on. We then whipped back to Fallon for the actual performance, which went off. Tones got a standing ovation and Jimmy gave her an incredible rap. The best moment was when Jimmy came up to Tones and kept hugging her and repeating “I’m the I… I’m the I in Tones and I”. What a moment.
The show at iconic venue ‘Mercury Lounge’ that night was absolutely insane. I’ll never forget that night. Elektra (Tones’ label) threw an awesome after party and presented Tones with a whole bunch of plaques for various things. It was an early flight the next morning to LA. We got about two hours sleep at the hotel, and I think I may have nodded off for an hour or so on the flight. I had a bunch of paperwork to catch up on so made use of the time in the air. We arrived in LA at about midday and it was straight to Universal Studios to shoot a guest appearance on The Voice. We were given the full celebrity treatment. It was wild. A massive luxury trailer (right next to John Legend’s) and the production for the performance was absolutely next level. A true Hollywood experience. Straight after the shoot wrapped it was off to the venue for sound check. The sold out show that night was an epic end to a huge tour. There were a tonne of high profile industry folk there so lots of ‘shake and nods’. My favourite conversation of the night was with legendary producer Ryan Lewis.
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The next day in LA we went out for a beautiful lunch with some friends before heading to the airport for the long haul home. Given how frantic the trip was, I was drowning in emails by this point and spent most of the trip home cleaning out my inbox and reading contracts. Needless to say I arrived home shattered. With travel it was exactly one week, but it went so quickly.
I arrived home to my beautiful wife and two amazing children, all of whom were excited to have me home. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road in 2019, and it was really hard being away from my kids so much. This year I was meant to be touring with Tones for about 5 months and my family was going to come along for the European summer festival circuit, which I was so excited for! COVID-19 obviously changed the game.
Challenges, accomplishments, highlights and lowlights:
The success that Tones is experiencing has put my entire life in a complete spin. I’ve had to engage a bunch of new people to help with various things and every day is an adventure. I truly believe that Tones is going to become one of the greatest Australian artists of all time. And of course I hope that this brief recount of a special week is not perceived as me taking an opportunity to big note myself or Tones. It is certainly not intended that way. I chose this particular week partly because my normal weeks are just emails and calls on repeat and also because I just think that her story is a really inspiring one, and hopefully reading this just reinforces for you that dreams can come true if you aim high and work your arse off. Tones is the hardest working artist I know. Don’t be fooled by her light-hearted persona. She’s an A-class hustler and she’s visualised everything that’s happening now long before it all came to life. When we first started hanging out we’d shoot hoops at my local park and talk through every single one of her goals in great detail and how we would reach them.
Find out who you need to build your musicians dream team here.
Words of Wisdom:
I have learned so many new things managing a global breakthrough artist, but mostly this experience has just reinforced fundamental lessons about the music industry that I’ve learned over the past two decades, the most important of which are:
- Great song writing is what sustains a music career. Melody and lyrics are at the core of everything. There’s so much day-to-day distraction that we confront in this chaotic business and its crucial to always remember that it’s all about the songs. It’s easy to get caught up in the bullsh*t. Stay centered and focus on the fundamentals.
- Positivity and resilience are the keys to success. This industry is hard, regardless of where you sit. If you want a relaxing and carefree lifestyle, music ain’t for you. Maintaining a positive outlook is the only way to roll. If you’re not across the fundamentals of positive psychology, you need to get that journey to the top of your priority list.
- The tall poppy syndrome that infects Australian culture is alive and well. Tones has copped a significant amount of unwarranted criticism from keyboard warriors. There’s been some dark moments as a result, but she’s handled it like a boss. Don’t focus on the opinions of others. Make music for yourself and ignore the haters.
- Being completely unique is the best way to ensure that you cut through. The world is full of amazing artists creating incredible art. If you want to stand out you have to be completely unique. Take risks and do everything you can to really emphasise those aspects of your artistry that separate you from the masses. A good back story helps… a lot.
- The artist comes first, always.
Want to learn more from Jackson Walkden-Brown? Check out our sessions with him here.