Dream Small, Act Big: How To Make It In The Music Industry

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KLP (DJ, producer, host of triple j’s House Party)

klpmusic.com

Can you give us a brief summary of how your career has progressed since the day you decided to start making music professionally?

Well, it goes back a long way for me. I’ve always wanted to do music, I’ve never thought about any other option since I was a really young girl. I went to a performing arts high school, I was in a pop group when I was about thirteen, signed to Sony, so I’ve had lots of different “versions” of my career.

Then, from about five years ago, started DJing and top lining for other people, and that really took everything in a different direction.

But yeah – there’s never really been any other thing that I wanted to do. There’s only been “be an entertainer”.

What was your dream in pursuing music as a career – where did you ultimately envision yourself? How realistic do you think that dream was, looking back now?

I don’t think there’s ever been a certain end goal: I literally just like performing in any way.

So, whether that be in a pop group, or singing in cover bands that I’ve done, or writing for other people.

I just like being on stage and performing for people. I think that is realistic, I think that’s way more realistic than the goal of being famous or earning a certain amount of money.

As long as I get to keep doing this and paying my rent, that’s awesome.

What do you feel was the lowest point in your career? When did you feel the closest to giving up?

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I don’t think I’ve ever been close to giving up.

But there were a few years when I moved down to Melbourne and got a full time job in retail, and although that was cool and everything, I really lost the energy, and, I guess, the direction with music and what I wanted to do with it. So that was probably the hardest thing, getting comfortable in a job and relying on money to pay your bills and things, and so not having the time or energy to focus on music – cos it takes a LOT of energy!

How did you cope with this? How did you move past that feeling?

I moved back to Sydney and I started DJing – and I literally fell into that, really naturally. I always kind of knew how to DJ, I used to play my boyfriend’s vinyl back when I was in my late teens. I always kind of knew how to do it, knew how to mix, and I just started and fell into playing at the Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney.

I played the graveyard shift, 3am to 6am or something, so everyone was drunk at that stage, no one really cared how good my skills were, and I kind of learnt on the go. I was just really keen and as soon as I started doing that, I realised you could earn quite good money in a short space of time.

So, from doing that, I had the guts to quit my day job that I was doing briefly and focus on music full time. I could work on the weekends and then I’d have time and energy during the week to make music.

How long did it take you to get to the point where your income from music was sustaining you?

It definitely was from DJing, that was the main crossover.

I feel for those people in bands because it is really hard, they don’t have that [same] thing [as DJing] – it’s such a blessing, and I really love it.

So I’d say maybe about four years ago. And the first year you’d start doing it, having your own business cos you were self employed, it’s so bloody hard, because you’re relying on people to pay you and they don’t [laughs]. Or, they take months to do so, so you’re owed all this money, and it’s really hard to build it up to having a steady flow and a backup supply of money. So as for being able to handle it properly, only the last two years, I’d say!

Has it been all uphill from that point, or are there still days where you feel a little down on the music industry?

There are always days when you feel a little bit down, I think that’s gonna happen no matter what you’re doing.

But it generally is “up”, I try really hard to not let things get me down too much. It’s really easy to allow yourself to fall into that trap and compare yourself to other people, what they’re doing – so whenever I catch myself doing that I just try and stop my sensor and just remind myself that it’s all good, it’s fine, I can just make my own journey.

If you could go back and give your younger self some advice about expectations, goal-setting and how to approach your career in general, what would you say?

I definitely think I wouldn’t change my expectations, cos I don’t think it’s a bad thing to aim high, especially if you have the work ethic to try and get there.

My one piece of advice to myself would probably be to have a little bit more patience.

I was so, so horrible – I’m a little bit better now, but I was very bad before.

I’d just get an idea, I’d just want it to happen, I’d want to do it straight away.

Sometimes it’s better to take your time. Find the right time to do whatever that is.

Do you feel that you’re happy with where you are now in your career? Is there anything more you want to set out to achieve?

I’m really happy with where it is now.

But I think, [in] this industry, it’s not like you just get one job and you’re employed for the next ten years.

It’s a constant thing, I’m relying on myself to stay employed. It’s a daily thing that you do, and as long as I can keep being flexible with opportunities that come up, and if something’s not working then try something else – as long as I can pay my rent from being an entertainer, then that’s all cool. There are so many little steps along the way, but I try not to focus too much on them.

In today’s climate, what do you think would be a realistic goal for new artists to achieve by the end of one year actively pursuing a career in music like yours?

It depends how crazy they are, and how comfortable they are with locking themselves in their room!

For example, the first year I decided I wanted to start writing for other people, I had enough gigs to pay my rent, on the weekends, DJing. So I guess, four or five gigs. And we’re talking in bars, like, not amazing gigs, just gigs where you get told what to play.

And then I would spend all my time, pretty much, in my house – a little one bedroom apartment making music. And I think I wrote about 80 songs that year, writing them for other people.

So [if you do that], you’ll get good at writing, but you’ll also build up a really thick skin because out of 80 songs, that’s a lot of turn downs.

But I think if you can get to that – have a really good work ethic, have a steady income, and just a really thick skin – just because someone says no, it doesn’t mean it’s not good, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It just means it’s not right for that person, or that opportunity.

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