A Week In The Life Of… Rob Walker: CEO of the Australian Music Association, Director Of The Melbourne Guitar Show And Sydney Drum And Percussion Show

Rob Walker has been involved in the major events and member organisations management, marketing and promotions fields for over 25 years. He was at the forefront of the development and production of major events such as the St Kilda Festival, Melbourne Music Festival, Australian International Music Shows, AMAC Conventions, the Audio Engineering Society Conventions and many others. More recently he has conceived the re-birth of the Melbourne Guitar Show and the birth of the Sydney Drum & Percussion ShowHe has worked internationally as director of market development at NAMM the International Music Products Association and was also Executive Director of the American Music Conference. He was also National Marketing Manager of the Allans Music Group, Australia’s leading full-line music retailer and worked in this role through 2012 and also concurrently served as President of the Australian Music AssociationHe currently acts as Executive Officer of the Australian Music Association, and organises all of AMA’s industry events, exhibitions and conferences. He represents the interests of retailers and suppliers in these challenges trading times, while promoting programs, communications and activities that promote music making and music education. 

Job Description

My main overarching task is to run the Australian Music Association and its events. The AMA represents over 150 companies that manufacture, distribute or retail musical instruments and technology. In 2017 we have three events – the Sydney Drum and Percussion Show, Melbourne Guitar Show and the inaugural AMP Conference. The AMA is a not-for-profit organisation that also looks after member’s interests, we prepare industry statistics, run a couple of websites, including australianmusician.com.au and represent the industry at government and work with our international partners, we prepare funding applications for projects and generally promote music making in the community. There is a lot of grunt work as well as the more ‘exciting’ events management and planning. So I manage those functions too and a small team of great people who take care of the admin, finances, managing the board plus running websites, a publication in australianmusician.com.au and our social media platforms.

Weekly Journal

Over the last week as an example, our team is simultaneously planning and executing three 2017 events, dealing with members and exhibitors, venues, artists, production crews, media, printers, keeping our social media current, publishing a daily online magazine, event ticketing and registration, maintain databases, managing budgets, so there’s a multitude of tasks. And this week our annual industry statistics report is being worked on. And like many we have hundreds of emails to deal with relating to these. For me personally, each day has run into each other, but each day we are closer to successful outcomes in everything we do. I will start the week with some ‘must achieves’ and make progress with them each day. It is about planning and effective execution. We do a lot of the same things well day in day out, the team keeps in touch constantly to help each other keep on track.

Challenges & Accomplishments 

The greatest Challenge week-to-week is keeping up with the detail. There is a lot of it. Making sure the people and things you manage are guided in the right way is key along with a maintained priority list to avoid losing focusing on the important things and a good tasks list to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. Time management is important, so when I’m not good at it, I do not get done what I set myself to do and some weeks I can have a cracker and demolish a to do list. It’s important to keep your stress level under control when you are managing a multiplicity of things and people. If you get too stressed it can affect your decision making as well as the people around you and how productive they are. You need to stay a bit on the edge I think, so you’re on the ball, it helps you go the extra yard to not only get things done, but achieve something special now and again. And you need to enjoy it. We are working in an industry we love. This week our accomplishments have included looking at a fully booked exhibition floor for the Sydney Drum and Percussion Show, confirming some show headliners for the Melbourne Guitar Show, creating a detailed plan for our Spring conference, making good progress with a major report, and being effective with our customer service. Our team created multiple social media audiences to start a major promo on social media for the Sydney Drum & Percussion Show and our PR firm started getting some bites on media opportunities. A lot can happen in a week, little things like finding the crew’s accommodation for Sydney, letting every artist know their final performance time, and completing this interview for example.

Highlights

It has been said that nothing is more satisfying than ticking off a list! This week we landed our Guitar Show headliner and a number of other artists. We finished the program for the Sydney Drum and Percussion Show, a promo brochure for our conference and created web content for them all. It’s always a buzz setting your sights on someone who’s going to make your event that much better, and they come through, or even better, they happen to be touring at the same time as our show, and can drop by and be a part of it. The artists I deal with are almost exclusively great people, that’s always a highlight of my week, and seeing your plans come together is always very satisfying. Another highlight of my week is heading out to play bass with the bands I do that with. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep doing that all these years, and play with some great people.

Lowlights 

As with many people these days, we unfortunately spend most days in front of a screen. On the one hand it enables increased productivity, you can share some much information quickly and effectively – things like artwork, editing and publishing are much easier and our capacities are increased – maybe that was the plan! In small organisations like the AMA, there aren’t many executive assistants laying around, so you’re empowered to do more sometimes at the expense of creative. So much more could be achieved with more resources, both money and people, to achieve our aims of getting more people to make music. It is what it is. 

Words of Wisdom

I heard someone at a seminar once say, ‘whenever something happened to me I was there’ (both good and bad). The same person said that ‘if you commit to something, the universe will get behind your commitment and help you’. You can’t go anywhere without a commitment to something. Life will keep happening to you while you’re making plans said John Lennon, so just do it. I just say put yourself out there, you can influence what happens to you, just by choosing something. If you really like something, pursue the ways to do it. In my early days I was fearful of not being self-sufficient. It held me back, just focusing on making a living rather than having some dreams. Once I got out of that mindset and decided to pursue music, other things happened, and I found a way to make a living at it, keep playing and ultimately, I think I’ve made a contribution. Have fun while doing your best, do the extra, don’t ever assume and be brave.

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