Jamie Farkas is the hard working General Manager of our music division, VICE Records. For ten years she’s been taking bands under her wing and nudging them out of the nest at just the right stage of development. She has seen more live music and listened to more demos than most people could in five lifetimes and she’s not even slightly jaded. Jamie’s been invited over to share her wisdom at Melbourne Music Week this year and we’re excited about the prospect of being excited by music again. If you’re a young musician who has dreams of eventually quitting your job at the call centre we highly recommend being in the audience.
VICE: Hi Jamie! What are you going to be talking about while you’re here?
Jamie Farkas: Well, I have a keynote talk and I’m on two panels. The keynote will essentially look at how to shape a global career as a band. The inherent idea is that bands from smaller countries think that international success has a lot to do with international touring – they spend a lot of money travelling to other places when, from my perspective, they don’t have to. In this day and age a band can make a footprint in any given territory without actually having to go there. Whether it be via technology, content or brand partnerships, there are so many things they can do to build a fan base somewhere.
This seems like very fiscally responsible advice.
Take SXSW for example: bands from Australia who go there for a showcase tend to end up playing, for the most part, to an audience of Australians and Kiwis. I feel like they do it so they can say they played SXSW but how much does something you do for a sales sheet actually make sense if you don’t make waves while you’re doing it? It’s kind of just checking a box but maybe not doing anything for your career.
What would be a better way to do it?
I don’t in any way want to be condescending but I don’t think enough bands take the time to build steadily. If everyone in the team does their job right, a band could wait for two years to play in a different region and as a result play to a big audience rather than 20 people who are actually there for the cheap drinks. It’s about doing it smarter. I don’t want to be a dream crusher but if you really want this to be your career you’ve got to realise that it’s not going to happen overnight. I think it’s an interesting dialogue.
Presumably it’s what you’ve successfully practised yourself?
Totally. As a label, we’ve always thought of our bands as having a career. We’re not a short-term trajectory label, which is probably how we differ from a major. It means it’s a long haul but to me that’s exciting and I hope it is to the bands we work with too.
The Black Lips seem like a really good example of this.
They are. They toured tirelessly through the US before they ever went anywhere else. Then they went to Europe and Australia and Japan. Then they decided they wanted to go to crazy countries like Israel, India and the Middle East.
Have you seen something at a previous music event that’s blown your mind?
I feel like often the most interesting stuff happens within the technology part of the program. For instance, years ago Twitter was launched at SXSW. I feel like there are things like that which are super interesting and mind blowing and you know that the technology is going to be an important part of the industry and affect how you’re working the records. I like anything like that which is on the verge of something very new is exciting.
The venues and spaces used for Melbourne Music Week performances have always been incredible. One year there was a colourful light box club, another year an abandoned, roofless city building and an architecturally famous car park. I’m excited to see what happens this year.
This is such a big part of what draws you in; the spaces that are used and how those spaces are transformed. It has the capacity to transform the music too. I also think back to some of the early Creator’s Project events that we did and it was as much about who was playing as what was going on around you. When it’s amazing music in an incredible space there’s the capacity to create real memories and it’s for these moments we do what we do and why people love music. It’s meant to resonate on some super level and make you feel amazing.
Speaking of feeling amazing, beyond the obligatory koala sanctuary visit, what’s your poison so we’re prepared for your arrival?
I have so many poisons! First I’ve got to figure out what to take to get through the plane ride and then I’m looking forward to sampling your wine and over the counter codeine.
I think we can manage that.And what are you most excited about seeing at MMW?
The Bats! Growing up I loved everything on Flying Nun and I believe that the Bats are playing. I’m freaking out, so excited. I will die if I miss them.