In collaboration with St O’Donnell’s Select Talks

If you consider yourself an avid live music fan, chances are you’ve attended one of Astral People‘s events or tours. Since opening the company’s door in 2011, alongside Vic Edirisinghe and Lee Danilewitz, Tom Huggett has been relentless in ensuring that Australia’s live music culture moves forward, touring a seemingly endless list of the most exciting, forward-thinking local and international artists.

With events like Summer Dance and OutsideIn Festival shining brightly on his burgeoning rèsumè, the local live music purveyor has also dedicated his career to managing and developing up and coming artists. Boasting some of Australia’s most promising acts, including, Winston Surfshirt, Cosmo’s Midnight and Basenji, to name just a few, it’s safe to say that Huggett knows a thing or two about uncovering unique talent and steering them towards success.

We had a quick chat to Huggett ahead of his appearance as one of the keynote speakers for St O’Donnell’s Select Talk on January 18th:

Best Before: How did you enter the music industry? What was your first gig and how did it come about?

Tom Huggett: I’ve been dabbling in the music business for a while now, but my first foray would have been when I was around 13 years old, when I released my first ever mixtape. The mixtape was a sort of west coast hip-hop compilation, which saw me connect Californian rappers and producers to create music together exclusively for my mixtape. It was a pretty amazing experience doing something like that so young, and working alongside west coast hip-hop legends like, 2Pac collaborator, Spice 1 and Battlecat, who is one of the pioneers of the G-funk sound. The mixtape went on to rack up over 3,000 downloads, which kept me motivated and was probably the deciding factor in me realising that a job in the music industry was my destiny. *laughs*

From there I spent most of my teenage years living online, making connections and just consuming as much music as I possibly could. When I was 19, I started putting on my own shows and at 20 I managed my first ever band, which was (the now defunct) Bon Chat, Bon Rat. I ended up signing them to Future Classic back in 2010 and then in 2011, I launched my own touring, events and management company, Astral People, alongside Vic Edirisinghe and Lee Danilewitz and now we’re onto our seventh year of operating!

How do you think the industry has changed since you came into it?

The industry has changed dramatically since I started (officially) 10 years ago. The industry moves with technology and the rate that technology moves these days means the game is changing every day. I think the most significant way the music industry has changed is through how accessible music is to the average person these days, which has been made readily available through streaming. Streaming gets a lot of bad press, but we’ve found it only to work to our advantage — all of our artists are seeing substantially more revenue than what they ever saw through downloads and physical sales, and we’re now readily available to a much bigger global audience, so we’ve been extremely pleased with the shift to streaming.

What do you look for when scoping out a potential artist to work with?

Firstly, an artist you manage ends up becoming family to you. This means the artist you manage needs to be someone you get along with and an all-round good person. Secondly, an artist who has a unique sound and is not just out here chasing trends, it’s all about longevity. Thirdly, the artist needs to want this career as bad as you do. Being an artist is about more than just making music. An artist in 2018 needs to be open to everything, which comes with the title of being an ‘artist’ – using social media regularly, spending a lot of time on the road touring, taking up valuable press opportunities et cetera, et cetera.

If you could manage any artist, who would it be and why?

Yaeji would be high up on the list. She’s an artist who is pushing the boundaries of many different genres and doing it her way and it’s paying off. She has an extremely bright future ahead of her, which is really exciting.

If you could give junior you one piece of advice regarding artist management, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially when you’re young and starting up. Each mistake you make is probably as valuable a lesson as the cost of the mistake itself.

Tickets to St O’Donnell inaugural Select Talks are available here.