Welcome to the next installment of BTM – a weekly series where we get to shine a spotlight on some of the hard-working people “Behind The Music”; the artists managers, booking agents, publicists, indie label owners, music website editors and so on.
This week’s spotlight is shining on Zac Abroms, the founding director of Australian management agency Viceroyalty, which is home to artists such as Alice Ivy, Poppy Rose, Winifred and Hvncoq.
Zac also has his fingers in a few other pies across the music industry which he explains for us below – he sure does like to keep himself busy!
Tell us who you are, what you do, and who you represent?
My name is Zac Abroms and I wear a few different hats as they say.
I’m the director of Viceroyalty, a music business based in Melbourne that provides artist management to Alice Ivy and Poppy Rose and co-management to Winifred and Hvncoq.
I’m the Australian project manager for Entertainment One Music, a multinational music company and independent record label. As a colleague of mine introduced me on a conference call the other morning, I’m the highest-ranking employee in Australia. I’m also the only one! Within my role at eOne I oversee the marketing of priority artists and releases ranging from Blueface to The Blue Stones to the Blue Man Group. OK I made the last one up, but given the extraordinary breadth of our roster it honestly wouldn’t surprise me! After all Peppa Pig ranks among our best-selling artists.
Outside of management and records I keep myself busy with music festivals. For three years running I had the pleasure programming the main stage at Maroochy Music & Visual Arts Festival on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. I had a hand in the upcoming SandTunes festival on the Gold Coast and I’m currently in charge of Marketing & Public Relations at the second ever instalment of the Loch Hart Music Festival on the Great Ocean Road in November.
How did you get into this line of work?
Like most people, my father’s gastroenterologist introduced me to a British record exec who’d recently moved to Melbourne. It’s a tale as old as time really. I was running extremely DIY monthly club nights in Melbourne booking bands with names like Junior Anti Sex League and Super Fun Happy Band at the time and it was suggested, perhaps a little presumptuously, that I would make a decent talent scout at a new management & records entity. For the next three and half years I made myself indispensable at Forum 5, clawing my way up from one day a week to full-time work, and received a world-class education in artist management, A&R and artist development in the process.
In October 2010 I went rogue, owing in no small part that I was made unceremoniously redundant as an after-affect of the GFC, and launched my own caper Viceroyalty. Next year marks the ten-year anniversary which is wild considering in so many ways it still feels like I’m only just getting started.
What are some of your biggest achievements so far?
It’s hard to pinpoint what ranks as an achievement with today’s vast matrix of measurables of success and the fact that as you grow through the business the goal posts are ever widening, but a few standout moments spring to mind.
I can still remember the feeling of elation (and frankly validation) the first time I had a song by an artist I managed all on my own added to triple j after launching Viceroyalty. It was “Panther Shrine” by Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! (a cracking tune!) and almost supernaturally it seemed be getting a spin every time I climbed into my car after a long and anxiety-ridden day at the office, just when I needed to be reminded of my ability most.
Last year standing side of stage at the Mix-Up tent at Splendour In The Grass watching Alice Ivy and Bertie Blackman tear through a commanding performance of “Chasing Stars” that brought thousands of happy punters hands to the air and voices together in unison at the chorus is right up there too!
Tell us one thing that you would love to see change or happen that you feel would help make the music industry a better place?
Tall Poppy, disparaging those who experience success, call it what you want. It’s counter to what we’re collectively trying to achieve. Making music, despite all of the competitive paradigms the industry and media have applied to it over the years, is not a zero-sum game. It might not be immediately obvious, but when someone wins, everyone wins. This is especially true in today’s highly saturated market for consumer attention.
I was dismayed to hear many voices in the local industry publicly decrying a local artist whose arguably setting a new gold standard for Australian success at Bigsound this year. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion regarding someone’s music but you can’t knock something on the basis that it’s successful, especially when we all stand to benefit from that success. Historically when someone busts open a door, many others walk through it.
What is your favourite thing about the industry or what you do?
Without question, the people and the travel. I’ve been fortunate in my time to have experienced copious helpings of both.
Work has taken me to a music festival on top of a mountain in the Malaysian jungle with Kimbra where monkeys ran free amongst the punters, to an all-night party in replica castle built by an eccentric Canadian media mogul in the backstreets of Austin with Alice Ivy and everywhere in-between. I must have been to every Australian music festival, beach, ski resort and roadside McDonald’s between Adelaide and Brisbane at least twice and made countless memories, lifelong friends and weird and wonderful acquaintances along the way.
My favourite thing about what I do is having the privilege of being a party to the creative process of extremely talented individuals with whom I manage. Give me the studio over the stage any day of the week.
What is your least favourite thing about the industry or what you do?
My least favourite thing about the industry is the systemic (and often outward) misogyny, racism and bigotry, mostly but not exclusively perpetuated by an element within the old guard who continue to use their influence to manipulate the playing-field at the expense of equality, meritocracy, progressiveness, art and the ascendence of a younger generation, as well as those who apologise for them.
Whether as a manager, marketer or programmer I have always been an outspoken opponent and thorn in the side of those who seek to diminish inclusivity in music and I try every day to act in a way that’s morally and ethically inclined and be the best ally I can to persons and communities subject to the aforementioned injustices.
My least favourite thing about what I do is the amount of time and energy I’m forced to invest in talking about and implementing social media!
Where do you see the future of the industry heading?
If we get it right (and that’s a significant ‘if’) the future of music is smart, open-minded, global, multi-disciplinary and collaborative. As I see it the major challenges that lay before us include bargaining with the technological giants we’ve become relatively beholden to in order to ensure a fair and equal path to reaching consumers.
Communicating and fostering knowledge-share with the film, television and gaming industries to effectively synergise opportunities and access wider audiences.
Bridging the gap between how streaming markets and services have developed in the so-called East & West to serve a truly global marketplace.
Developing systems capable of rights-management for an ever-expanding digital frontier.
No doubt there will be much trial and error and it will require us as an industry to work together, be flexible and embrace change, something that traditionally we have a pretty poor track record at doing, but I have faith.
What do you do to unwind outside of the industry/work?
Mostly I drink. No… well I mean sure sometimes, but not nearly as much as I did in my twenties!
Truly I love reading. Primarily non-fiction journalism, anything on The Atavist or longform.com and the occasional book to challenge my decimated attention span, most recently Casey Cep’s brilliant “Furious Hours” on the life of Harper Lee. I admit I’ve spent many more hours reading than I have listening to music in 2019.
Over the past few years I’ve embarked on quite a serious love affair with podcasts. Anything except music podcasts to be perfectly honest! Stuff You Should Know and again The Longform podcast are my ride or dies, but I get sucked in by a well-produced true crime pod as easily as the next person. In 2020 I’d really like to launch my own one! Watch this space…
I love walking. I read once that Nikola Tesla swore by walking 8-10 miles a day as a means of clearing his mind and that many of his best ideas came to him on those journeys by foot. Although I’m not nearly putting up Tesla numbers, I can appreciate that sentiment. I’m fortunate to live along the Merri Creek trail in Melbourne’s inner-North which at the right angles can feel like you’re meandering deep in the bush, miles from the city that lies just beyond the treeline.
Cooking has become my other great passion. Provided it’s not too complicated, I find the process of following a recipé deeply meditative, curiously creative and a welcome counterpoint to sending emails from behind a laptop all day. My favourite creations of late include pasta primavera, Sri Lankan beef & potato curry and homemade teriyaki salmon.
When I’m not partaking of any of the above you’ll likely find me lavishing attention on my beautiful partner Hazel or our eight-month old puppy Cherry, or both of them simultaneously!