Paddy Mann: Indie Folk Musician (Victoria)

“My life is just doing music and having a lot of strange part-time jobs to support the music because it doesn’t make enough money to do it by itself.”

Attending university to study an Arts degree before transferring to a Bachelor of Music, Victorian musician Paddy Mann spends his days juggling multiple part-time jobs in order to continue carving out time to pursue music. Reflecting on a 20 year career in music he says “I never thought I’d go this far without getting a proper job”.

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For Paddy, it is his passion, and ability to be able to find a balance between his multiple day jobs and his musical pursuits that have allowed him to continue making music beyond a hobby. Reflecting on how he balances his time he says,

“I try and keep at least one or two days a week clear to concentrate on the music. And since I’ve [become a parent], that’s been much harder to deal with than any part-time job I’ve had, because it’s so all-encompassing and it just changes your brain. I’ll organise it so that that makes enough money to pay my bills or whatever and get by. So even if there’s no music money coming in I can still chug along with the part-time job cash, and not feel pressure to get out there and do gigs if I don’t want to.”

As a self-managed solo artist, he structures his musical pursuits around the recording and promotion of new music, explaining:

“Everything else kind of falls around that. So when I think about live shows, I’ll think about, how am I going to launch this album? What am I going to do? I put a lot of effort into the album launches, around album release time, and then touring that for the period that the album’s released… Because I can play just solo, it’s quite easy for me to do supports, so I get asked to support bands or people a lot. It’s mostly just write, record, release an album, play a big show in Melbourne, Sydney, and try and do it elsewhere in the country as well, and then get onto the next album.”

Paddy credits his music training with teaching him how to read and write music, while also deepening his musical appreciation. While being a largely self-taught guitarist, he recognises the limitations of formal music training in preparing him for high-flying music career (“it definitely didn’t help if I did want to make it big”). For Paddy, his idea of success is related to being able to produce the music he wishes.

Operating in the independent music market, without a manager or booking agent, means that Paddy strongly values and relies upon the community of musicians to which he belongs (“there’s unquestionable support given all the time, where we play on each other’s records, we, record each other, give each other contacts and advice”). Record labels that operate in indie contexts have also played a vital role in his career, despite the conjecture about their ongoing role in the industry (“labels are always very supportive on this level.”).

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Paddy credits the labels he has worked with in facilitating access to audiences and supporting his endeavours such as recording and touring music.  He cites, for example, meeting and working Richard Andrew from Pharmacy Records and later Andrew Khedoori from Preservation as two of most significant events in his career to date. As Paddy explains, the support and encouragement he has received from these and other small-scale independent labels have been vital in his career. Operating on “nothing signed, hand shake, 50-50” arrangements with the labels, he reflects:

“Everyone who I’ve worked with knows what I’m like and what my music’s like and they know I’m not going to try and bust into America and everything, and they don’t expect me to sell lots of albums either.”

Another vital source of support in Paddy’s career have been State and Federal government administered arts grants, which have provided vital financial assistance (“without them I wouldn’t have been able to produce the albums I have”). Operating within an alternate, independent, highly collaborative market provides Paddy with a unique perspective as to the changes which have occurred in the music industry in the last 20 years. Of particular note are the positive and negative impact of the sector’s digitisation on being able to discover music as a fan:

“In terms of a listener, I don’t like it much. I mean I do and I don’t. There’s too much out there and there’s too much pressure to kind of subscribe to these taste-making websites that kind of all lack suggestions… I love the search; I always love to search and that’s easier but harder to do now.”

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From a collaborative perspective, Paddy sees significant advantages resulting from the sector’s digitisation:

“It’s helped a lot in terms of being able to just zip your music wherever you want without having to put it in a post box… So you can work with people as well, that you would never have been able to have worked with. I’ve mixed my album via Berlin, and we were just transferring songs and ideas. That would have been crazy, thinking of doing that back in 1999.”

The sector’s digitisation, however, has resulted in shifts to the ways in which musicians are able to generate and income, and Paddy sees being able to pay musicians as being one of the biggest challenges moving forward:

“We’ve kind of given into it now but we get no money for our product; it’s ridiculous… you get this pittance, this pathetic little crumb [streaming services] flick at you and then just take most of the profits. It’s so crazy. And that’s supposed to be, the saviour. It’s crazy.”