By Cathi Ogden
IN September 2009, the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA/AMCOS) decided to create a position for a UK Member Services Representative to be based in London. I was fortunate enough to get the job which includes providing support and information to the 250 or so Australian and NZ songwriters living in the UK at any given time. APRA/AMCOS is also the organisation which collects and distributes royalties to songwriters and composers in Australia and New Zealand.
I moved to London in 1997 having married a Londoner. Back home in Sydney, I was a jazz singer/songwriter and a busy session singer and voice-over artist. When I moved to the UK I kind of fell into songwriting fulltime after co-writing some songs for a library music company and then signing to a publisher as a pop writer. My first major project was co-writing an album for the singer Louise (Louise Redknapp married to former English footballer Jamie Redknapp). I went on to co-write a bunch of top 10’s and along the way I had a brilliant time travelling to Stockholm, New York, LA and all over Europe writing lyrics and melodies with some weird and wonderful producers and artists. I also released my first jazz album called Out There which managed to make it into the top ten critics’ choice for Billboard Magazine in 2001. Then I joined the band Fac 15 and we released a load of tracks on Hed Kandi records. In 2006, I auditioned for a TV commercial for a women’s car insurance company called Sheilas Wheels. I got the part and suddenly found myself all over the TV, then all over the UK, doing gigs with my fellow ‘Sheilas’ (Emma and Carly — both British) in clubs and at festivals. The Sheilas are still going (although not so much live work recently as Carly has just had her second beautiful baby girl in three years) and we still represent Sheilas Wheels.
The point of all that background is that all those experiences have given me a wonderful insight into not only songwriting, but all kinds of areas of the UK music industry. So when APRA/AMCOS invited me to take on the part-time role of Member Services Rep, I genuinely got excited about the prospect of being part of a support structure for other writers who were living so far from home. Did I mention – I love my job! I must say that about five times a day. I get to meet all sorts of songwriters, bands and managers who are either here for the long haul or passing through on tour. I also help out Sounds Australia at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton and at MIDEM in Cannes, where they provide incredible support for Australian bands, artists, managers and industry who are attending the events.
Basically, my job here in the UK is to make sure our members are well informed and making the most royalties they can. I hold member meetings every few months and invite either speakers from the music industry or a well-known songwriter to share their knowledge. I write a column for APRA/AMCOS Bytes which is the e-magazine all members receive each month where I shamelessly promote the gigs and releases of our UK members and chat about what gigs and industry events I’ve recently been to. I still have time for my own music (I’ve got another album coming out this year) and I fortunately thrive on helping people and being really busy, so it all works out rather well. I know what it’s like to start out having absolutely no clue about the workings of the industry and being allergic to filling in something as horrid as a form — even if it meant I’d make more money. So a big part of my job is gently persuading the members to do the things they need to do in order to increase their chances of earning a living from the one thing we’re all so passionate about: making music. If you’re an Australia or NZ songwriter living in the UK and you haven’t been in contact with me yet — what are you waiting for? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Apra-amcos.com.au .
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