Alumni Emma Graham Is Behind Australian Music's Most Respected Names

May 07, 2020

Entertainment Management alumni Emma Graham's dream was to be a tennis star. But as she picked up a guitar, wrote a few songs, and went to a couple of festivals, she realised that backstage, away from the lights and working closely with artists, is where she wanted to be. Now, Emma has hooked a job at Australia and New Zealand's largest music and entertainment group Mushroom; she retraces her steps during her time at Collarts that have helped her make strides in the industry.

Why did you decide to study Entertainment Management?

It was really funny. Growing up I wanted to do tennis, and I was completely against doing music. My dad said I would be really good at music, but I was typically stubborn and didn't want to do that before realising that's 100% what I want to do. I looked around at a couple of other places in Melbourne and Collarts had that really inclusive vibe. Community felt like a big thing and I just felt really welcomed here.

I played guitar and wrote little songs and then decided that I would like going to festivals and events. I realised I don't want to be at the front watching; I want to be working backstage. I discovered that there's so many different things you can do in the music industry, and you can always juggle many different roles too. 

What do you love about Collarts the most?

The people, lectures and teachers are a big part of the experience. Head of Entertainment Management Chrissie Vincent gave me so many connections and would always be pushing students to go volunteer, intern and make the most of all the opportunities while you're here. That's pretty much how I got this job at Mushroom Group, through the internships I did as well as Chrissie encouraging me to interview for the position over the phone.


Do you think you would get that same experience elsewhere?

I don't think so. Because Collarts is the size that it is, it's perfect: you have small classes and you know everyone, even from other courses, as well as all the teachers. It very much mimics the industry in that way where you have personal relationships with all these people. They really teach you how to manage those relationships and make the most out of it all.

The other thing I took from the course was to maintain connections within the Melbourne music industry. Being able to go to those people for advice after graduating and that leading to internships or job recommendations; you feel that support from the community. Collarts is good at making me feel like I'm still part of the family.

What did you learn from the internships you did at Collarts?

They were all similar roles and you're juggling marketing, social media, and liaison, because they're such tiny teams. It really showed me that these labels that look so big from the outside are quite small; they just have good processes, systems, and people that work really hard. I still want to start my own label one day, so it was really cool seeing behind-the-scenes.

Going on the exchange to Philadelphia was also a huge turning point for me. I did that in my last semester, stayed in the States for three more months, worked in Austin, went to SXSW, and working overseas turned out to be a really awesome experience. All of a sudden I was independent: I was on my own on the other side of the world and it proved to me that I really wanted to work in music.

Where do you see yourself in the future? 

I'm very lucky to be now working in publicity full time at a company like Mushroom. It's been a great way to start out because you're doing a little bit of everything and talking to the media as well; you'll keep those relationships if you manage them well your whole career. Eventually I would love to work for myself. The great thing about the course was that you did a bit of everything—a trimester on publicity, another on artist management, copywriting, legal stuff like contract and entertainment law—and I think that has been really helpful in taking steps towards eventually starting up a label on my own.

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