In many ways, Entertainment Management alumni Claire McKenzie tells a familiar story of many creatives willing to take a risk. Moving interstate from Adelaide to Melbourne to pursue her studies at Collarts, it was in this move that she found herself out of her comfort zone and excited about future possibilities, stepping into the limelight of her career.
Now working in events and marketing at multiple levels, Claire's skills see her working closely with industry-leading festivals and management teams like Live Nation, Gaytimes, Let Them Eat Cake, UNIFY Gathering, Ground Control Event Services and many more. Discussing her move to study at Collarts and her love for their entertainment industry, we caught up with Claire to chat events and what it takes to pursue your passion no matter where or how.
Hi Claire, thanks for chatting with me! Firstly, tell me a little about yourself. When did you realise you wanted to work in the entertainment industry and what did you do to get your dreams off the ground?
I'm originally from Adelaide, I moved over to Melbourne in 2016. I know too many facts about tea, I'm obsessed with Rockwiz and I want to be Julia Zemiro when I grow up. I was inspired to work within the music industry when I met one of my very close friends who was studying and working in Radio and Music Journalism. I've always been very passionate and inspired by music, I think it adds another dimension to our lives. Her direction showed me that although I'm not skilled in any instrument, I still have the ability to have a hand in others experiencing music in the same capacity.
A friend of a friend told me about Collarts and the next week I booked flights to Melbourne to go to an Open Day. Six months later I was accepted and shortly after that, living in a hostel out of a backpack looking for my first share house. After physically putting myself in the best location to succeed in the Australian Music Industry, all that was left to do was meet people, say yes to everything and work hard.
"The best part about the diversity of the jobs that I've been able to do, is being able to apply the professional skills I've worked hard to develop, in different ways. I love that each time I enter into a slightly different role within an event or festival, I am able to adapt and learn."
I couldn't agree more! Having worked with industry-leading festivals and management teams like Live Nation, Gaytimes, Let Them Eat Cake, UNIFY Gathering and Ground Control Event Services, you understand the moving parts of events behind-the-scenes. What's the most rewarding thing working on large scale events?
I feel like no matter how many festivals, events and shows I do, I am still learning. I'll never know everything! Something that is extremely rewarding for me is being faced with a challenge, being able to think on my feet, overcome it and learn from it. Additionally, I've always had the attitude that if you can help anyone in any way, do it! I always feel super good when I can help others do the best job they can, by doing mine.
Totally. From artist services to event management, you've held lots of responsibility in your roles as a freelancer. Do you love how there's variety in your roles?
Yes I have, I've loved it! The best part about the diversity of the jobs that I've been able to do, is being able to apply the professional skills I've worked hard to develop, in different ways. I love that each time I enter into a slightly different role within an event or festival, I am able to adapt and learn. At the end of the day, this experience in different roles has allowed me to have a greater understanding of how the Australian Music Industry functions.
Of course. Coming from Adelaide to Melbourne to study Entertainment Management at Collarts, do you feel that moving interstate allowed you to empower yourself and learn the skills you need to succeed in the industry?
I definitely think that the move did many great things for me, personally and professionally. I didn't know anyone when I moved here, and there were a lot of obstacles that I faced in the early years. I was learning to live out of home and working as much as I could, whilst trying to be the best student I could be. As a result of this, I had to take advantage of the spare time I had to network, go to gigs and connect with people. I think that my growing resilience to personal and professional challenges has been the most useful skill over the years.
Yeah, I feel dexterity is a huge aspect of your work; being switched on and on your feet to react to events as they unfold. What's something that has surprised you working at festivals that has challenged you to grow personally?
I always knew that working in festivals and events would be taxing, emotionally and physically. However I don't think you quite realise until you do it. A big surprise for me was experiencing this for myself, and seeing other team I work the same amount as myself, however remain composed, enthusiastic and professional. Adapting to these working conditions, in combination with a growing amount of responsibility in certain roles, has been a big growing point for me.
"If the thought of moving [interstate to study] keeps you awake at night with excitement and possibility—go for gold!"
Working project-based can be quite difficult to balance in terms of time management. How do you ensure you maintain a healthy work-life balance when it feels as though events are happening 24/7?
It is definitely a challenge. I've double booked, worked 17 days straight, worked from home and travelled kilometres as a result of making the most of opportunities that come up. It's very easy for me to say yes to things, it always has been. I think my biggest challenge will always be achieving a healthy work-life balance, whilst understanding that I am essentially functioning as a small business.
I think things that have helped me have been limiting my contactable hours to a certain time, being okay with saying no to work in order to give myself time off and being completely transparent with those who I'm working with when I'm struggling. I'm not sure I'll ever perfect it, but I'm certainly getting better.
For people hesitant to move interstate or follow their passion, what advice would you give to them in taking that next step? Confidence and adulting tips?
From experience, it is definitely the best thing I have ever done. There is so much possibility to develop your community, make new friends or meet your #1. However, I think that your passion and desire to achieve what you want out of the opportunity needs to be strong, and the timing has to be right. If the thought of moving keeps you awake at night with excitement and possibility—go for gold!
Relocating your life is a massive social, professional and financial challenge. The best tip I can give to anyone, is to be your own friend through this process. You're the only person you're guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with, so be kind! Passion Vs Challenge, it's up to you who wins, you've got the power. Also, not even the adults know how to adult so do the best you can, there is always either a solution or a lesson to be learnt, or both!