SEA SQUIRTS

Visits to the coastline are often filled with feelings of enjoyment, relaxation and excitement through discovery and exploration. At Dalton Koss HQ we often see young children and teenagers having fun exploring the beach, especially when they find sea squirts exposed at low tide. The name giveaway here is the squirt of seawater that comes out of this animal when lightly squeezed.

Sea squirts live on the lower areas of intertidal zone (see this link), from rock platforms to human made structures such as groynes and seawalls.

Sea squirts attached to a pylon and sea wall on Hampton Beach, Victoria, Australia. Notice that each individual sea squirt has two siphons for intake and outtake of water and gases.
Sea squirts attached to a pylon and sea wall on Hampton Beach, Victoria, Australia. Notice that each individual sea squirt has two siphons for intake and outtake of water and gases.

Aside from the amusement they provide when squeezed, here are some interesting facts about sea squirts:

FACT 1: Sea squirts, in the adult form, are individual animals that permanently attach themselves to hard structures, such as rock platforms, groynes and sea walls.

FACT 2: Sea squirts are filter feeders meaning they filter their food and oxygen out of the water column. To do this sea squirts have two siphons, one for bringing in the water and one for getting rid of the water. The walls of the siphons are lined with cilia (think of cilia as microscopic arms that wave and move together) that grab plankton and absorb oxygen as the water passes through the intake siphons. Any unwanted matter and carbon dioxide is released from the outtake siphon

FACT 3: Sea squirts along Australia’s southern shoreline have a brown outer colour and a beautiful orange/red inner colour. This brown outer colour allows them to blend in with the seaweeds and hard structures they are attached to.

FACT 4: At low tide sea squirts close their siphons so water cannot escape while providing protection against predators and the elements (e.g. sun and air).

FACT 5: Sea squirts are also referred to as cunjevoi or ascidians (as they belong in the scientific class Ascidiacea).

FACT 6: Sea squirts are mostly hermaphrodites meaning they possess both male and female reproduction organs.

FACT 7: The larvae of sea squirts look like small tadpoles that can swim around in the water. They only stay in this form for a few hours before settling on a hard surface, which signals the start of its transformation into the adult form.

Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about sea squirts is their evolutionary link between animals without a backbone (think sea stars, sea jellies, sea snails) to animals with a backbone (such as fish, birds, humans). In the larval stage sea squirts have a notochord, which looks like a rod. The notochord eventually forms into the backbone. However, sea squirts do not form a backbone. When the sea squirt larvae settle onto hard structures, the notochord disappears. This is an interesting phenomenon for evolutionary scientists who study how animals and plants evolve over time.

Sea squirts have a few predators including humans who cut up the sea squirt and use the red part of its body as fish bait. Although we often see how much fun everyone has from squeezing and squirting each other with water from sea squirts, it does cause them a lot of stress while they are exposed to the sun and air at low tide. So while it is tempting to squeeze sea squirts, it is best to leave them in peace as they wait out the turn in tides.

Exploitation in Disguise

Over the last six months I’ve spoken at numerous music industry conferences and have met many young early career music industry professionals all seeking my advice. The ‘always’ question that arises is the one of how to get started in the music industry, and it normally goes along the lines of “I’ll do absolutely anything to get a job in the music industry”, a quote that I’ve come to loath. While sitting on various music industry conference panels I appear to be the sole proud pariah who is totally against unpaid internships. Nothing seems to invoke such passionate arguments as when unpaid internships appear on the agenda. To state my position, so that I am absolutely 100% clear, I am totally against unpaid internships. Over the 34 years that I’ve worked in the music industry I’ve never NOT paid an intern at any of the companies that I’ve owned or managed. Let me explain why.

There aren’t many pieces of copy more depressing to read than job advertisements for unpaid internships. Like the ads for other menial jobs, they use absurd and insulting hyperbole in inverse proportion to the quality of the position, as though reading the words ‘superstar’, ‘legend’ or ‘rockstar’ numerous times will make them forget how boring the duties will actually be. These adverts normally state that they will receive an amazing experience to kick-start their career; sorry but this is complete and utter rubbish. Compounding this misery is the knowledge that whom-ever drafted the advertisement was probably an intern.

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I’ve met lots of young Australians trying to start and build their music industry careers. Piles of these demining, insipid and often patronizing job ads confront them every time they go looking for work on the various web sites. Most companies seeking interns attempt to frame themselves as a service for junior workers, as though the company is providing experience out of the goodness of their own hearts, like an act of charity or benevolence. This sort of sophistry neatly inverts the actual benefactor-beneficiary relationship: for-profit companies are attempting to save money on entry level positions by extracting unpaid labor from a population of vulnerable young people, many of whom are unaware that these arrangements are often illegal.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s fact sheet is reasonably clear on what constitutes a legal internship. Usually these are provided as part of an educational course, don’t last very long, and don’t involve the intern performing the duties of a paid employee. However, an increasing number of companies are advertising for internships that involve long hours and real work. Recently formed internships advocacy body Interns Australia found in their National Internships Survey that 65% of respondents reported internships lasting longer than three months, and 36% reported working five days per week. Three months of Australian minimum wage work is valued at $7,466.40, which ends up looking like a real bargain if you’re a business who used to offer junior jobs instead of unpaid positions. Some companies even use internships all year round and employ multiple interns at once, which can represent a sizeable saving on their wages bill, all very bad news for graduates hoping to earn real human money for doing real human work.

There are a number of factors contributing to this internship plague, including the normalization of unpaid work among students and recent graduates. ‘Experience or Exploitation?’ a report by University of Adelaide researchers for The Fair Work Commission, notes that the term “intern” has crept into the Australian lexicon as a recent Americanism. It lends an air of legitimacy to a dodgy practice. Saying “I’m doing a three month internship” sounds a lot less exploitative than “my employer has decided not to pay me for three months work“. The Fair Work Commission also found that internships are extremely common in media, entertainment and design, all sectors in transition (or decline, depending on your outlook) that nonetheless receive a glut of labor from popular university programs. Qualified and desperate young people are walking dollar signs to a cash-strapped industry, and it would behoove universities to endow their graduates with knowledge of their legal entitlements before turfing them out of the nest into a wilderness of financial precocity and un-employment or under-employment. Indeed some unscrupulous higher education institutions use internships to inflate their figures when they discuss students working in their given field after graduation. This is wrong; if they are not getting paid then they are not technically working, so stop claiming they are.

Apart from the intern population, the people who suffer most from this arrangement are those who can’t afford to work for free. Candidates for unpaid roles necessarily self-select along economic lines: those who need paid work to survive won’t apply for internships. This process is deeply anti-meritocratic, and entrenches social privilege at the bottom rung of many industries. How are you supposed to get a foot in the door as a poor person, when doing so requires you to have the same level of financial resources that entry-level jobs used to provide? The practice is also bad for industries, in that they are possibly excluding their best and brightest potential candidates from entering. Businesses committed to fair hiring practices and the promotion of talent regardless of its source should stand opposed to unpaid internships.

This extension of student poverty post-graduation represents another difficulty imposed on young people trying to start their adult lives. Between soaring rents, impossible house prices, HECS debt, high youth unemployment and the expectation that early career work will be performed for free, Generation-Y is living out a very real set of inequalities with which their parents never had to contend with. The ridiculous rhetoric around internships as ‘opportunities’ rather than exploitation is symptomatic of the lines fed via the media (the biggest users of interns) by politicians and employers about young people’s supposed entitlement. This is a pervasive environment of classic hegemony, and it stops us from being able to recognize and articulate the raw deal that interns are been handed. It’s time interns were given the tools to stand up for themselves and demand the basic fairness that everybody should receive in the workplace. The future of the music industry and its very survival rests in the hands of the upcoming generation of youth, young professionals, and developing leaders.

These early career music industry professionals need the highest quality mentoring and to be paid a minimum wage too, just like medical doctors and nurses. Would a hospital use a surgical intern to work for free, of course they wouldn’t? Our industry contributes much to society in the way of financial income and in the cultural enrichment of people’s lives, it’s much to fragile and important not to pay people to work in it. The word amateur comes from the French word meaning ‘lover of’. The opposite of an amateur is a professional, someone who does it for money. The basic difference in today’s common usage is that the professional does what they do for money while the amateur does it for the love of doing it. This usually implies that the professional makes money because they adhere to recognized standards, while the amateur stands outside the accepted standards and probably doesn’t deserve to get paid. The music industry should be about very high standards, not standardization.

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Rosemary Owens, a University of Adelaide Law School Professor, stated that the practice of using young people and not paying them was common in many industries. “It entrenches disadvantage, because only someone who is well off can afford to work for nothing“. The first push against unpaid internships started in Europe, a trend that soon spread. In the United States, news media organizations including Hearst Magazines, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Gawker, Cond Nast and Warner Music are facing lawsuits over unpaid internships. In Europe, where more than one in five young people in the labor market cannot find a job, governments have passed legislation on internships. In France, for example, youth unemployment hit 23.2% after the 2008 financial crisis. Under the Hollande socialist government employers must offer interns payment after two months of sweat equity.

In Australia, short, fully supervised unpaid work trials to test a job applicant’s skill are legal, as are college-backed, short-term student placements that allow students to accrue course credits for a term of work. At the various higher education institutions I’ve been involved with I’ve overseen the work related learning unit. Work simulation for a limited time defined period in order to produce a portfolio of professional practice reflection is a great tool. In essence this is paid work, the student receives credit for what they do and hard work is rewarded by a higher grade. Even unpaid internships are legal. A benefit test, showing whether the intern or the employer gains the most from the work completed, is one factor that determines whether a worker should be paid. “If a business or organization benefits from engaging the person, it is more likely the person is an employee and should be paid” according to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Office. Joellen Riley, the Dean of the University of Sydney Law School, said relying on unpaid workers “is a creeping problem. It is gaining bigger and bigger purchase. And as soon as you go down that path of not paying, when do you ever pay? You end up creating real labor market problems“.

So where is the starting point, probably the minimum wage of $18 per hour? If your business can’t afford this then you probably shouldn’t be in business or the word “business” shouldn’t be applied to your endeavor. As I stated earlier I’ve always paid interns that have worked for me. I often empowered my interns by asking them to price a job I have for them e.g. “how much is it going to cost me for you to do . . . .?”. I instill a level of professionalism and accountability in them and encourage them to take professional pride in the work they do from our initial meeting. By paying an intern you can demand certain behaviors, through the monetization of a set task you can install a minimum level of quality or service and introduce some Key Performance Indicators. Paying interns is good for a business and its good for interns. By not paying interns businesses are open to the accusations that they don’t care for the longevity of this industry that they love some much.

Steve Jennings is Creating New Value Through Entrepreneurship

Steve Jennings lives in Malmö in the south of Sweden. He’s the Entrepreneur in Residence at Lund University Open Innovation Center, Sweden. This is the oldest university in Scandinavia. In addition to this role, Steve advises CEOs and company leadership teams inside and outside of Sweden. He mentors students enrolled on the Masters of Entrepreneurship program at Lund University, and is a keynote speaker at international conferences. More often than not, Steve is usually hands-on involved with at least one new start-up venture.

Steve talks to Dalton Koss HQ about his leadership journey, describing how his passion and excitement for creative entrepreneurship has evolved through his life journey.

“I create moments that give me a lot of freedom; physically, emotionally and creatively. The only way for me to remain relevant is to consistently help other people and companies to create value. For this to happen, I need to be out and about in the world, travelling, meeting and talking with a wide range of different and highly diverse people. It is a way of thinking, and a way of being as a person.” – Steve Jennings 2015.

I grew up in Hull in the 1960s and 70s during the golden age of pop culture and the massive explosion in consumer goods. I vividly remember the street where I grew up. No one owned a car, but then with the arrival of mass consumerism, every neighbour began to own a car. It was a time of opportunities; we began to believe that anything was possible. We even landed men on the moon. The late 60s and early 70s laid the foundation for how in many respects we define the world today. Pop culture, music, fashion and the arts saw a burst of creative entrepreneurship during this time period.

I was incredibly lucky to grow up in a home with parents who loved all genres of music. This privileged exposure to music helped to lay down my blueprint for understanding the creative process. I wasn’t academically inclined. Even though I got through school, I never felt comfortable. I always wanted to be outside playing, exploring, I had an abundance of energy, and we’d probably call it ADHD, today. I realised at quite a young age that I didn’t function well in a formal environment with a repetitive structure.

From around the age of 9, adult issues really impacted me, e.g. Martin Luther King, The Vietnam War, the hunger in Biafra. Absorbing these adult images, words and thoughts created a different worldview for me. When I was growing up I was quite lonely in some respects because the things I was interested in didn’t interest most of my friends at school. I wanted to be out discovering the world. And as soon as I got a bicycle, I was out the door. It was a revelation for me. The bike facilitated the journey of finding myself. I was getting out of Hull and riding further and further afield, exploring, experiencing and learning. This way of being has carried me forwards during my adult life.

This image captured in 1964, shows Steve out exploring on his first bicycle at the young age of 3 in Hull, UK.
This image captured in 1964, shows Steve out exploring on his first bicycle at the young age of 3 in Hull, UK.

After finishing school, I began the process of studying to be an engineer. When I was 19, I was given an opportunity to become a professional racing cyclist on a Pro team based in the Netherlands. So I left Hull and headed over to the Netherlands with a one-way ticket. This was my step from being a boy to quickly becoming an adult. I had to figure out how to bootstrap my life so that I could race my bike and support myself. This meant taking on part time jobs so I could continue to compete in bike races. And this is when I realised I could stand on my own two feet with no instant connectivity to my parents, our family home, and my friends. This experience is what set me up for my life journey.

Steve winning a race during his time as a professional cyclist in Continental Europe.
Steve winning a race during his early years as as a cyclist.

After my pro-cycling career ended in 1984, I started to work for Lloyds TSB. Between 1984 -1990, I fell out of love with cycling for a number of reasons. I didn’t own any bikes during this period. I felt I needed to go on a new journey that resulted in me becoming a yuppie, in the world of finance and insurance. I channelled all of the energy from my cycling days into business and making money. It became something of an obsession. I was trying to prove myself. This need to prove myself is something that I’ve had to do a lot in my life, especially when the odds are stacked against me. I found myself in a highly competitive business environment where I could earn a lot of money based on my work ethic. I did this for 6 years and during this period of my life I didn’t take very good care of my body. It was an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle. I ended up returning to the bike in the early 1990s to reverse the impact of these 6 years of abuse.

I eventually left Lloyds TSB and started a business, the Maxim sports nutrition brand, and it turned into quite a successful company. In 1990, I was introduced to a sports nutrition technology that wasn’t commercially available. I quickly saw an opportunity to start a company, build a brand and get into the food industry. I had never started a company before Maxim. This was before the days of the internet, and I had to build the company using resources from the Chamber of Commerce and the local library. Once I laid out what I wanted to do, I received a lot of support. And I quickly built a network of advisors and mentors that enabled me to make sense of how to get a food company off the ground. Within 1 year, Maxim went from an idea to a product. And became the official energy food for the British team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. The business took off and I travelled all over the world as I set about building Maxim and establishing the brand by attending global sporting events and expos.

This was when I realised that riding my bike had created an internal toughness. Building your own company is similar in many respects to sport. There is no such thing as an overnight success. I drew on my cycling experiences to grow the business. I learnt early on to take criticism and to try and ignore self-doubt. Surrounding myself with supportive and good people helped me. Over the years, I’ve had lots of self-doubt, and at times I’ve felt as if I was on the edge of a black hole looking down at a bottomless pit.

After I sold the Maxim business, I moved into the world of technology and the internet. Innovating in the food industry is something that I really love to do. In 2002, I was presented with an opportunity to help start a new ‘good for you’ nutrition business with PepsiCo in the USA (products such as Quaker and Tropicana are owned by PepsiCo). I took all my entrepreneurial experiences to this big global food company, and once I established myself within the organisation, I felt relaxed and had the confidence to be who I am, which is not a suit wearing corporate guy.

Whilst we where living in the USA, my father passed away. He was my cycling coach, and the person who always encouraged me to stride out on new adventures. My dad gave me many of words of advice and encouragement, but what stood out for me was that you shouldn’t be afraid. If you are a good person and you do good in the world, no harm will come to you. His passing at a relatively young age was a big wake up call for me. I reappraised what I was doing with my life. It made me realise that I wanted to make the world a better place. Following his passing, I immersed myself in philanthropy, microfinance and trying to understand how NGOs function. The inefficiencies and seepage of resource from NGOs is shocking, so I started to look at new and disruptive innovation opportunities within the NGO and Corporate Social Responsibility space. This lead to me founding a youth empowerment initiative called The zyOzy Foundation.

The 5 key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership are: 

  1. Resilience: you need to be extremely resilient and capable of bouncing back from one set back after the other.
  1. Belief: you need to believe in yourself, in your idea and most important in the people you choose to have around you. You need to believe that you made the right choices based on the information that you had at any given moment in time.
  1. Love: you have to be willing to give the best of yourself to others and not expect to get anything back in return. If something does come back to you then that’s great, but you can’t only think about ‘what’s in it for me’. The real magic happens when you give the best of yourself, share everything you know and do it unconditionally.
  1. Humility and Humble: This is how I was raised by my parents. When I built Maxim, and it took off, I didn’t feel worthy of what was happening. I struggled with the PR, media hype and the press. It made me feel very uncomfortable inside. It took me quite sometime to learn how to balance being humble and having humility with the confidence required to be a leader of a business and the spokesperson for a global brand.
  1. Privacy: It is important to acknowledge that people have a right to privacy and are not always available. The human condition necessitates the need for private moments of deep reflection.

A key challenge in anyone’s leadership journey is fear. I regularly meet people across all age groups who have really good ideas. One of their challenges is fear, that is, they are afraid and unsure about how to make the first step. The fear that holds back entrepreneurs especially those in the 40 to 50 year age bracket is that of not being able to provide for their family. This juxtaposes the need for freedom to do what makes them happy. When you conquer fear it is liberating. When you put everything on the line and you try your best to make something happen, that’s what defines you as an entrepreneur and a person. My kids know me for being someone who’s not afraid of trying new things and wanting to help others.

The foundation of my success comes from the bicycle and cycling. I am now 54 and I feel very comfortable with whom I’m becoming as I grow older. This comes from the journeys and experiences I’ve had on my bicycle. Exploring new worlds allows you to meet diverse people, opening up opportunities to share knowledge about the way you think and what you do. As a young kid, I always had a lot of confidence in completely new environments, and used to relish the opportunity to listen to conversations about subjects and topics that I knew very little about. It is these new conversations that provide new data and create new insights. I’ve always used simple tools – paper, pens, post it notes to capture new thoughts, ideas and learning’s. I like to interpret and analyse these comments and quotes, and then map this data to try and find things that connect conversations that can range from biotechnology to sustainable fabrics to urban farming to packaging design. From these insights I connect new people, create new moments and start new conversations that in turn creates new value. For me it’s about a way of thinking. But there is always the risk that these new conversations can turn out very different to the way you envisaged. And sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. I liken it to free form jazz.

The bicycle taught Steve resilience and built his internal toughness. To this day, Steve's bike journeys continue to be filled with excitement due to new potential opportunities to discover, explore and meet new people.
The bicycle taught Steve resilience and built his internal toughness. To this day, Steve’s bike journeys in Sweden continue to be filled with excitement due to new potential opportunities to discover, explore and meet new people. It also contributes to Steve’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

I approach my physical health and mental wellbeing from a holistic perspective. I ride my bike, meditate and run in the sand at my local beach. These activities keep me grounded while maintaining my physical health and mental wellbeing. I like getting lost in my thoughts when I’m out exploring the forests here in Sweden on my bicycle. I like having the opportunity to meditate in the outdoors, this is becoming increasingly important for me. I place a lot of importance on the food I choose to eat and its origins. Nutrition is becoming more important as I become older. I tend to compromise on my sleep so I need to look after other aspects of my life. I also drink a lot of water.

My sense of curiosity is what keeps me ahead of the game. What is around the corner? How does that work? What is under that rock? The human creative process truly fascinates me. For me, science is an art form and art is science. Humans have a need to express themselves creatively. We do it naturally as children and it is part of our DNA. I like to meet and have in depth conversations with people who create art (music, literature, painting, poetry, dance, sculpting). I feel very comfortable in the company of highly creative people and left-field thinkers. If I had a little bit more confidence and self-awareness as I was growing up I would probably have pursued something where the creative arts meets the worlds of fashion and music.

Entrepreneurship is an art form, a way to express yourself. I’m not really that interested in business; it actually leaves me cold. It is creating art and going out on the edge and discovering new revelations that interests me. I just happen to be doing this most of the time in a business context.

I need my private space. Privacy is important to me, especially in an era of the always connected society. Our privacy is rapidly being eroded and that is something that gives me concerns for the future.

There’s beauty to be found in most aspects of everyday life. Life is the most beautiful thing. Beauty is everywhere. Everyone with a little bit of help, encouragement and luck has the capacity to unlock his or her own potential. I truly believe we are becoming overly dependent on technology. I’m deeply passionate about developing solutions, tools and safe spaces that enable people to reveal their vulnerabilities, share their ideas and thoughts, and realise their potential. We don’t create enough opportunities for people to seek out others who can help them in times of need. We’re going to see a lot of growth in the creation of safe spaces, where people are able to share their emotional intelligence. People are feeling more isolation and loneliness, and this is when we are supposedly more connected as humans than ever before. This change in our social fabric has occurred very quickly. The internet isn’t the answer to everything, but it is an enabler for new kinds of solutions that would previously have been impossible to bring to life.

Steve's creative entrepreneurship is inspired by outdoor journeys, meeting new people and engaging in diverse conversations.
Steve’s creative entrepreneurship is inspired by outdoor journeys, meeting new people and engaging in diverse conversations.

Creativity tends to happen in very diverse and unusual places. For anyone wanting to connect with other creative entrepreneurs, I suggest joining a Fab Lab, which provides a physical hacking space to create new ideas. Attend events such as weekend hack-a-thons, find out about what’s happening in your local start-up scene, make contact with start-up incubators, and find out what’s going on at your local university campus.

Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglement.” – Joseph Campbell

For more information about Steve’s work in creative entrepreneurship and what inspires him, please follow these links:

About Me

https://about.me/stevejennings

Crowd Expedition talks to Steve Jennings at the Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXKd-5Q9GV4  

Steve Jennings talking about trust, privacy and data at Oredev 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnCO_f4Zaus

The Intertidal Zone

Over the past few weeks, quite a number of the Dalton Koss HQ Marine Facts have referred to the intertidal zone. Many DKHQ readers have curiously responded with the questions:

  1. Where is the intertidal zone located?
  2. Exactly what is the intertidal zone?

At Dalton Koss HQ we are more than happy to answer these two questions.

The intertidal zone is located along our coastlines, specifically where the sea meets the land. This zone varies all across the globe. It can be made up of rocky shores with many fun rockpools, mudflats or sandflats, mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass beds, sandy beaches and coral reefs. The intertidal zone can be exposed to the rough and tumble of open oceans or located in sheltered places such as bays and inlets. Some scientists refer to the intertidal zone as the littoral zone.

An exposed intertidal rocky shore at low tide along Victoria's Great Ocean Road. Notice the prolific range of seaweeds adorning the rocks.
An exposed intertidal rocky shore at low tide along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Notice the prolific range of seaweeds and mussels adorning the rocks.

At Dalton Koss HQ we often refer to the intertidal zone being in a liminal state. This is because the intertidal zone is either covered with ocean waters or exposed to the sun and air due to the constant movement of tides. It is never in one state of being within a 24 hour period; rather it is in continuous flux.

Being exposed to two completely different types of conditions means that as an animal or plant living in this zone, one needs to have some incredibly amazing adaptations to survive. Intertidal plants and animals need to be resilient to wave wash, tides and currents, sun exposure, predators and drying out all while trying to photosynthesise/eat and reproduce.

An exposed intertidal sandy flat located along Cape Conran Coastal Park in eastern Victoria, Australia.
An exposed intertidal sandy flat located along Cape Conran Coastal Park in eastern Victoria, Australia.

This makes the intertidal zone a fascinating area to explore and discover the spectacular range of marine animals and plants. To conserve this amazing zone while you explore, please be careful where you tread/snorkel, place rocks back to their original positions when you examine what is beneath and keep all rockpool animals and plants fully immersed in water to reduce their stress.

An intertidal coral reef exposed at low tide located in Fiji's Coral Coast.
An intertidal coral reef exposed at low tide located in Fiji’s Coral Coast.

Getting Started in the Music Business

As 50% of Dalton Koss HQ (DKHQ), I spend much of my time speaking to young people who want to work in the music industry. Most are aware that there are no regular, standard jobs in the music industry. There probably aren’t even any long term careers. More likely it’s a lifestyle of freelancing and projects. As such, it’s highly unlikely that there will ever be an advertisement in the jobs section of a mainstream newspaper for a high paid, permanent job in the music industry. But do creatives actually want bog standard ‘jobs’? I think not. I’ve always maintained that clever, creative and entrepreneurial people will always be in high demand, this is probably more so in the music and creative industries then any other sector.

When I mention the word entrepreneur people’s eyes begin to glaze over as they think of Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. I once worked at a creative arts educational institution with a remit of educating the new wave of performers, audio professionals and music industry free thinkers. I embraced this remit and provided creative solutions through, what I thought, was inspirational leadership. My job was to provide leadership, facilitate creative solutions while enabling and building a knowledge economy for the next wave of creative entrepreneurs, the radical free thinkers that the music industry desperately needs. I saw opportunity and value in students playing guitars and singing in the reception area, watching and editing audio/film on their smartphones and interacting via social media. I actively encouraged students to be creative at every opportunity regardless of physical location. The Dean of this institution stopped staff and students interacting and being creative in these unconventional learning spaces, as he believed learning could only effectively take place in a classroom. Apparently the ‘correct’ way to teach creative entrepreneurship is the schooling of students in Boston Consulting Group (BCG) quadrant charts, etc. He even went as far as buying a job-lot of white boards and marker pens with the direct instruction to do “the traditional stuff”. Another can of beige paint added to an already vast ocean of beige. I was out of that place as quick as you could say, “asymmetrical repurposed collaborative content with frictionless deliverables ”.

Sitting around and waiting for things to happen is not a good strategy in the creative arts and music business. In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliners: The Story Of Success he repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule“, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Interestingly Malcom Gladwell’s theory can also be applied to professional sport and in particular cycle racing. Going back to music, lets look at the 1960’s popular Liverpool beat combo The Beatles. Prior to leaving for Hamburg, The Beatles were arguably a second rate cover band who were not very musically proficient. Fast forward to Hamburg and as John Lennon noted “we had to play for eight hours solid a day, every day”, this was the inspiration for the single Eight Days A Week. This postwar model of an artist’s progress was a type of professional development. Artists didn’t burst from obscurity to celebrity with a single astonishing piece of work. They slowly climbed the ranks. They accumulated credentials and amassed a creditable résumé. Artists learnt their trade and craft, that’s how The Beatles became really, really good at what they did.

One of the most conspicuous things about today’s young creators is their tendency to construct a multiplicity of artistic identities simultaneously. You can be a musician and a photographer and a poet a storyteller and a dancer and a designer, a multiplatform artist. This means you haven’t got the time for your 10,000 hours in any of your chosen media. But technique or expertise is not the point. The point is versatility. Like any good business, you try to diversify. This is why I like the current buzz term “creative entrepreneurship”, or as academic Jeremy Tunstall calls them “media workers”, to describe the artists, artisans and collaborators of today. Creative types are no longer interested in putting in their 10,000 hours. We are sold the dream that today’s music business is about instant gratification. You appear on a Saturday night TV talent show and boom you instantly become a star. Sing a really crap song about going to school on Friday on YouTube and have millions of ‘hits’. Today’s creative entrepreneurs mostly shun the 10,000 hour theory believing that 10,000 social media contacts is much more important. I believe that there are three core elements to success in the music industry and creative arts: –

  1. Creativity – generating new ideas, evaluating them effectively and critically, and taking action to turn them into new products and/or services.
  2. Collaboration – connecting and working with partners, clients, stakeholders and other significant players in your network, which will probably be scattered across the globe and contain more ‘virtual’ relationships than face-to-face ones.
  3. Entrepreneurship – identifying opportunities in the marketplace and using business skills to monetize ideas into products and/or services.

These three core facets are best taught in a real world simulator or even better in the actual real world. They do not lend themselves to the strict beige classroom environment, flip carts and marker pens. Ask any young band out on the road, playing gigs, selling shirts, communicating with their audience via social media and sharing their music via on-line platforms exactly what it is that they are doing and I guess they won’t reply with “being entrepreneurs”. In actual fact that’s exactly what they are.

On my visits to various educational institutions around the world I regularly give master classes and lectures on careers in the music and creative industries. Over the years I’ve earned a living as a live sound engineer, tour manager, studio engineer, record producer, artist manager, A&R consultant, rehearsal studio owner and record label executive. Discussions with early career professionals nearly always focus on how I got started on my 34-year career in the music industry. What was my personal journey?

Space, place and time are extremely complex mediums and trying to make any sense of these independently, let alone in combination, can be infuriatingly difficult. As I stare at the picture below of a much younger version of myself, it is difficult to unravel the truth from the myth. If memory serves me correctly, this picture was taken in 1983 when I was just 20 years old. I had left school in the heat wave summer of 1979 and went straight to work in the local music scene. Initially, this was with a rag-tag and bobtail collection of ex-school mates and bands where my brother, Nick, played drums.

This PA system comprised of:- Two 1x15
This PA system comprised of:-
Two 1×15″ scoop bins, loaded with HH speakers.
Two 2×12″ mid cabinets, loaded with Celestion speakers.
Two 1″ RCF compression drivers loaded onto some fibreglass flares.
18meters of 12 way multicore with three return lines (left, right & holdback).
Foldback amp was a McGregor 120 watt power amp with 6 band graphic EQ.
Main PA was powered via a Traynor x3000 bi-amp amplifier. This was supposed to give two channels of 300 watts for the lows and two channels of 150 watts for the mids/highs. Originally the system was powered by two HiFi amplifiers in a home built, fan cooled plywood box, the ‘Rabbit hutch’. This died on the second or third gig, so I invested the first few hire fees into the purchase of the Trainer amplifier; money well spent.

Back in the early 1980’s, music industry/audio university and college courses did not exist, so entry into a career in these fields took a more ad-hoc and self-driven approach. Originally I played rhythm/2nd guitar in long forgotten ska-punk outfit before getting ‘promoted’ (due to musical differences) to roadie. This opportunity in disguise led me into a still continuing 34-year career in the music industry. At the start of this journey there was no business plan of what I was going to do or what the various career options were going to be, I just did it.

Very quickly it became clear that I had a particular interest in the audio side of playing live. All of my early work took place in the city in which I was born, Hull located in East Yorkshire within the UK’s northeast. In the 1980’s, Hull had the most fantastic underground music scene, partly due to the high unemployment rate and its geographical isolation. Prior to this period, Hull’s only claim to rock ‘n’ roll fame was that David Bowies’ backing band The Spiders From Mars featuring the world’s 64th greatest ever guitarist (Rolling Stone Magazine 2003) the late great Mick Ronson, came from Hull. This was set to change in the early 1980’s with the onset of the ‘Humber Sound’ and a flurry of band formations. Bands like the Akrylyk Vyktymz, Red Guitars, International Rescue, House Martins, Pink Noise, Everything But The Girl, King Maker and Les Zeiga Fleurs, all of which I worked with, made some type of impression on the UK music scene.

A reoccurring problem that I faced during this period was the PA system, or rather the lack of one. Either the system was of dubious quality and/or were ridiculously expensive to hire. That was because there was no local PA company based in Hull. All PA systems had to be brought into the city increasing costs for the live music scene and a logistical nightmare. Adversity often drives people into unconventional behaviour patterns and this is probably what happened here. Unable to source a good quality but reasonably priced PA systems for the bands that I was mixing, I took the massive jump to build my own system. The logic here being that I would learn about PA systems from the ground up, I’d get exactly what I wanted and upon completion I could hire it out allowing me to build more equipment. In late spring 1983, I had saved enough money, though not enough, and I went in search of a bank loan. Luckily a local bank decided that I was one of Mrs. Thatcher’s new breed of entrepreneurs. At the time I didn’t think so, but in retrospect maybe I was? Armed with an £800 ($1,540 AUS) bank loan, to be paid back over the next three years, and lots of magazine articles and books on PA cabinets, speakers and amplifiers, I set to work in my dad’s garage. A ‘Fab Lab’ long before they became trendy and ubiquitous.

Building monitor wedge speakers in my Dad's 'Fab Lab'. Each comprised of 1x12
Building monitor wedge speakers in my Dad’s ‘Fab Lab’. Each comprised of 1×12″ Celestion woofer and a 2″x5″ 200 watt piezo tweeter horn.

I arranged for a local timber company to deliver numerous sheets of plywood, lots of lengths of 2”x1”, wood glue and several large boxes of No. 6 screws. The only power tool my Dad owned was a very old, knackered Black & Decker electric drill, which I managed to spectacularly break in a hail of orange sparks after a few days. All the cutting of timber, screwing, filling, sanding and painting was done by hand; only the first few days of drilling were electric. After a few days of 10 hours shifts my PA was complete as was my new company Blind Entertainments. So named because I was doing this entirely blind, metaphorically, and it was also fairly entertaining.

Once I had built this PA a massive oversight came to the fore, how was I going to transport it? Maybe a flip chart and some marker pens would have helped me overcome this oversight? A PA system that couldn’t move from my Dad’s garage wasn’t going to generate much income. Luckily a very tired, ex-supermarket delivery Ford Transit van was sourced, re-sprayed plain white and I was in business. The PA fitted in the van perfectly, almost as if it had being designed for it (it hadn’t of course). The gigs came thick and fast, not because the PA was particularly good, more that I was young and was very enthusiastic about the bands I worked with. I totally embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, I put the hours in and it felt good. I also found that owning a van provided a sideline income e.g. I got to drive bands all over the UK and mix them, a sort of start to my live sound and tour managing career. The PA system and Blind Entertainments grew in size and eventually led to the formation/evolution of my production company Total Concert Solutions (that’s a different story). It goes to show that a rag-tag, no experience and unconventional but enthusiastic school leaver can become a successful entrepreneur by doing what you love.

Jonathan Kingsley’s Dedication to Improving Our Health and Wellbeing

Dr Jonathan Kingsley is a Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (The University of Melbourne). In addition to this role, Jonathan is a Founding Member of the Oceania EcoHealth Chapter and a Health, Nature and Sustainability Research Group External Partner.

 Jonathan talks to Dalton Koss HQ about his passion and dedication to EcoHealth, social justice and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing.

I am an EcoHealth Researcher who links ecosystems to animal and human health. My journey in this area started during my Honours year when undertaking research on the health and wellbeing benefits of community gardening. During my Honours study, I realised that I wanted to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Via a connection and introduction by Associate Professor Elizabeth Hoban, I met two inspiring Aboriginal mentors who are based in Derby, Australia: Dr Ann Poelina and Dr Ian Perdrisat. Ann and Ian welcomed me with open arms, providing guidance and teaching me the intricacies of how Aboriginal culture links to health and wellbeing. Over a four-month visit, I realised that Aboriginal culture, health and wellbeing is all intricately linked to traditional land (known as Country). This knowledge and experience shifted my trajectory. I wanted to learn more about Aboriginal culture where I grew up which is Victoria, Australia.

This led me to undertake a Masters research project on the connection Aboriginal Victorian people have to their Country and its association with health and wellbeing. Simultaneously, I continued working in a number of Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions located in northern Western Australia. On completing my Masters, I worked for the Victorian State Government, in academic institutes and within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

These experiences combined with my passion to better understand the human-environment relationship, led me to undertake and complete a PhD at Deakin University. This occurred over a ten-year period, nurturing my growing EcoHealth knowledge. This journey opened a number of leadership opportunities for me including: a contributing member for a number of international academic, non-government and EcoHealth initiatives. Such experience allowed me to become a keynote speaker at a number of international conferences and a recipient of environmental awards.

The six key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership include:

1. Practice: I believe each individual is born with talent, however, without practice and nurturing these skills will sometimes never be fulfilled. A good example of this is my presentation skills. When I started giving presentations I was terrible. Over the years my oration skills improved through repeated practice. Mentors can definitely help this process, but it takes the individual to make it happen.

2. Persistence: To be a good leader you have to be willing to fail and continue. I view this type of failure in a positive light for its ability to create change. You cannot blame others for this failure nor can you rely on others to help you move forward. This motivation has to come from within oneself.

3. Outgoing: If you do not push yourself into the unknown you cannot grow as an individual and evolve.

4. Flexibility: This evolution would not be possible if I had not been flexible towards change and able to recognise that sometimes my approaches need to be adaptable to situations. Working in government, NGO’s, universities and within communities has allowed me to evolve my communication styles.

5 & 6. Humble and Compassionate: there are people who believe they are leaders in the public domain but in private do not show leadership. Traits should not change no matter the social circumstances. To be a true leader you should show love and appreciation of family, friends, colleagues and communities you work with (obviously for these relationships to work reciprocation is required!).

In 2007 one of my close colleagues, an Aboriginal Elder from Western Australia passed away way too early in life. For many years I blamed myself for not providing greater support to him and his community. Through this experience I endeavoured to work better in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. This led me to apply for visiting scholar positions in the UK and attempt to get into medicine. I quit my government position to work at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. Eventually I was successful gaining a place in a Medicine and spent a year at the University of Cambridge as a Visiting Scholar. During this time I failed often but simultaneously had many successes. One example of this was my first presentation I gave at The University of Cambridge. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life but provided me with one of the most rewarding debate and discussions on my research topic. On return to Australia, I started my medial degree. During the first semester, I realised the blame and pressure I placed on myself was not helpful. I left the medical degree and moved back into the fields that drive me: EcoHealth, social justice and preventative medicine.

I attribute my success to my parents. They have always supported me. At school I had a learning disability where most teachers thought I would amount to nothing. My parents built a support network around me and connected me to teachers who were compassionate and provided the guidance I required. This experience taught me to be resilient and provided a foundation of critical learning that enabled me to succeed at university.

I don’t think you can invest in leadership. I think leadership comes through everyday living. I have been privileged to work in Aboriginal communities across Australia, taught and learnt at a leading university across the world, have supportive family and friends and always pushed myself in great jobs. All of these have been important in my leadership journey. These experiences cannot be quantified in financial terms or time wise.

I try not to involve myself in politics. I have a simple goal. I believe human survival can only occur through understanding our Planet and its diverse ecosystems. The way I practice this is through learning about Aboriginal ecological knowledge, research in the EcoHealth field and advocating my views of social justice. This has certainly meant my job stability has fluctuated in Australia as these types of ideas can often be shunned.

An old work colleague said to me once, “I am underpaid and overworked”. I would like to say the same goes for me. I give a lot of my time after hours and on weekends to my research and community work. But I also recognise that I am very privileged. I have grandparents who came to Australia with nothing other than scars of war and I work with people that live from day-to-day. I never want to take for granted that I often gain greatly from the time I give.

I usually exercise to maintain health and wellbeing, but of late that has taken a back seat to eating good food and drinking lovely beverages. What I really enjoy doing is listening to my wife play piano and sing, spending time with my dog Bobby, and going to the footy. Preparing myself to becoming a father makes me feel great too.

My tip is always try new ways of being. Never give up, especially when other people tell you otherwise. Often when people oppose your views, but you still maintain supporters, it means you are doing something right.

Organisations I recommend include Indigenous Community Volunteers and the Oceania Ecohealth Chapter. The Oceania EcoHealth Chapter can be found on Twitter @EcoHealth13.

For more information about Jonathan’s EcoHealth work, please follow these links:

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2015/04/11/a-medical-student-explores-the-importance-of-aboriginal-culture-country-and-the-homelands-movement/

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2015/03/24/postcard-from-montreal-towards-a-better-understanding-of-ecosystems-and-health/

Chitons

Visitors to coastal shores often come across unusual looking animals hidden in rock crevices. Here at Dalton Koss HQ we strive to help make sense of these unusual sea creatures by sharing our marine knowledge.

Chitons are one of these more unusual finds that many coastal visitors find on the rocky shoreline. With the Ch pronounced as a k sound, chitons have a fossilised appearance due to their numerous armoured plates. In fact, some people call Chitons the armadillos of the ocean as they are able to curl up into a ball using their armoured plates as protection.

Slide1

The armoured plates grow from the head to the foot of their body providing protection and camouflage from predators, hence why this animal is also commonly known as the coat-of-mail. The actual animal grows and lives under these armoured plates and its body is not segmented like its armour.

Here are a few interesting facts about chitons:

1. Chitons can only be found in the intertidal and upper subtidal zone of rocky shores.

2. The majority of chitons are vegetarian, grazing and eating seaweeds using their radula (see earlier What creates those circular holes on seashells? DKHQ Marine Fact to find out more about radulas).

3. Chitons can live from 1-20 years or more.

4. All chitons have a girdle around their body and plates.

5. Chitons prefer to move around during dusk and at night to reduce their chances of being prey to birds and other larger animals.

6. Sexual reproduction is often associated with a particular phase of the moon or with a tide, in some instances both.

The most fascinating and favourite Dalton Koss HQ Chiton fact is their homing ability. Chitons are able to have a night out crawling around rocks and feeding, but they are able to return to exactly the same spot before the sun comes up. Just amazing for a creature that has no eyes!

Shelley Flett Is Helping Others To Become Great Leaders

Shelley Flett is a Leadership Coach at LFTC Coaching, helping others to reach their greatest leadership potential at work and within their personal lives. Dalton Koss HQ speaks with Shelley to find out about her journey in becoming a Leadership Coach.

My leadership journey began in the UK 13 years ago when I was appointed Manager of a bar in Surrey. Upon my return to Australia in 2005, I commenced work at ANZ as a call centre operator and worked my way up through the ranks. Over the ten years at ANZ I held 11 different roles and developed a reputation of being a balanced leader who inspired passion in the people I worked with to deliver the results of a high performing team. I now coach entry and middle level managers to improve their leadership capabilities.

Five key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership include openness, trust, integrity, influence and organisation. A good leader must create a level of trust in their team that allows open conversation and gives confidence to challenge each other. They will lead by example and take a balanced approach to ensure their team feel fulfilled in their roles and are clear on what is expected to succeed. A good leader will be well managed with their time and balance their work with their family/social life. 

There have been a number of key successes, challenges and failures in my leadership journey. When I first became a leader I was completely focussed on delivering and didn’t give too much thought to the emotional wellbeing of my team. I came unstuck when one particular team I managed made a bullying/intimidation complaint against me. It was this event that completely changed the way I viewed leadership. I realised that the work couldn’t be separated from the worker and in order to be successful I had to develop relationships with my team and take a genuine interest in them as people. Once I’d made this shift, the work happened almost by itself. I learnt that you must give in order to receive and much of this takes place on an emotional level.

I have been extremely lucky to have some amazing leaders to coach and mentor me throughout my career. The best managers are the ones that tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear!

I invest time and finances in my personal leadership and as a leadership coach. I attend leadership courses 1-2 times a year and invest in a life coach to help me maintain direction and set goals. I invest a great amount of time and a little bit of money in improving my skills as a leader, I think it’s important to constantly evolve and continue to learn.

It is important to learn the rules of the game and play it! Don’t get emotionally involved and be clear on what you want to achieve in the longer term, setting personal goals is extremely important. Finally, make sure your life doesn’t revolve around work…keep active, socialise, spend quality time with your family – create a balance, it will help build your resilience!

I volunteer regularly at ‘not-for-profit’ organisations to coach/mentor leaders and long-term unemployed. Volunteering keeps me grounded and teaches me to see things from different perspectives. I love the concept of ‘paying it forward’ and volunteering is the perfect way of doing this.

I am really disciplined with the hours I work, I start at 7am and leave the office by 4pm. Creating this time limitation prevents me from procrastinating or spending longer than I should on a task. This is important for maintaining my mental and physical health and wellbeing. I have two sons and a daughter on the way so I find it easy to switch off when I leave work, I love being a mum and I love having my career! 

Regularly reviewing my goals to ensure I’m still heading in the right direction keeps me ahead of the game. I also talk to a lot of people and ask a lot of questions to keep up-to-date with what’s going on within the organisation and leadership coaching…I like to be curious!

My top leadership secrets are to listen, ask questions and don’t assume…there are too many leaders who like the sound of their own voice and never hear what’s being said.

For those who want to move into leadership roles, I recommend joining Toastmasters & Business Chicks. It is a wonderful network of inspirational professionals and leaders.

To find out more about LFT Coaching please visit the website http://www.lftccoaching.com or if you would like to contact Shelley directly, her email address is: shelley.flett@lftcoaching.com

Slugs in the nud’

At Dalton Koss HQ we come up with some creative names to describe some of the more interesting creatures that can be found in our marine front yards.

Slugs in the nud’  are nudibranchs. Nudi what? Nudibranchs.

Nudibranchs are oceanic snails, do not possess a shell and are mostly brightly coloured.

To break it down, Nudi = nude and branchs = gills. As these snails do not have shells for protection, their gills are nude and exposed (see image below).

Without a shell covering, the nudibranch's gills can be found on the top part of its body and exposed to the water.
Without a shell covering, the nudibranch’s gills can be found on the top part of its body and exposed to the water.

Nudibranch Facts

1. The bright colours of nudibranchs are used as defence mechanisms to avoid predators.

2. Many are able to camouflage with their surrounding environment, such as corals and sponges.

nudi3 fixed
3. Nudibranchs do not make a tasty meal. In fact, they are toxic and poisonous to eat. This is because nudibranchs feed on the stinging cells of sea jellies, anemones and corals.

4. Nudibranchs can be found at different depths in both warm and cool ocean waters.

WA July 2005 041

Although not in the same size category of many other sea creatures, they do create a level of excitement for DKHQ when spotted under water.

Record Store Day 2015

Record Store Day Australia (RSDA) falls on the 18th April this year and it’s the second year that I (Tim Dalton) am an ambassador, something I’m quite proud of. Planning for RSDA has got me reminiscing about the first record that I ever bought and about some of my favourite record stores that I’ve visited. The first record that I ever bought was a 7” vinyl single of Son Of My Father by UK band Chicory Tip. I vividly remember saving all of my birthday money to buy this record from Shakespeare Records, located inside Paragon railway station in my birth city of Hull. The word ‘Paragon ‘ is an interesting choice here as the word means “a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality”. The station actually took its name from the street it stands on, Paragon Street, but still the use of this word is misappropriated.

Back in 1972 there were approximately 39 record stores in Hull city centre serving a population of around 200,000. This begs the question why Shakespeare Records and not Sydney Scarborough, Stardisc, Sheridan’s or one of the large department stores such as Hammonds or Debenhams or any of the other 39 stores I could have chosen? Paragon Station was a fabulous unmodernised Victorian building so much so that it has appeared in numerous feature films and TV shows. One attraction was that Shakespeare Records was a small building, more a pre-fab really, inside another enormous building. Subconsciously it could be the 11 year old me signalling that music and travel would be forever connected in my life.

Originally this record store was called Shakespeare Brothers but in a bid to move with the times in the early 1970’s they dropped the ‘Brothers’ and replaced it with ‘Records’. Mid December 1972 and it was a right of passage type day as my Dad drove me to Hull city centre in a tepid blue Vauxhall Viva to make my first ever purchase of many future records. I didn’t know it at the time, but this record is actually a cover of a Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte tune that was released in 1971 under the name Giorgio. The 1972 Chicory Tip version features the very first top ten appearance of a Moog synthesizer in the UK. AIR studio manager Roger Easterby heard the Giorgio original and persuaded Chicory Tip to re-recorded their version, with additional lyrics added by vocalist Michael Holm, in a weekend. The Chicory Tip version was rush released where it went straight into the top ten and eventually hit number one. AIR’s resident record producer Chris Thomas played the dominating Moog synth part.

Released in February 1972, it took me almost 10 months to get around to purchasing this record. Listening back to this record I can see why I developed my lifelong love of synth pop. This record has all the DNA of 1980’s synth-pop, such as the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument, which I came to love a decade later. For an 11-year-old kid from a cultural backwater like Hull, this record demonstrates a musical maturity way beyond my tender years.

This visit to Shakespeare Records set me on a course that would see me visit many record stores all over the world for both business and pleasure. Only 16 years after purchasing my first record I’d left school and was working in the music industry, albeit on the very bottom rung of the ladder. Over the next 34 years I was lucky enough to travel the world many times over and visit record stores in just about every city that I’ve visited. One of the biggest stores I regularly made visits too was Tower Records at 1 Piccadilly Circus, London. This massive 2,300 m2 store opened in 1986 and was their European flagship store. London also had the Virgin Megastore on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road and that was also enormous. These enrmo-dome type record stores ushered in the ear of the ‘in-store’ performance or as we called them in the USA ‘the shake and howdy’.

In these big stores a small stage and PA could be incorporated onto the sales floor allowing for acoustic performances. These performances normally coincided with whatever touring band was in town playing at the local venue. The normal schedule would be an in-store early afternoon, sound check late afternoon and show on the evening; we liked to work our acts hard back then. These in-stores would pay a dividend in terms of record sales, through in some ‘specials’ some free nibbles/barrel of beer and significant sales would follow. In-stores are now a common component in the arsenal of engagement tools of the music retailer.

Though the sheer scale of some record stores is breath taking, such as Amoeba Music in LA, which is the world largest independent record store spread over 2,230m2 and holding over 100,000 titles. It’s the sheer variety of independent record stores that I love. Some are genre specific, some location specific but all of them love and know music. Some of my favourites, in no particular order, are: –

  • Aquarius Records in one of my favorite US cities San Francisco. This store has been a fixture of San Francisco’s music scene since 1970, making it one of the longest-running independent record shops in the United States. The store carries a wide range of stock, but is most famous for its extensive selection of psychedelic, metal, and drone music, as one would expect of a San Fran store.
  • Spacehall Records on Zossiener Straße in Berlin, which I first visited in the late 1980s. You cannot even begin to talk techno or house or dub or any electronic music for that matter without bringing up Berlin’s Spacehall. The beautiful minimalist, modernist design of the store suits its refined, highly stylish musical aesthetic. It’s like a classic 1980’s BMW, never out of style.
  • Rough Trade East is the daddy of UK record shops. London’s Rough Trade East, which opened in 2007, may be the younger brother of Rough Trade West, but is also one of the biggest independents in the UK. The store sells predominantly new stock of vinyl and CDs, racked up across a huge 465m2 sales space, and has a handy cafe at the front. Rough Trade is more than just a shop, it’s also one of the most influential labels in the UK, and has put out influential records by The Smiths, The Fall, The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian and more. Rough Trade East also plays host to in-store gigs, film screenings, and talks on film, music and literature. This is more than a record store, it’s an institution.
  • Probe Records in a city where I lived for over a decade, Liverpool. In a city with such a fine musical pedigree, it takes a lot to stand out and Probe does that. Though it’s moved premises through the years, Liverpool’s Probe Records has been going strong since 1971. Established by legendary Twisted Wheel DJ Roger Eagle and music entrepreneur/producer Geoff Davis, it was more than a record store it, was the center of a movement. Pete Burns of Dead or Alive and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood have both worked there. In the wake of punk, Probe Records became Liverpool’s go-to record shop, attracting clientele from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Lighting Seeds and OMD. The shop launched its own record label Probe Plus in 1981, which has released work by cult Merseyside act Half Man Half Biscuit.
  • Good Vibrations, Belfast. The film Good Vibrations named after the legendary Belfast record store of the same name and released last year, was brilliant. It told the story of local music lover Terri Hooley’s attempt to expand his store into a label that would go on to release DJ John Peel’s favorite record Teenage Kicks by The Undertones in 1979. But the film’s popularity also sparked the store back into life. Now in its 13th incarnation, and proclaiming itself as “Belfast’s poorest record shop”, shoppers can still bump into Hooley, now aged 65, working behind the till. Visit it soon as it has a history of going bust very quickly.
  • I know I’m very biased but my favorite of favorite record stores is Grimey’s of Nashville. Nashville is a town of institutions and Grimey’s is no exception. It’s a store beloved by the city’s residents, and has a sort of hometown family feel. I first Mike ‘Grimey’ Grimes when he played guitar with local rock band Bare Jr. who I was working with at the time. Grimey has an uncanny King Midas knack of turning whatever he touches into cool. When I lived there he took over a run down bar, The Slow Bar, in the very un-trendy East part of town and within a few weeks it became Nashville’s coolest, muso bar and hangout. It’s the same with his record store. They have a vast selection of new music, and next door at their “too” store they have an abundance of “pre-loved” music. They supply their consumers with all formats including CD, vinyl and cassettes. But what really makes them stand out is they do a lot of activities to bring artists into the stores and make them accessible to their patrons. They have many releases and after hour in-stores in “The Basement” located obviously beneath the store. This is a cozy little live music bar to catch a local artist performance while drinking a beer. This is a very special kind of record store that I recommend to anyone that stops in Nashville. This place holds a special place in my heart just because it’s so damn cool. And who knows? Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll visit at the same time as locals like Taylor Swift, Steve Earle or Ke$ha.

In my now adopted hometown of Melbourne I’m totally spoilt for choice. There are some fine record stores in this city and my suggestion is to go out and find the one you like. The one that stocks the style and genre of music you like in the part of town that appeals to you. Personally I’ll be down at Basement Discs in the Laneways on RSDA on 18th April, see you down there?