Managing Burn Out – It’s ok to slow down and stop

By Chloe Turner

Emerging Keynote speech from Chloe Turner – originally delivered on Thursday 8 March 2018, at One of One’s International Women’s Day breakfast.


Good morning everyone,

I’m Chloe Turner, and I’ll be delivering the emerging keynote this morning.

Thanks for having me.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that today, and every day in this country, we are on Stolen lands. These are the lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. I would like to pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging, and to any indigenous people who are in the room today, and also to any indigenous women or queer people in the room today, on international women’s day. As a cis-white woman I am incredibly privileged with the opportunities given to me in my career so far, so I’d also like to acknowledge that before I go any further.

So when I was up here this time last year, accepting this award I was in a really different position in my life. I was working full time at Music Victoria, I was heavily involved in the LISTEN organisation, I’d released something like 10 releases on my record label the year before, we’d just delivered the LISTEN Conference 2016, with an amazing team, and to be honest I was feeling super burnt out. 

2016 was a massive year for me and I spent a lot of time in 2017 trying to get that work life balance sorted, and to teach myself how to relax, how to take a break, that it was ok to slow down and stop sometimes.

Halfway through 2017 I quit my job at Music Victoria and started a new position at Creative Partnerships Australia. Creative Partnerships is a federal government arts organisation, who encourage private giving and philanthropy in the arts through advocacy, mentoring and matched grant funding.

So I took the leap from a music job, to a much broader arts job, and although it’s been a massive learning experience, a break from working full time in the music industry was just what I needed to be able to recover from my burn out.

In 2017 I also started making music again, in a couple of bands, and solo. I have wanted to play bass for ages, and being left handed, I was struggling to find a nice bass guitar I could play. So the weekend after I won the Unified award at this breakfast, I went out and bought a shiny, left handed bass guitar and I’ve spent the past year learning bass. Earlier this year I was excited to finally release some solo music using that bass guitar, under the name of Broccoli Bitch.

For those of you wondering, or those who don’t know me, my journey in the music industry started when I studied the Bachelor of Arts, Music Industry at RMIT. Through this degree I made many amazing connections, and completed several internships. I was working on a music festival called Inca Roads, helping with artist liaison, stage management and bookings. This festival stopped after a few years, and I moved on to help out Paradise Music Festival, in a similar position.

I also interned for a few months at Chapter Music, which was absolutely instrumental in where I am today. Guy and Ben opened my eyes to musicians like Beaches and Pikelet, which was how I heard about LISTEN. Through the conversations I had with Guy and Ben in those early days of my music career, they made me think about my role as a young woman in the industry, and showed me the reality of the industry I was about to start working in.

I also completed an internship at Music Victoria, where I ended up working full time for 2 and a half years. At the same time as starting this full time music industry job, I also went to my first volunteer LISTEN meeting. LISTEN had been around for about 6 months at this stage. I started at LISTEN sending out T-Shirt orders, helping with events, doing admin, but quickly took on more and more, and became one of the 10 founding board members.

I started LISTEN Records, with another LISTEN member Erica, and we released the first LISTEN Compilation in October 2015. I’ve continued to run the label by myself since then, and released the 3rd compilation this week.

When I was getting into the music industry, I was really excited. All of these opportunities came up, or I heard about cool projects and I just wanted to be involved in everything. I was going out to gigs 4-5 nights a week, meeting people, ‘networking’, and pretty much saying yes to every opportunity that came my way. My thought process back then was that I would always regret not going to a gig, but I would never regret going, so no matter how tired I was, if there was a gig on with bands I liked or people involved that I wanted to work for, I would go. This process eventually got too much for me though, and I ended up having so many projects on it was really affecting my mental health, but even then I loved being busy, and would find time to squeeze it all in.

I was listening to a Hidden Brain podcast recently, about success, and how people show that success now, compared to, for example the 90s.

The quote is:

Instead of buying expensive things, people now use busyness to show their high status. New research finds that many celebrities use social media to boast about their lack of time, not their wealth.

Many of them were kind of complaining or humble bragging about how busy they were, about how, you know, in the morning they had to record an album. In the afternoon they had to go meet with their book publisher. And in the evening, they had so many events to go to. They want to show off essentially that they’re busy.

It’s almost like a call for help, in the sense that we’re complaining about how busy we are, but also showing our connections how successful a recent project has been or something along those lines. I know this example specifically references ‘celebrities’, but there are definitely similarities within the local music communities, and within my own behavior.

I guess listening to that podcast, and identifying with that behavior has really stuck in my mind, about the way I talk about my projects and activities, and how I treat my mental health – And this isn’t to put down self promotion, because that’s so necessary in this industry, it’s just an interesting take on how we talk about what we do, and how we get through burn out.

So in 2016 I was the project manager of the LISTEN Conference, a massive, sold out 3 day event at the Bella Union. We had some international and interstate speakers, about $40,000 in grants, and a huge team of LISTEN volunteers and other board members who helped bring that event together.

I treated it like my baby. I put hours and hours and hours into that event, and like any event, it will get criticised and people will give you feedback – especially when you’re working within a very passionate community. People want to see these events do well, and be the best that they can be. And when your whole conference is discussing issues around diversity and inclusion in the music industry, it’s pretty important that you LISTEN to the people who aren’t being represented and don’t feel heard.

Something I want to emphasise here is the about taking this feedback and criticism personally, and the importance of community consultation.

So part of this burn out I experienced in 2017, was from me taking all of the criticism about the LISTEN Conference personally, and to heart, and thinking “omg I didn’t think about this, I’m a bad feminist, people will find out I haven’t read all of those cool feminist books everyone else has probably read, my lived experience isn’t enough if I don’t know the history etc.”

I had a serious case of feeling like a fake, like an imposter, and this directly affected my confidence. It made me scared to keep working on events that might not be perfect, it made me afraid to put myself out there. I also decided, that given the opportunities I had already in my career, it was time for me to start making some sacrifices to pass on these opportunities to other people with LISTEN, or my networks.

So now, in March 2018, what I am I doing for the music communities? I was cautious to accept this opportunity to deliver this keynote, because I’m no longer as involved as I use to be, and I was worried people would think you know, why is she doing it, she doesn’t work in the music industry anymore – but I really wanted to emphasize the importance of self care. And to prioritize my self care, and to have more time to relax at home with my cat Sherry and my partner Jonnine, and to knit and do crafts and to go swimming and exercise more, I’ve changed the way I’m contributing to the music communities.

Instead of being so actively involved in the public and doing side of things, I’m trying to be more creative and actually make more music. Last year I completed cross pollinate – the diversity access training program at PBS, and I’ve done a few fills on PBS, playing my favorite femme and queer musicians. I’ve also been consulting and helping musicians with grant applications – but I’m picky with this. I will only work with people who are trying to make a difference in their music, but don’t have the admin skills or time to put a grant application together – I’ve been working with women, queer people, people of color – to help them get a share of the grant money on offer. And I’ve stepped down my official roles at LISTEN. I’m still involved in the organisation as an adviser and volunteer, but I wanted to give up my board position to allow new, fresh voices to have that opportunity and experience.

So I guess I’ve been trying to put my energy towards smaller, passion projects, in a quieter way.

To finish up, there’s a couple more things I want to say.

In regards to how far we’ve come with diversity within the music industry, look around. Think about how prominent gender diversity is within the music industry in 2018, and in general society in 2018. Things are changing – slowly but it’s happening. Festivals are being called out. People are listening and most importantly, conversations are being had and people are learning. If we think back to 5 years ago, these conversations were in small groups, or not on people’s radar.

LISTEN started to ‘spark conversation’ – and now people are talking.

I want to give a quick mention to some people who have been super inspiring to me along the way, Evelyn Morris, Antonia Sellbach, Katie Pearson, Elly Scrine (the busiest woman in Melbourne, if you see Elly today tell her she’s amazing and that she’s doing a really good job), Simona Castricum, Bethany Atkinson-Quinton, Holly Pereira, Jenny and Grace from Wet Lips, Guy and Ben, my partner Jonnine, Helen Marcou and Kirsty Rivers, and pretty much any woman or queer person I’ve encountered. We’re pretty lucky in Melbourne with this amazing, passionate community around us.

And to finish, I want people to think about what they can do to continue to broaden the discussion. Women aren’t the only marginalized group in the music industry, and some initiatives have popped up to reflect this, but next time you’re working on an event, or attending a festival etc. think about the amount of people of color on that line up, or indigenous people, or queer, trans and non binary people. There is always more work to be done, and the conversations must broaden and continue for the music industry to keep growing and to be truly inclusive.