Music

At BIGSOUND, It’s Easy To Feel Like An Imposter

bigsound-music

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The music industry has always been a magnet for larger-than-life personalities. The cut-throat Peter Grant or Sharon Osborne immediately come to mind, notorious for their pivotal roles as power-brokers in the 1970s rock scene. Even your average label executive or booking agent has something about them: an unmistakable confidence permeates their every interaction. At least, that’s what it feels like. However, in the midst of BIGSOUND’s whirlwind, I can’t help but feel out of place.

Navigating the busy lanes of BIGSOUND, I marshal my nerves. My delegate pass swings to-and-fro, wrapping around my neck. The ambiance is overwhelming: a mix of anticipation, excitement, and the ever-present hum of business deals in the making.

Everywhere I turn, clusters of people eagerly converse, some animatedly pitching their next big idea; others nodding along, feigning interest. I yearn for genuine connection, but the burden of insignificance weighs me down. Against a canvas of towering ambitions and emerging talent, self-deprecation has become my signature move in BIGSOUND’s social dance.

As a child, I imagined the music industry kind of like an exclusive club, filled with individuality, acceptance and passion. Adulthood has since dispelled that fantasy. Politics, competitiveness, and prejudice cast long shadows over the bright lights I once idolised. In an industry historically dominated by men, I feel compelled to keep my head down and get on with it. My mind feels like a game of Monopoly, and I keep landing on the already occupied Mayfair. Social currency is the name of the game, and I’ve gone bankrupt.

What I now know is that I’m far from alone.The moment I summoned the courage to voice my doubts, it was as if I had unlocked a hidden truth: imposter syndrome wasn’t my solitary burden. It reverberated through the stories of many, a shared narrative of feeling out of place and grappling with the ghost of inadequacy. The very giants I admired had their moments of uncertainty at BIGSOUND. I’m neither a magician pulling off an elaborate ruse, nor am I an imposter hiding behind a bright blue delegate pass.

I am a young, queer woman in the music industry, trying my best to stay afloat.

BIGSOUND’s Social Sphere

At BIGSOUND, I tend to play the role of an observer, dissecting the nuances of its intricate social choreography. I’ve come to understand that the music industry often operates on a foundation of transactional relationships. Beneath the surface-level camaraderie belies a tactical dance. Every interaction, whether it’s a quick chat in Brunswick Mall or a prolonged sit-down, carries an undercurrent of exchange.

I feel like an outsider, as if there’s an unspoken code I haven’t yet deciphered. The art of networking, so essential in this sphere, becomes a minefield of insecurities and second-guessing. When everyone seems to step in harmony, I often falter, questioning the genuineness of every connection.

In the quieter moments, removed from the pulsating thrill of BIGSOUND, I ponder the true cost of this dance. Is it fuelled by an authentic love for music, or is it merely the seductive allure of success? In an industry where appearances can overshadow authenticity, discerning between self-adaptation and sacrificing integrity is a constant challenge.

BIGSOUND’s Ambition and Inclusivity

Armed with a dream and a gleaming blue lanyard, I continue to weave my way through the vibrant avenues of BIGSOUND. However, by the third day, an unsettling reality becomes clear. The sea of confident, assertive men (with delegate passes proudly displayed) is not just mere coincidence — it’s a stark representation of a deeper systemic imbalance. As Georgia Maq emphasised in her impactful BIGSOUND keynote, their dominance amplifies the notable absence of women, the queer community, and people of colour in the music industry’s upper echelons. While we can’t dismiss the staggering progress in recent years, the struggle remains: in a setting where ambition seems to be in conflict with vulnerability, carving out a genuine sense of belonging feels like an uphill battle.

This sentiment is echoed in the touching stories I hear from many women and non-binary folk at BIGSOUND — navigating this world feels like walking a tightrope. On one hand, there’s the need to be assertive, to ensure that our voices are heard, and our worth is recognised. On the other, there’s the age-old expectation to maintain a veneer of politeness, charm, and likability. In a world where your persona is your primary asset, revealing your truest self can feel daunting. What’s clear, however, is our collective yearning for a more inclusive music industry — one where diverse voices, identities, and experiences are celebrated rather than stifled. 

BIGSOUND’s Community

As I’ve done my BIGSOUND dues, I’ve realised that the music world isn’t quite “peace, love and rainbows”. Like any industry, patriarchal ideologies permeate through the corporate world like an insidious undercurrent, often going unnoticed until they manifest in glaring disparities. It’s beyond BIGSOUND itself — it’s reflected in the inequitable and transactional nature of the Australian music industry. Why should women and non-binary people feel as if they’re walking on a tightrope? Frankly, I’m exhausted.

For some, a delegate pass feels like a badge of honour, while for others, it’s a mark of impostorship. Yet, it’s a reminder that we’re all here for a reason. Through strengthening our sense of empowerment, community, and resistance, we can foster a true sense of belonging. At the heart of this community is solidarity. Stand by your values, and if it means unveiling a carefully curated façade, so be it. As the next generation, the power is in our hands — ambition and vulnerability should not be mutually exclusive.


This feature was created as part of The Music Writer’s Lab 2023.

Cassidy Burke is a Brisbane/Meanjin-based music writer. She commits to authentic storytelling and elevating marginalised voices in the Australian music scene.

Illustration credit: Matt Lauricella, @pigeonboyart