Zac Abroms didn’t really foresee a career in music. In fact, when he finished Uni he wasn’t too sure what he wanted to do. However, inspired by his friends booking gigs in London, he went door to door in Melbourne pitching a night for local indie bands. Miss Libertines eventually gave him a crack and he begun booking a monthly showcase. The first night saw 400 people through the door and it was by all measures, a roaring success.
From there he moved into a role at record label Forum 5, before embarking on a solo music PR and management venture a couple of years later, Viceroyalty. Zac eventually tired his band at talent coordinating for Maroochy Festival and Face The Music, an industry summit in Melbourne. The rest is history, you could say. In this episode of Liner Notes, he dives into his career and wealth of music industry knowledge.
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A Playlist curated by zac:
Bertie Blackman – Heart
At the time that I came to know Bertie at Forum 5 she had a couple of records out, she was already quite well known to triple j and she was 100% independent. She’d started as a folk artist before moving into kind of a rock and roll band. Being a very diverse creative, she wanted to change. At the time she signed to us she was very open minded about what she wanted to do. We put this idea out there that maybe she should make an electronic record? She’d never worked with electronic producers at all. We were very fortunate to have a UK producer by the name of Lee Groves living in Sydney at the time. Lee had worked with Goldfrapp, Madonna, etc. Liam and Bertie worked together and made this absolutely incredible indie-electronic album called Secrets and Lies. That was the first record I was ever involved with and that was the first record we did as a label. We were really proud of it, but you get this weird cabin fever where only 5 or 6 people have heard the record for many months – and you have no concept of anyones’ thoughts outside your inner circle. We put it out and that year she won the ARIA for best independent release – on our first ever album. The, she was a clean sweep at the AIR awards.
Personally, this was my first foray into working in music and like I said, we were internally very proud of the work we were doing. But no one else had heard it. We had no concept of if radio was going to like it – or anyone for that matter. Aside from the fact that she had a beautiful legacy and she brought with her an existing fanbase. That record changed everything for all of us. It put us on the map, and, I felt very weird and out of place being at the ARIA’s that year and winning. ‘People were like, who are you? And who is everyone at your table? We’ve never seen you before’. It was very affirming at it gave us the confidence to do it again. Our second record we ever put out was Kimbra’s Vows. That was 4 years in the making and a very emotional experience for everyone involved. That went platinum and I still have the disc on my wall. I can’t think of a better introduction to the music industry, than having worked with both of those women. They’re both just off the richter.
Kimbra – Cameo Lover
I had a really weird experience, in that I worked with Kimbra for 4 years as her assistant manager. Then I started Viceroyalty and went off and did my own thing. In the interim the album came out and ‘Settle Down’ and ‘Cameo Lover’ started getting played on radio. I was aware she was popular, because I could see the gigs she was playing. But I hadn’t been at the coalface for 6 or 8 months. I got a call out of the blue saying ‘Zac we’re desperate – she’s going on Groovin The Moo and we don’t have a tour manager. Can you do a rockstar shift and tour manage this?’ I was like, okay cool. I can put my management and publicity work aside for the space of 2 weeks and yes, I’ll go on Groovin The Moo with Kimbra.
Like I said, I knew she was big but she was second headline to Hilltop Hoods that year. We were at the first show, Bendigo, and I was side of stage with her. It was freezing cold and she was the second last act on. She had a big faux fur coat on and was doing her vocal warm ups. I hadn’t sighted the audience, and I was just kind of getting her pumped up and ready to go on stage. I had the asthma inhaler in my hand, I was ready to catch the coat and the band were warming up. The band were playing an instrumental intro and then the house lights went up, I took the coat and she ran on stage. They put the lights up on the crowd and she went straight into ‘Cameo Lover’ – there were 6000 people in the crowd singing every single word. I was so overwhelmed I just broke down into tears. I just couldn’t believe that this girl I worked with for the previous 4 years, who I knew was good, and I knew was popular, but to see that, was just surreal. It was a real milestone.
Yeo – Girl
This song is really special. I do a lot of freelance publicity work and I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of great artists. Yeo came to me, and I’d actually met him in a previous life when he supported Kimbra – many, many years ago. Yeo has been around for an extraordinarily long time for a guy who’s only the same age as me. He’s not that old (laughs). He’s had a long career in music.
He approached me with the track for publicity, and I’d never heard him do anything like this before. It completely floored me. My instinct said that it was going to work, so I took it on. I put this track out for him and really, in many ways it put Yeo on the map nationally and internationally. It changed peoples’ perception of who he was as a musician. It was the beginning of a two year working relationship for me and Yeo in a publicity capacity. I still think that ‘Girl’ is forward thinking, 3 years on it’s still on the cutting edge of music and production.
Wafia – Let Me Love You
I’ve only ever done one pro-bono job in my career as a publicist and that was Japanese Wallpaper. I went for a drink with a friend of mine who’d just come back from London. She was friends with a band from England called Bombay Bicycle Club and she told me ‘these guys were obsessed with this 16 year old producer in Melbourne who remixed them’ and I was just like, that’s bizarre. She played me some of his music and I just thought, I have to work with this guy. I got in touch with him online and he was still at high school. He had no inclination to work with a publicist, but I said ‘I want to do whatever you’re doing next and we’ll do it for free.’ He brought me a song called ‘Breathe In’ ft. Wafia, a singer from Brisbane. It was just angelic. It’s an incredible song that’s timeless, I think. We had a really good run with it and I carried on working with Japanese Wallpaper for about 12 months after that.
But, Wafia approached me with her own release after. I was a little taken aback that she brought me a cover, and said that ‘this is what she wanted to be her first single’. It was an incredible track, and I put everything into it – the same as I put into ‘Breathe In’ and that by anyone’s measure a very big hit online. ‘Let Me Love You’ eclipsed anything and everything I’ve ever done in publicity. To this day, it has 3 and a half million Soundcloud plays. She was most blogged for about a month straight after we put it out, and it resonated with everyone. Through the progress of that campaign, Wafia signed management in New York and she signed a record deal. Her whole career took off. Now she is where she is, touring the States with Ta-ku. I never would of thought that a cover was a good idea necessarily, to launch your career with. But Wafia was sure of it, and it’s a damn good cover. To this day I will never eclipse that, as a publicist. It’s so many millions of plays beyond anything else I’ve ever done.
Alice Ivy – Touch
I had the pleasure of doing a publicity campaign at the start of this year for an artist from Melbourne called Alice Ivy. I heard rumblings about her late last year, and I was curious. She came to me and asked me to do her PR. She delivered a track called ‘Touch’ and I fell absolutely head over heels for her music. What started as a publicity campaign turned into management very quickly. Well not, so much. She basically had every manager in the country chasing her. We went for a beer and I asked if she’d ever thought of working with me and she said ‘I’m really glad you asked that, because that’s what I want to do.’
Now, here we are. We’re a few singles deep and she’s one of the most booked artists in Melbourne for the next 6 months, I think (laughs). Touch is where it all began, and this song is always going to be really special for me.