Interviewed by Francine Gorman
Tamara Gal-On has coached creatives and those who support them for more than fifteen years. For the past ten of those she has helped her clients develop their intuition as a key tool, helping them cut through all the nonsense faster. Tamara has coached clients from five continents, from across the LGBT spectrum and, since creating a Group Coaching Programme for women with leadership potential for the Music Publishers Association in London, she has increasingly coached many truly amazing women in music. In 2016, three of Tamara’s former music clients were recognised in the Queen’s Honours list.
Tamara tends to work with trailblazers or change creators within their industry. More often than not they walk the line between visionary and badass.
FG: We’re very much looking forward to welcoming you to Sørveiv Festival and Conference, Tamara! You’ve worked pretty extensively in the Nordics in the past, but how well do you know Norway, and what are you expecting of your trip to Kristiansand?!
TG: I’ve been working in the Nordics for a decade now but never Norway. I haven’t been to Norway in twenty years and my trip then was not for work, so I am excited to return in a music context. I am a people person first and foremost, so am greatly looking forward to meeting new people and finding out how Norwegians see the industry nationally and internationally.
FG: You’re a person of many skills, talents and dimensions! So when you’re introducing yourself and your work to people, how do you explain what you do?
TG: One of my dimensions as a coach who has worked in the music business for ten years is helping my clients (artists, managers and execs) develop their intuitive skills. And one of my skills is teaching those of my clients who hate to network how to do it from a non-bullshitty place but to do so authentically. So actually when I explain what I do I’m letting my intuition choose from among my myriad possible answers. But somewhere in there is likely to be the idea that I help my clients to do the one thing they know they need to do but aren’t doing.
FG: How did you get started in this field, and what would you consider to be your biggest drivers and interests?
TG: I have always worked across the creative industries but I got started seriously in the music business when I co-created a Leadership development and coaching programme for the Music Publishers Association in London, helping twelve women with leadership potential to realise it. And that right there is one of my biggest drivers: helping people realise their full potential by finding the effortless and joyful way to navigate the industry they’re so passionate about. As a lot of my clients are not the industry majority (i.e. they are mostly not straight, white men), they often want to do their work and create change along the way. I find that endlessly fascinating and motivating.
FG: One of the subjects that you’ll be discussing with us is the workload of artists and the teams that surrounds them, and how to make these situations as productive as possible for all involved. Can you give us a few ideas about the kind of topics you’re hoping to cover throughout the conference?
TG: I think a clearly articulated, shared and agreed upon vision is vital. What is the artist’s version of success? What is their manager’s? What is their label’s? Do those visions/versions match? If not, that’s a problem from the outset. Once there is consensus, having a discussion about the ways to arrive at that vision that suit everyone is also central to keeping expectations clear and workloads manageable. There is no one size fits all strategy these days for creating a successful music career. But clear and regular communication between all the parties is important or opportunities get wasted, relationships break down and that’s never productive.
FG: We’re also going to be talking a lot about passion, and how in this industry, passion is an essential factor of the work – so aside from your work and music, what’s something that you’re extremely passionate about? I could talk for days about my favourite football team, for example…¹
TG: My own form of creative expression is writing. Fiction. I can talk for hours about my favourite authors, definitions of what is or isn’t good literature, whose voices are not being heard, as well as the process of writing and writers block and and and…
FG: You wrote a great blog post recently on the ‘essential art of saying no‘, which is something that I’m personally terrible at. So for us folks that struggle with it, could you sum up the reasoning behind the post?
TG: A lot of my clients struggle with saying no. Freelancers struggle with turning down work over the bad karma/I’ll never work again anxiety. Some artists don’t want to get a “reputation” with their manger/label or they feel obligated to do what they are asked, managers don’t want to get into a communications breakdown with their artist. I’ve seen it from all sides. But saying yes when you really honestly mean no, or have reservations is always counterproductive. I get into this conversation when clients tell me that they are dealing with the exhaustion or frustration of having said yes when no was the right answer. Or are hesitating to give someone an answer on something they know isn’t right but they can’t bring themselves to say no. But it is never worth it. Because as well as going through the pain of being somewhere or doing something you knew at the time wasn’t right, you have all the mental and emotional pieces to pick up afterwards as you try to recuperate from it. In my experience, when you say “no” honestly (whether it’s to working for no money, or working with someone who is a crazy-maker for you or whatever) you are simply making space for a better thing to come along. I have lost count of the clients I’ve talked to about this who, within 24 or 48 hours of an honest no, are sending me messages saying, you’ll never guess what I’ve just been offered the perfect thing out of the blue. Happens over and over again. Like clockwork.
FG: And finally, what are you hoping to get off of your chest at Sørveiv conference?
TG: I’m English, I don’t get things off my chest in public much! I’m really looking forward to the discussions about the music industry and mental health though. This has touched so many of my clients at some point in their career and I very much want to see how I can be part of that conversation and take action moving forward so fewer of the talented, passionate and inspiring people in our industry have to struggle with this in the future.
¹ Yes she could, God help us