Oh my fraud!

Like most professional musicians, I have endured and persisted with a lifelong education and dedication to musical training from a young age. I have pursued all avenues that were financially and physically available to me and every day of my musical life I have either played, practiced, produced, studied or composed music. 

So why do I have such a difficult time referring to myself as professional musician? How is it possible that me and some of my close friends who are very skilled musicians also feel they are not at the standard they need to be, in order to fill the roles they are currently filling?

Imposter syndrome.

4 years ago, my partner (who thankfully for me, has a bachelor of science) explained to me the symptoms and traits of someone with imposter syndrome. Do not be alarmed fellow readers, we have not taken the plunge into the ever present world of darkness and depression, but simply glaze over a symptom that many creatives experience.

Imposter syndrome is in no way a mental illness or disease and is not to be confused with a thing that can be diagnosed, which is why it is referred to as a phenomena. 

Someone experiencing imposter syndrome is in a ‘psychological pattern’ of doubting their own achievements and has an insisting fear of being exposed as a fraud, even when external factors prove them otherwise. 
It is most commonly found in women, and even more so in women of colour. 

While I’m certain there are a ridiculous number of factors contributing to my imposter syndrome I feel the most resonance from my own reflection. Being the first individual in my family to successfully complete high school, receive a Bachelor’s Degree and live my life as a full time musician, feels so unlikely that it appears unrealistic. 

There are many projects I find myself on where I am so completely overwhelmed with it that I believe the fraud to be true and have an episode of utter despair. 

It can be incredibly debilitating and nauseating having the constant doubt and fear of being exposed as a fake musician that it can almost be unbearable. 

Though I know, being in the industry this long that I am not the only one who feels this way. Putting aside the hardcore mental illness stuff, let’s just reflect on this self-fraudulent phenomena. 

Why are we, at a personal level, experiencing these symptoms? Are there external factors we could amend to suspend the persistent fear? Is there a positive spin on this syndrome? And how do you cope with the doubt at the end of the day?

I invite you to converse with me in the comments below.

Tamara Partridge Comment
Don't ASMR too close to me!

Why do certain sounds make us feel uncomfortable? 

It is Arts’ very nature to evoke and provoke an emotional response but if we remove the conglomeration of a musical piece or composition and simply analyse the emotive power of a single unit of sound, we can still be very intellectually, psychologically and sometimes even physically affected.

I am a composer who loves to challenge listeners and through my more experimental lead synthesised and sampled work, I actively listen for and organise disconcerting and uncomfortable sounds into through-composed musical pieces. Some sounds are globally recognised as disturbing and some, in a very general sense, may include:
- nails on a chalkboard (you all knew that would be number one)
- metallic textures and loud machinery
- human pained sounds such as screaming or crying

But of course there are also cultural and societal sounds that are disturbing for others, for instance my grandpa finds the sound of traffic and the metro environment very stressful because he is used to the natural sounds of a quiet sea town. For some in the metro districts they may find the quiet ambience an eerie silence to the constant hustle and bustle of the city districts. 

I myself have personal sounds that I find utterly disgusting. I was recently working with a very skilled actress and the ADR session required her to deliver an almost ASMR driven performance. Between the heavy breathing, sighing, moaning, grunting….no it is not a work of pornographic nature believe it or not, and lastly; sounds of licking and sucking of fingers (but Tamara how could this not be a porno? I digress it is not sexual in nature at all.)

During this session, like all sessions, we as sound editors are required to filter through the multiple takes, gate out all unwanted noises and hums, sculpt out frequencies and create a dynamic balance. All of this means we have to listen to the sounds over and over and over. This is where I learnt that the sounds of someone sucking and licking their own fingers within an inch of a Neumann TLM103 is an incredulously offending sound, BUT WHY?!

Personally, it sounds like someone is trying to chew a tough piece of steak right in your face and the act of someone doing that would be an infringement on personal boundaries in so many ways but I also found the sound of saliva moving around the mouth disturbing. This is inherently what kissing sounds like though, and I find kissing in no way offensive. 

I feel it’s an interesting topic to discuss as it can challenge us as composers and listeners to open our ears up to more challenging sounds and reflect on why we respond in such a strong emotional way.
What sounds disturb and disgust you?

Tamara PartridgeComment
Music Composer: The one-stop-shop

In Australia, we are limited in many ways in the creative arts industries. Limits are not always detrimental and in many cases can have positive creative impacts; dub music for example is a genre born out of poverty and and hip hop was born out of adversity (there’s so many more examples but we can talk about the interplay of music and society another time.)

My point is, limitations can spark and encourage us to embark on creative ventures that we might not otherwise subject ourselves too.

However, the reason I am focusing on the Australian Industry is because, well I live and work here, but because as citizens, residents and visitors it is within our best interest to work towards making our creative arts industries more sustainable, financially supportive and economically supportive. 

As a music composer I have found myself in other sound and audio fields that I (was not) initially trained or experienced in but out of necessity  for a project or at the begging of a producer obtained the skills and knowledge I needed to fulfil the following roles:

Sound Designer
Music Supervisor
Music Producer
Sound Producer
Sound Editor
Dialogue Editor
Foley Artist
Sound Recordist

This seems like a ridiculous list and it is and I am in no way promoting that I am a master at all of these things, that would be practically impossible (thought I know there are some genius people out there, I unfortunately and not that gifted.) 

In other countries and communities around the world with a stronger industry and supporting system (both from the economy and government) the roles set above are assigned to individual people or companies with multiple people. For example in Los Angeles a Dialogue Editor and Foley Artists are completely separate roles, which is obvious because they require different skills, equipment and expertise.
In Australia however, we do not have this luxury because we do not have the financial support, the government support, the education support nor do we have the promotion to generate the desire of going into these fields. Therefore if you find yourself skilled and working in one era you are likely to be enquired after for other roles.
I have personally worked very hard to up-skill not just for my own personal gratification and for a higher quality of my own music and music productions but for the benefit of my clients who create films, games and other multimedia projects. If I can generate a higher quality product, their product in turn will be of a higher industry standard that will help grow our industry. Action, reaction, repeat. 

I hope one day to spend all of my time (simply) as a composer for multimedia. That is what I really want to do and now that I am receiving a higher volume of work I am able to financially delegate other roles such as sound design, sound recordist and mixing to another person or party. This is the way to continue to build our industry; it will involve more people which means there will be a larger number of employees in the industry and there will be a higher quality of work because there will be more hands on deck ensuring the roles are completed as professionally as possible. 

When working with other creatives make room in your budget to hire multiple people for your sound team where you can, we know it’s not always feasible or viable but large companies, large scale independent projects and those with funding should be more diligent with how to delegate those roles. Musicians and sound producers need to take responsibility too and ensure that you have the skills and knowledge to fulfil the role/s you have been employed to complete and if you cannot you are equally responsible for delegating those roles. 

For instance, I can’t play French Horn, I could drop everything and practice it 8 hours a day for the next 4 years to be able to, but I’m not; so when I need French Horn I will delegate the role to a player to fulfil the part.

It just makes sense. Hopefully we can work towards promoting our industry by seeing each other as assets not just as competition. 

The Tortured Artist

The correlation between artistry and mental illness has presented itself countless times not only in contemporary artistic culture but has also been recorded in artists during the classical composition period. 

Because of the high ratio of artists with unstable mentality or issues with mental health it must be that it is a ‘fact’ that must be ‘worn’ or ‘suffered.’ BullS%^&

Hannah Gadsby, if you aren’t aware, was the motivational speaker we didn’t know we needed and she imparted her most gracious and graphic skills and knowledge to an audience of both creatives and non-creatives a like about the effect that glamourising ‘tortured ‘ artists can have.


This is the best example of a superstar, if ever there was one. Not only is she able to communicate so intimately with a large scale and televised audience, but she does it with an incredible balance of humour and honesty. 

The part about her performance (that I have enjoyed watching numerous times) is how she deconstructs the misconceptions between mental health and artistry. Here’s the summary; they are not related.

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret….I too have experienced mental health problems……guess why……BECAUSE I’M A HUMAN! Whether someone is have mental ability issues could be a multitude of reasons whether or not they are related directly to their work or not is (A) none of your business and (B) not a debate for speculation. 

There are many people struggling with their mental health everyday across a multitude of industries and perhaps the stress on creatives is higher than other industries because we are expected to present perfection without reciprocating payment; but that’s a discussion for another time.

I just really want to point out how frustrating it is when people are under the delusion that for an artist to produce good art they must have some traumatic life experience and be in a perpetual state of misery and suffering, all for the sake of art, of course. 

I, personally, create music much more successfully when I am in a clear and positive headspace and I’m sure you’ll find most, if not all, artists would say the same.

Mental illness is not something to take lightly and to create environments in the arts community where people feel not only safe but feel like their feelings are legitimised is so important. 

You are not sensitive because you are an artist and you are not an artist because you are sensitive. 

You may be a sensitive person and you may be an artist but your mental health does not to be created from your work and you certainly do not need to suffer to create great art. 

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Credit where credit's due

Exposure. Experience. Internship. Opportunity.
These seem to be common terms existing in the realm of both the music and creative arts industries globally. It is a particularly interesting issue when the balance between experience required and performance expectations are grossly imbalanced. There is a large volume of consumers that believe the value of music can be purchased for peanuts, that is by giving new artists, composers and producers ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’ rather than, well, money, that should suffice for their years and hours of dedication toward their instrument or practice. The scariest part of this accepted exchange is that most of the people employing the musicians and artists are creatives themselves!
In the film, game, dance, design, theatre, live music, studio work and music production projects I have worked in, almost all of them have created barriers around the value of my music and my practice.

As musicians, we have somehow collectively agreed that doing things for free is a part of our business journey and our musical progression, which is ludicrous. Let’s say I have been a diligent maths student, completing my skills in basic addition, division, subtraction and multiplication by the age of 10, now let’s say I am proficient in algebra, trigonometry and long division at age 18 and by the time I complete my university degree I am now accomplished in calculus and advanced mathematics. Now the bank has offered me a job as a risk assessor but I have to work the first 3 years for free, because I need the experience. Does it sound stupid? Yes. Because it is.

The expectation on creative practitioners creates an unrealistic work environment which in turn leads us to the deluded ideology that music and arts are not “real jobs”. The fact that musicians all over the world practice daily for years, study intensively for at least 3 years for a Bachelor and are then expecting to leave with no job prospects is a large factor into the ideology in front of us. The waves of change that need to be erupted to enact new concepts and practices in the music industry will have the greatest impact if we are all apart of the cause and affect chain.
I need a graphic designer to help me with this website, I pay them; now this is not always in dollars. It can be a percentage cut from royalties, it can be a trade exchange (photos for audio branding for example) or it can be a lump sum. There needs to be some kind of realistic exchange between the consumer and the provider in order to start creating a more realistic and enjoyable work environment for musicians.

Next time you need a professional creative for anything, make sure you calmly negotiate the terms of the exchange in a rational and fare way. Everyone’s conclusions will be different as part of the beauty of the arts industry is that the projects are always diverse and constantly expanding; but we cannot rely on exposure and experience once we have been credited for the years of time and effort it takes to become a proficient artist. We have experience, that’s why we are good at what we do. When it comes time to hire a professional, be realistic and you will always get the best result.

Creatives be realistic with other creatives and help create a more realistic work environment for musicians and artists everywhere.