SARAH HAMILTON: A SILENT CHAMPION OF AUSTRALIAN MUSIC

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When we think of pioneers in the scene who have guided it to where it is today, obvious candidates like Sampa The Great and Kerser come to mind. Behind the booth however, the silent champions of the industry can often go without their flowers.

A prime example of someone with a largely under-appreciated contribution to hip-hop in Australia, is Sarah Hamilton. She spent nearly the last decade working as the Regional Manager AU/NZ at music company Ditto Music, where she’s helped artists including Kwame, ONEFOUR, and Kaiit. Having worked in digital distribution in Australia since 2008, she’s also worked and lived in London and New York City. Now, Hamilton is based at The Annex, a marketing services business whose domestic roster is comprised of Genesis Owusu, A.Girl, BLESSED, Miiesha, YNG Martyr and more.

In 2017, Sarah co-founded the organisation and charity One Of One alongside Joanna Cameron and Vader Fame. Dedicated to uplifting female and GNC members of the Australian music industry, One Of One host annual breakfasts on March 8th for International Women’s Day. This year, they announced their biggest roll out to date with five industry events held across the month in Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

In celebration of Women’s History Month this March, we caught up with Sarah Hamilton to discuss her One Of One journey, some of her favourite local acts, and what she thinks is next for the Australian scene. You can find more about One Of One and read their extensive catalogue of interviews with female and GNC members of the music industry here.

Talk to me about your personal motivations behind co-founding One Of One and the story of its beginnings.

SH: For sure. Basically we wanted to spotlight the amazing women and GNC people that were getting things done in the music industry. It’s always been about storytelling – and giving a platform to people that may not usually have one. There are so many people behind the scenes in the music world that deserve the spotlight from time to time. We host events for women and GNC people in music too, and this year ran events in 5 states. We just want to keep profiling people and giving them platforms to tell their stories. 

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years through One Of One?

SH: So many states and cities would love One Of One events, we just need to build out our team first! We’d love to expand the events so more people can experience them. We also want to keep telling stories via our website and are looking at a podcast potentially too. We also want to do more events and invite men and allies to them, to help bridge some gaps. There’s so much that can be done, and we are so happy to have the community that we do. 

What advice do you have for females or femme-identifying individuals in the early stages of a career in the music industry?

SH: Find your people and your community! There is so much power in community and you will feel supported, and they will help you grow.

With this year’s International Women’s Day theme of ‘Embracing Equity’ in mind, what would you like to see more of in the Australian music scene?

SH: Garcia who was on one of the panels in our Eora/Sydney event made such a great statement: “The grass is greener where you water it.” I think this can be applicable to so many things, but we need to move past tokenism and invest in people and communities that will benefit from it, but that will also be future leaders of our industry. I also think there’s a knowledge gap between experienced people in the industry and those that are starting out. I think mentorship programs are great, but even some more casual mentoring or a way to get these skills and knowledge transferred to others is really important. 

You’ve been a champion of this new wave in Australian hip-hop for years, and your work at Ditto for the last decade has played an integral role in building some of the country’s biggest artists. What do you predict to be next for the scene, and who will lead the pack in this next era?

SH: Oh thank you so much! I feel honoured to have been able to learn about and be a part of the community at times. Although again, sometimes it’s better for me to move aside so others can lead, I’m happy to play a supporting role where I can. I think there are some amazing R&B artists coming through that are world-class, and I do love the collaborations and genre mix ups that are happening. I’m a fan of GoldFang, Pania, Bumpy, and also a lot of artists in the Afropop and Afrofusion genres, I think Australia is slowly catching up to the rest of the world which is exciting.  

Who are some other females or femme-identifying individuals that you think deserve their flowers for their work in the music industry?

SH: Mung Mung is on the up.

Vv Pete is going to change things.

Sophiya is one to watch.

Bumpy’s voice is incredible.

Pania is world class.

What is your proudest moment along your journey?

SH: What a great question. I was really proud to see Miiesha’s Times Square Billboard, and the global support for her, as well as for Kaiit. To see music that started out here being supported globally and artists that are incredibly creative being honoured for their work makes me happy. 

With One Of One, it’s hearing the stories of young people being inspired after the events and feeling powerful. It makes me feel like the future is in safe hands. 

Which artists from Aus inspire you the most when it comes to their growth and place in the scene at large?

SH: Sampa the Great is next level, Mo’Ju is a true artist and we will hear a lot more from Kaiit. 

I admire any artist who is true to their creative vision and adds something special to the world. 

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