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  • Announcing my appointment as national music writer at The Australian, from January 2018

    I have been appointed as national music writer at The Australian, as announced in the newspaper on Saturday 25 November 2017:

    Andrew McMillen announced as The Australian's national music writer, starting January 2018

    Before I start my next chapter at The Australian in January 2018, I wrote a Medium post to summarise my eight years in freelance journalism. Excerpt below.

    Never Rattled, Never Frantic

    Staying motivated during eight years in freelance journalism

    'Never Rattled, Never Frantic: Staying motivated during eight years in freelance journalism' by Andrew McMillen, December 2017

    Underneath my computer monitor are three handwritten post-it notes that have been stuck in place for several years. They each contain a few words that mean a lot to me.

    From left to right, they read as follows:

    1. “Alive time or dead time?”

    2. “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practised every day, while failure is simply a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

    3. “Never rattled. Never frantic. Always hustling and acting with creativity. Never anything but deliberate.”

    Since I began working as a freelance journalist in 2009, aged 21, I have worked from eight locations: two bedrooms, two home offices, three living rooms, and one co-working space.

    At each of these locations, I took to writing or printing quotes that I found motivational or inspirational. Most of them I have either absorbed by osmosis or outright forgotten, but there’s one I found around 2011 that retains a special resonance. I printed it in a large font, and stuck it to my wall:

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is practically a cliche. Education will not: the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all-powerful.”

    That long quote was torn down and tossed during a move, but the message was internalised. If I had to narrow my success down to a single attribute, it’s persistence. I could have quit on plenty of occasions, after any one of a number of setbacks. But I didn’t.

    In these motivational quotes, you may be sensing some themes.

    I would be lying if I told you that the act of writing and affixing these quotes helped me on a daily, or even a weekly basis. I didn’t repeat them out loud, like affirmations. Most of the time, they were as easy to ignore as wallpaper.

    But often enough in recent years, during down moments, or in times of stress or upheaval, I’d shift my gaze from the words–or the bright, blank page–on the computer monitor, and find that these few handwritten notes would help to centre my thoughts.

    Let me tell you why.

    To read the full story of how I kept myself motivated during eight years in freelance journalism, including significant help from my mentors Nick Crocker and Richard Guilliatt, visit Medium.

    And keep an eye on The Australian from January 2018 to see where I take the newspaper’s music coverage in my new role. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

  • guest post: ‘In praise of earplugs’, September 2011

    A guest post for, the online home of the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR). Excerpt below.

    In praise of earplugs: A live music reviewer’s perspective

    Anyone who regularly witnesses live music and doesn’t wear earplugs is an idiot.

    This is non-negotiable. No ifs, no buts. If you watch bands playing their music through amplifiers on a regular basis and you don’t wear earplugs, you’re silly.

    It’s the aural equivalent of staring into the sun. Sooner or later it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to make your life worse.

    Human nature being what it is, I completely understand why people are hesitant to take proactive measures to protect their hearing. The conversation tends to go something like: “If there’s no problem besides the occasional ringing ear after a concert, what’s the problem? Ringing ears are part of the live music experience, right?”

    Right, to an extent. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Picture it like this. You started life with 100% hearing. By exposing yourself to prolonged periods of loud noise – like, say, The Drones owning The Corner Hotel for 90 minutes on a Saturday night – you’re consistently chipping away at fractions of that 100%. Human hearing has no natural regenerative properties. Hearing aids may work in some circumstances, but that’s a reactive measure; something you might look into once you’ve made the mistake of standing next to the speaker stacks once too often.

    Like mental illness, hearing loss is easy to overlook because it’s something experienced by the individual, and rarely observed by outsiders. Tangible evidence is rare. If you start losing your hearing, your friends might even notice sooner than you do. They’ll see you straining to hear them talk in noisy environments – like, say, a music venue – and they might mock you for being hard of hearing.

    They have every right to – as long as they’re wearing earplugs. Because hearing loss is preventable, even among the most avid live music fans, as long as certain precautions are taken.

    Like wearing earplugs.

    I generally encountered two main concerns when I raise this topic.

    One: “I’ll look like an idiot while I’m putting them in and taking them out”.

    And two: “They’ll ruin the gig’s sound quality”.

    To read the full article, visit

  • guest post: ‘Artist patronage’, September 2011

    A guest post for, the online home of the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR). Excerpt below.

    Artist patronage: What does it mean to be a fan in 2011?

    If you tell me you’re a fan of The Jezabels or Kanye West in 2011, what might you mean by that?

    Let’s assume that you mean that, at a base level, you enjoy listening to music written, recorded and performed by a particular artist or band. You identify with their music, or lyrics, or image, for whatever reason. And so you elect to align yourself with this artist or band by listening to their music, ‘liking’ them on Facebook, telling your friends about their music, following them on Twitter, buying a ticket to their nearby shows, buying a t-shirt advertising their name, and perhaps, buying their music.

    The latter three are optional, nowadays; the last one, especially so. In 2011, buying music is like the ‘maybe’ you select on a Facebook event invite so as to not offend your friend, even though you immediately know you don’t want to attend. You know that you can buy an artist’s music, but you know that you can just as easily hear their music without making a transaction. You know that YouTube, streaming services and torrents are the most efficient methods of listening to music without having to pay for it.

    In 2011, it’s easier than ever to be a fan of an artist without ever parting with your money.

    This is a problematic situation for all but the biggest artists, many of who were already established before Napster smashed the piñata with a sledgehammer and left the entire music industry scrambling on the ground for pennies.

    It’s a bizarre situation where you can know all the words to your new favourite band’s debut album and catch their buzz-driven set during summer festival season without ever making an explicit donation into their wallets. They’ll get a performance fee from the tour promoter, of course, but generally speaking, the road to the Big Day Out is paved with poverty and hardship for every artist without wealthy benefactors supporting their art.

    Historically, this role has been inhabited by the record label: the wealthy benefactor who provided cash for talented musicians so that they might grow and mature as songwriters and performers. So that they might sell more records, play larger venues, and eventually provide a return on the record label’s initial investment. Labels were banks, signing mortgages to artists who might someday be able to own the house outright.

    Labels are banks, still, but they’re no longer the only service provider. Canny media platforms and service providers like Bandcamp and Topspin can become surrogate record labels for artists by distributing and marketing their music on a worldwide basis. Canny artists, too, can manage their own affairs, if they’re willing to invest significant attention into the business side of creativity. A third – and often overlooked – option exists: fans as artist patrons.

    We Are Hunted co-founder Nick Crocker defines patronage as, “One that supports, protects, or champions someone or something, such as an institution, event, or cause; a sponsor or benefactor: a patron of the arts.

    This notion of artist patronage is what we need to foster among the next generation of music fans. That music is valuable, because talent isn’t free.

    To read the full article, visit