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BUYER BEWARE

Conflicts of interest are common. We all have them, but they can become a bit tricky when we hold a position of power and we choose not to manage or declare our conflicts of interest.

Meanwhile, until WAM choose to do the necessary clean up, I suggest that people take a cautious approach and ask the WAM reps they deal with about their multiple roles and potential conflicts of interest. You’d be surprised.

Conflict of interest is an issue of such great importance that the WA Public Sector Commission’s Integrity Coordinating Group has published guidelines on how to manage it. (The Public Sector Commission is the organisation that oversees the WA public service.)

These guidelines define conflict of interest as follows:

“A conflict of interest is a situation arising from conflict between the performance of public duty and private or personal interests.”

“It isn’t wrong or unethical to have a conflict of interest, what is important is that it is identified and appropriately managed”

You can check out the full guidelines here.

In the music industry conflict of interest is inherent in almost every interaction and business transaction. People play multiple roles and leadership of the industry comes from within the ranks of those who are industry professionals. which is exactly as it should be.

Conflict of interest in the music industry was recently highlighted when, in October this year, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) stripped former Sony Music chief and former ARIA Board member, Dennis Handlin, of his ARIA Icon award. The reason for ARIA taking its award back was all over the media at the time so it’s not necessary to rehash that here. What is relevant is that Handlin was an ARIA Board member when he was given the award. This would have been well known in the industry, but not necessarily among the wider public who would have been interested to know that an organisation was giving out gongs to its own people. 

ARIA’s actions in giving out the award and Handlin’s in accepting it constitute a clear undeclared conflict of interest. All they had to do was be up front about it. By not putting it on the record, they did the wrong thing.

Here in Western Australia, the Western Australian Music Industry Association (WAM) also seems to have an undeclared conflict of interest currently in play.

On 29 November, WAM are offering a free workshop entitled ‘Sync 101’. The workshop aims to show musicians and industry professionals how to get their music licensed for inclusion in film, TV and advertising, an attractive proposition for any musicians looking for viable markets for their creations.

One of the presenters at the workshop is Dave Tenni from an organisation called Lolly Box Music. The Lolly Box Music website advises that their mission is to, “connect our international network of project music buyers with carefully curated content from the extraordinary pool of talented songwriters and musicians ‘down under’ in Australia”. Which, of course, they do for a fee.

It would be opportune, therefore, for an organisation like Lolly Box Music to be presenting at a workshop on music synching, because the audience would be made up of potential clients. Their involvement at the workshop has the potential to bring in new business for Lolly Box Music.

If you check the About Us page of the Lolly Box Music website you will find that the Creative Director of the organisation is Noah Shilkin. Shilkin also is Vice President of the WAM Board.  This information is included in Shilkin’s bio on the Lolly Box Music website, but his dual roles are not declared in the information about the ‘Sync 101’ workshop.

This is a clear undeclared conflict of interest that could have been dealt with so easily by WAM and Shilkin simply being up front about his dual roles and potential to gain financially from WAM’s workshop.

It does also lead one to wonder by what means Lolly Box Music were selected by WAM to present at the workshop given the close ties between Shilkin and WAM.

On 20 November, I sent Shilkin a message asking to speak to him about the workshop. I received no reply, not even a ‘no comment’. I sent a follow up request for comment on the morning of 27 November and also received no reply.

On its website, WAM claims to be the “peak music industry body of Western Australia,” and to “champion all forms and levels of WA music.”

If these are the organisation’s stated aims, WAM needs to lead by example. Tidying up its house in terms of conflict of interest would be a good place to start.

Meanwhile, until WAM choose to do the necessary clean up, I suggest that people take a cautious approach and ask the WAM reps they deal with about their multiple roles and potential conflicts of interest. You’d be surprised.

Buyer beware.

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