Adam Dunning, Sunset Club Productions

Melbourne VIC | June 2019

What is your business? How long has the business been operating?
I have a company that is split into 3 businesses. Music, production and a law firm. I’ve been doing parts of it for 10 years, but the arm that’s most relevant for Many Rivers is the production side.

I’m a creative who write songs, sells his voice and does some law.

What were you doing before you made contact with Many Rivers? What was your previous work experience?
I was a lawyer, a criminal layer and a media lawyer. I was working in London for the BBC, but during this time I was also ducking off in the early mornings to moonlight with a BBC local radio station in Berkshire, doing radio interviews as the token Australian, and presenting and producing some shows.  But I wanted to take my music more seriously and went to Rio de Janeiro to write and record as a bossa nova artist.

When I was releasing my albums in Australia after a radio interview at the ABC they asked if I wanted to present.

I became a presenter on the ABC, which then opened up into voice over work, and that got bigger and bigger. And now I have my own independent show back on the BBC (recorded from Australia), along with the same show doubling as a podcast.

The radio show is the first show I created out of my new production business, all arising because of the music and the interviews.

And the law business keeps moving because having gotten to know many fellow artists around the world, these artists and creatives would ask me to look at their contracts.

Who referred you to Many Rivers? When?
I did the NEIS program to develop my radio show, and so as a result of that Many Rivers was brought to my attention. It’s really important to have a mentor. We all need people to support us in business. That’s how I met Gina.

At that stage I was feeling so busy that we had one meeting and that was probably it for nearly a year.

The relationship’s been there 2 years, but we’ve been working together solidly for a year.

Why did you want to go into business?
I think that if you’ve got something to offer and you can enrich society from just you, instead of via someone else you’d be working for, that’s a wonderful thing.

I feel free. I can do what I want and earn money from it too.

As a service business it is however tough. Without you there’s nothing. You have no money. While a clothes supplier needs to maintain the quality of those t-shirts, but might be able to break every now and then while his clothes keep selling, I have to make sure my voice is always good and as a service business I always have to be available.

I find that law although it is a bit different to my creative pursuits, is still me. Entertainment law is specialised, and my clients come to me only because of my background and my understanding of what it is like to create and to be one of them.

Running a small business is about what you know, what you have confidence in, and belief in one’s self.

There are interesting challenges that pop up in my work. For example I’m currently working out if I need to insure my voice. Do I insure myself? It is risky when me and my voice, is pretty much my entire business.

What services did you receive from Many Rivers? How did it help?
Gina is my business mentor but if I were to summarise it, it’s about bouncing my own ideas off someone who is a great soundboard. Gina has so much knowledge and experience herself, but the biggest help is that Many Rivers allows me to be free in my concepts and creations. She allows me to navigate more easily.

Gina never tries to interfere in what I’m doing. She just gives me a different point of view.

What did you find the most useful about the assistance from Many Rivers?
Gina doesn’t set out to steer the business, she listens. She’s not in it, so she can offer a more neutral point of view.

She can raise issues that I may have overlooked (eg superannuation), and things that you don’t think about as you start running your own business.

Did you get a loan from MR? How did you use the loan?
No, I haven’t taken a loan as yet. It’s been more about the support so far.

Do you have any current employees? If so, how many employees? Are they full time or part-time?
This is the issue, it’s all me. The most I can do is hire support to help me administer the business. Even that, it’s about relinquishing control. I’m starting to get better at it, but no, no employees yet.

What has been the biggest challenge to date?
Getting into my market. Really breaking into the market to be a viable competitor. It’s a big challenge. It’s the most realistic challenge.

Everyone overlooks it, but the first and foremost thing you should aim for is being recognised in your chosen industry. It’s not something that happens overnight.

And then there’s the sweet spot, you hit momentum and you have repeat business and that keeps you going. When people start coming back you know you’re doing ok.

What has been the biggest success to date?
In regards to my new production business, it would be getting my radio show on the BBC. It started as a NEIS idea and just grew. The BBC commissioned it a month and a half ago.  As for my music career, singing and releasing records is the best!

What has been the biggest change for you/your family since you started your business?
Grey hair (haha).

Organisation. It’s all about management. Every thing from your working week and your diary, to your cashflow is all about managing it all well.

I think keeping it simple, and being disciplined  is really key.  It’s almost a military concept. Before you go out there, you need to look after yourself and be stringent about it. You gotta take care of yourself completely, or you’ll be no good to your business or to your clients. I’ve needed to be organised, and needed to mange my time, almost religiously.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?
It’s a bit of a running joke. Gina is on an endless battle to keep me operating as a lawyer, even though my creative side keeps growing.

I want to start a music publishing business, which would incorporate both my legal and artistic background. It would be about taking care of the people behind the music – the songwriters. It’s the music publisher that takes care of the song properties, and it’s not that well understood as a profession. But I can do it, and the industry needs a bit of a shake up too I feel.