Crafting his work from a place of deep artistic integrity, Louis has gathered a loyal following that spans the world over. Everyone from India Arie (“Louis Baker, you sing my soul”) to BBC 6 Music, Clash Magazine and Earmilk have shown love for what he does.
Growing up in the working-class suburb of Newtown, Wellington, Louis developed his passion for music at an early age listening to his parent’s diverse record collection, which featured the likes of Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell.
Picking up his singer-songwriter mother’s Yamaha acoustic guitar as an 11 year-old, he was shown a few chords and then went on to learn to play the instrument by ear. This obsession with the guitar would lead him through a metal phase all the way to the world of rhythm and blues, with guitar players such as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The former inspired the then 15-year-old Baker to pick up a wah-wah pedal in an attempt to conjure the spirit of the late great Voodoo Child.
At the age of 17, Baker entered Play It Strange, a national songwriting competition organised by Split Enz’s Mike Chunn. His song ‘Three Ladies’, dedicated to the experiences of his mother and two sisters, saw him place top five, with his prize being an acoustic guitar that he still records and travels with today. Following high school, Baker enrolled at Jazz School through the New Zealand School of Music, supplementing his studies with live gigs around the city.
Baker’s first official release came in 2011 with the song ‘Even In The Darkness’. The track won him the most votes on 'The Audience', a New Zealand government funded website dedicated to new, unreleased music. Then in 2013 Baker was chosen out of 4000 applicants to take one of only 60 places at the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in New York. The programme included guest lectures from Brian Eno, Questlove (The Roots) and Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest) and also saw Louis experience a studio session with legendary hip hop producer Just Blaze.
Following the Academy, he spent the summer in London recording his debut self-titled EP with UK producer Andy Lovegrove (Supergrass, Breaks Co-Op, Badly Drawn Boy), which upon release in 2014, debuted at #3 on the New Zealand Top 40 Albums Chart. The EP track ‘Back On My Feet’ saw Baker debut as a finalist in the prestigious APRA Silver Scrolls Awards. Baker quickly followed up the EP by teaming up with New Zealand-born, UK-based Ninja Tune signing Jordan Rakei on the track, ‘Just Want to Thank You’.
Throughout 2016 and 2017 Baker released four stand-alone singles, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Fade’, ‘Gave It All Away’ and ‘Addict’. Accompanied by an equally stark video, which has since seen over a quarter of a million views, long-time New Zealand music critic and author, Grant Smithies said of ‘Rainbow’, “A glorious song this – sad and sparse, wise and true, with a restraint to the vocal that suits the vulnerability of the love-lorn lyric.” Baker’s next release ‘Fade’ was co-written and produced by Brad Ellis (Wilkinson, James Arthur, Sam Smith) of London based duo The Nextmen. ‘Gave it All Away’ saw the release of two distinctly different versions, a strikingly raw acoustic version and an electronic version produced by Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Mu. Finally ’Addict’ saw Baker team up with two-time Ivor Novello winner and Grammy nominated songwriter and producer Sacha Skarbek, fellow New Zealanders producer Josh Fountain (LEISURE) and Theia. The four tracks saw Baker accumulate over 7.5 million streams within the space of a year and make the top 20 finalist list for the APRA Silver Scroll in 2017 with ‘Rainbow’.
Over the years Baker has toured New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Europe multiple times, he has also played at key international festivals including Field Days - London, Sonar Festival - Barcelona, Sziget Festival – Hungary, Splendour In The Grass - Australia, as well as Rhythm and Vines and Homegrown back in his home country of New Zealand. He has also toured with the likes of Allen Stone, Jamie Liddel and Jordan Rakei.
Baker released his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Open’ in 2019, which received prestigious a Taite Music Prize nomination, and Aotearoa Music Awards nominations for Best Soul Artist and Best Māori Artist. Written and produced in London, Los Angeles, Sydney and New Zealand, the album sees him reflecting on being open to opportunity, to change and to acceptance. Working with Grammy-nominated Engineer and Producer, Steve Rusch (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Cody Chesnutt), multi-platinum selling songwriter Lindy Robbins (Andra Day, Chromeo).
Previous singles ‘Back On My Feet’ (2014), ‘Rainbow’ (2016), and ‘Black Crow’ (2018) have been recognised with APRA Silver Scroll nominations.
Louis latest offering, Love Levitates, takes his signature brand of modern-soul to bright new territory. Working with producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Devin Abrams (Dallas Tamaira, Drax Project, Pacific Heights), Love Levitates is Baker’s five-track opus of life, an intimate yet expansive journey of heritage, love, friendship, observation, and beyond.
We offer one-to-one mentoring for self/managed and independent artists at any stage of your career.
Sessions cover everything from the business of music, artist development, music industry introductions, marketing and promotion, live shows and touring, release strategy, content creation, distribution and goal setting.
We help you to navigate challenges by sharing information about our own experiences, as well as providing practical guidance, motivation and support.
Sessions are tailor-made to suit your needs.
WORKSHOPS & SEMINARS
Aston Rd provides tailor-made workshops and seminars for music industry organisations around the country.
Some of the organisations we've worked with;
Te Auaha Performing Arts, Pao Pao Pao, MMF NZ, Te Mangai Paho, Hawkes Bay Music Hub and Sole Music Academy.
In 2022 we will be launching a series of Artist Development workshops and masterclasses for emerging artists.
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"Self-management is not easy. When I'm trying to do everything myself, being able to call on Cushla – who can look at the situation with an objective eye – is vital. She's a great sounding board, offering honest appraisals on all matters and helping me to see the whole forest, not just the trees!" - Julia Deans
"infectious neo-soul” - Rolling Stone
"sonic serotonin” - Happy Mag
'rich and intoxicating' - Pilerats
'such power in Baker's songwriting' -
Line Of Best Fit
'incredibly soulful... stiflingly raw' - Earmilk
“solid soul goodness” - KCRW
IMAGE COURTESY OF SOLE ACADEMY
HELPFUL INFO FOR INDEPENDENT ARTISTS
Here's a one-stop shop of resources to help you on your career path.
It's pretty cool that we can get funding to help our music careers in Aotearoa. Check out some of the funding agencies below.
NZ On Air - Irirangi te Motu
NZ On Air funds the recording and promotion of single songs, multi-song projects and video content to help connect great NZ songs with NZ audiences.
NZ On Air will pay a maximum of $10,000 (plus GST if registered) for the eligible costs of recording a single, creating video content to promote the single and other promotion costs to increase NZ audience awareness and engagement with the audio and video content.
To be eligible to apply for New Music Single (pūtea tautoko) you must reach at least 10 out of 30 criteria benchmarks for your music to date.
Funding of between $10,00 and $40,000 is available for multi-song projects- which includes an up to $4,000 (10%) Artist Creation Fee.
NZ On Air will pay on a 80% reimbursement basis, meaning that the music company/applicant must co-invest a minimum of 20% of the costs of completing the Project.
New Music Development
New Music Development is a new funding initiative designed to support the development of new songs from emerging artists working with established music producers within New Zealand.
Grants of up to $6,000 (+ GST) are available to producers for development of a body of work with one artist, with a minimum of three demo recordings to be delivered at the end of the development period.
New Music Pasifika
Funding of up to $10,000 is available for artists of Pacific background, for a single song - which can now include a $1,000 (10%) Artist Creation Fee. NZ On Air will pay a maximum of $10,000 (plus GST if registered) for the eligible costs of recording a single, creating video content to promote the single and other promotion costs to increase NZ audience awareness and engagement with the audio and video content.
New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online media platforms each month. With over 230 volumes, New Tracks (previously Kiwi Hit Disc) is the most comprehensive catalogue of New Zealand contemporary puoro ever assembled. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song, a cover image and a promotional plan.
Te Māngai Pāho
Te Māngai Pāho provides contestable funding to artists and producers who make music for airplay and streaming. Waiata Reo Māori; Waiata Takitahi Funding is also available for initiatives that widely promote and celebrate waiata reo Māori.
Waiata Takitahi – (‘single song’) – is a co-fund launched as a collaboration between NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho. You must be a New Zealand artist interested in recording and releasing a bilingual single with potential general audience appeal and a minimum of 25% te reo Māori in the song lyrics.
Funding of up to $14,000 (plus GST if registered) is available to put towards the costs of recording a single song, creating video content and other visual collateral, and putting resource towards promotion, publicity and marketing for the single release. Funds can also be used to pay for the services of a te reo Māori language consultant.
Creative New Zealand
Arts Grants is the most popular fund open to emerging and established artists, arts practitioners and arts organisations for a range of activity. Arts Grants offer short-term project funding between $5,000 to $75,000. This funding enables more sustainable careers, encourages innovation and the development of arts practice, and provides opportunities for diverse communities to access the arts.
New Zealand Music Commission
The New Zealand Music Commission Te Reo Reka O Aotearoa is a government funded organisation that promotes music from New Zealand and supports the growth of New Zealand music businesses – both culturally and economically, at home and abroad. The hub of NZ Music Month, the Music Commission also deliver contemporary music programmes in schools, including the Musicians Mentoring in Schools Programme; provides music upskilling tools and resources; and runs the international market development & trade show programme Outward Sound.
Outward Sound offers financial support to New Zealanders wanting to grow to an overseas market. Outward sound is an intuitive set up to encourage the entry of NZ musicians into global markets. You an apply for assistance through grant programmes here.
The Aotearoa Touring Programme can invest in approved domestic touring costs to help New Zealand artist to increase their access to live music events for NZ audiences. Applications require a comprehensive tour budget and marketing plan.
Touring Programme - Applicant Information & Resources:
The Capability Grants Programme is a contestable fund from the NZ Music Commission for music industry up skilling, training and development opportunities
Here is a section from the NZ Music Commission with useful information and one pagers valuable to the NZ Music Industry. Resources include:
How to create an Electronic Press Kit (pg 4)
Promoting your gig (pg 4)
PR Tips (pg 2)
Getting on a Festival Line up (pg 4)
How to approach a record label (pg 6)
Touring programme overview (pg 1)
When and how to approach a record label (pg 6)
Sample applications for touring applications and capability grants (pg 2)
Capability grant overview (pg 1)
Getting started planning a tour (pg 6)
How to budget for a tour (pg 7)
Things to remember (pg 9)
HELPFUL INDUSTRY BODIES
These music industry bodies can help you on your music career path.
The Music Managers Forum Aotearoa is the collective voice for music managers and self-managed artists, both signed and independent. The MMF is dedicated to helping grow artist manager businesses by providing a platform allowing free mentoring one-on-one sessions to its members with a variety of industry professionals.
Australasian Performing Right Association is a free industry body all New Zealand artists who have music distributed online should be registered with. APRA role is to license organisations to play, perform, copy, record or make available your music. They are responsible for distributing your royalties globally to allow you cash in the bank.
RECORDED MUSIC NZ
This body is responsible for collecting royalties for your recorded music. Recorded Music NZ pays 50% of revenues from a recording to the registered recording artist(s) and 50% to the Master Rights Holders (ie the owner or licensee of copyright).
INDEPENDENT MUSIC NZ
IMNZ offers collective bargaining opportunities and a connection to global organisations including the Worldwide Independent Network, Merlin and compatriot independent trade association for Independent Labels. They further support the community with the annual Taite Music Prize, a weekly newsletter and independent charts as well as various showcases across the year.
MusicHelps supports hundreds of projects across New Zealand, each using the power of music to change the lives of thousands of New Zealanders in need. Whilst also providing emergency assistance to thousands of music people experiencing hardship and illness through our suite of music support services, including a world first, professional online, on-the-phone and face-to-face counselling service tailored to people who make music possible.
SoundCheck Aotearoa is an action group formed in 2020 with a mission to foster a safe and inclusive culture for the music community. Key values include fair representation, an inclusive culture with practices and behaviours to ensure that individuals feel respected, included and heard, an environment where they are safe from discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and violence, access to advocacy on behalf of their specific needs and challenges.
The Music Producers Guild NZ helps with legal questions, advice on production and enables you to contact a network of other producers and the wider industry. To be a member you pay a yearly fee, of which the options are provided via this link.
Other useful resources
Check out these links for some useful tools. We've even created some cool templates to help you!
Here are a couple of glossaries with music industry terms to become familiar with.
Thanks APRA AMCOS and Music Industry Inside Out
The Taite Music Prize highlights outstanding albums recognising and celebrating the depth of talent and breadth of genres that make up Aotearoa’s unique musical voice. It is open to all genres of music and judged on artistic merit regardless of genre, sales, or record label.
2023 Eligibility Dates:
Any album released in the calendar year (January to December) of 2022 is eligible for nomination.
Many thanks to Independent Music New Zealand (IMNZ)
The Waiata Māori Music Awards seeks to develop, encourage and honour the achievements of outstanding traditional and contemporary musical compositions and performances annually. This is the most prestigious music awards ever to acknowledge our Māori composers.
2023 Eligibility Dates:
Only recordings released in New Zealand during the period from
1st July 2022 - 30 June 2023
Thanks to Waiata Māori Music Awards
The work must be an original song.
The work must have been made available as a recording for purchase by the public or through a streaming service in New Zealand.
2023 Eligibility Dates:
Recording must have been released in New Zealand between: 1st July 2022 and 30th June 2023.
Cheers APRA AMCOS NZ
The Pacific Music Awards is the annual awards event, which celebrates Pacific music. The event provides the opportunity to honour the achievements and success of our current Pacific artists and also pay tribute to legacy and developing artists.
2023: Eligibility Dates:
The recordings, singles, EPs or albums, must have been first released for public sale, during the eligible period of
1st January – 31 December 2022
Thanks to Pacific Music Awards
The Aotearoa Music Awards (“AMA”) is a celebration of artists and those behind the scenes in the recorded music industry in Aotearoa.
As host and kaitiaki of the AMA, Recorded Music NZ is committed to fostering a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for everyone involved.
2023 Eligibility Dates:
Any artists who have recordings commercially released between 1st August 2022 and 31st July 2023
Thanks to Recorded Music NZ
If you sell vinyl, CDs or cassettes at a show those sales go towards the NZ Music charts. But you must complete this form and send it through to Radioscope before 10am Friday.
We've put together a budget template for recording and touring. These budgets align with both NZ On Air and NZ Music Commission funding applications.
To get access, subscribe to Aston Rd and send us an email request.
MUSIC CAREER MASTERCLASS 2022
Aston Rd is proud to present a series of six masterclasses specifically designed to help the development of ten Wellington-based independent artists who are serious about making a career in the music business.
Presenting the series is Artist Manager and Music Business Consultant Cushla Aston of Aston Rd alongside some of New Zealand's industry leaders in their field.
Each module is delivered in person and offers practical advice to help you up-skill
and fast track your music career development.
We want to help you map out the steps to developing a focused and meaningful music career.
MINDSET & MUSIC
Whakawhanaungatanga - In our first session we'll spend time establishing our relationships alongside learning how to balance both the business and creative sides of music with a positive mindset. We welcome Dr Luke Rowe, a clinical psychologist, Senior Lecturer Hauora and Mindset Coach for the Hurricanes Super Rugby and Pulse Netball Teams.
Delivered by course Facilitator Cushla Aston.
Speaker: Luke Rowe
THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC & GOAL SETTING
The first half of this session will cover everything business - business structure, tax obligations, book keeping, how to make money, contracts, the value of your assets and more. Our belief is Artists who understand the business and how they make money become sustainable faster and make better music career decisions.
The second half of this session will look at how to define goals and why goal setting, plans and strategy are critical to the development of a music career. By the end of the session attendees will have a 12-month plan and a strategy to align their goals and vision.
Delivered by Cushla Aston.
Speaker: Nina Da Costa, Tax Accountants
THE AUTHENTIC ARTIST 1
PRESS RELEASES & BIOS
What makes you and your music authentic and stand out in the crowd? In this session we help our artists to identify their unique voice. They will learn how to craft a press release and biography using structure, creative writing techniques and facts.
Delivered by course Facilitator Cushla Aston.
Mentor: Leanda Borrett
Mentor: Martyn Pepperell
THE AUTHENTIC ARTIST 2 THE IMAGE
A strong image can be the difference between getting the front cover or a small editorial. Fans connect with you and your music by the way you look and sound. In this session we talk about styling, what it says about you and how to use what you've got.
Delivered by course Facilitator Cushla Aston.
Mentor: Kate Stacey - Stylist
DIGITAL MARKETING, THE FUNDAMENTALS
With a focus on Facebook and Instagram we help students to set up a Business Manager account and create a demo ad. We focus on target audiences, how to boost, how to set up a cross-post and discuss what makes an engaging ad. Students will have the skills to run their own FB & IG digital campaigns.
Delivered by course Facilitator Cushla Aston.
Mentor: Molly Littlejohn
Team: Nina Lesperance
IIn this final session we cover the essentials of media training - preparation, the do's and dont's, what makes a great story and how to navigate the demands of a media run. Students will have an opportunity to be interviewed by a radio presenter with feedback.
Delivered by course Facilitator Cushla Aston.
Mentor: Nicole Thomas
Mentor: Yadana Saw
FOLLOW UP COACHING SESSION
Participants receive a one hour one-to-one coaching session with the course founder Cushla Aston.
MEET OUR MENTORS
Leanda has nearly 30 years’ experience working in the broadcast and media industries across music, film and television. In 2016 she established her own music PR company 'Eleventy12' and is currently a mentor, specialising in music marketing, for Music Managers Forum Aotearoa and NZ On Air.
Nicole co-directs 'NicNak Media' (PR and promotions and music management). She has over 20 years of experience in media industries including 8 years at Warner Music NZ specialising in publicity and radio promotion.
Molly Littlejohn is a Talent Manager at People of Influence, working with genuine talent such as radio hosts, musicians, actors, athletes and more to secure brand deals to help evolve their social media accounts.
Luke is of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Raukawa descent. His background is in Clinical Psychology and is a Senior Lecturer at Massey University and Mindset Coach for the Hurricanes Super Rugby and Central Pulse Netball teams.
Nina da Costa
Nina is a Wellington based taxation accountant, with a particular in interest in Entertainment. With over 20 years of experience working with bands and artists, her clients include Fat Freddys Drop, Lord Echo, Louis Baker and more.
Martyn is a music journalist, broadcaster, DJ and event promoter, with his writing presented worldwide. Outside of journalism, Martyn has served on funding and arts assessment panels for NZ On Air, Creative New Zealand and The Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
Kate stacey is a business owner in Wellington creative director / brand direction and social media consultant of young artists at the start of their music careers
Yadana is an experienced broadcaster and radio producer. She has onscreen experience hosting RNZ’s 2016 Silver Scroll coverage and the The Spinoff’s Final Mix series. She is passionate about storytelling and creating the right conditions to transform a routine interview into a worthwhile conversation.
MEET THE TEAM
Kia ora, I'm Cushla (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Pikiao), the founder of Aston Rd and I'm super excited to launch this masterclass series in Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
I’ve been managing and mentoring artists for the past decade and there’s a real gap in the teaching of the business of music. And, if you’re a self-managing artist then the struggle is real.
We want our participants to find the sweet spot between creative and career and to walk away with business knowledge, tools, networks, and a community of people they can call on.
Meet the team of awesomely talented individuals working behind the scenes with me below.
Learn more about Aston Rd here
INTERN & HELPS CUSHLA ON ALL THINGS
Rosie is a Wellington-based musician and has performed at gigs and festivals across the country. She has experience spending 18-months managing a music production studio in the CBD of Wellington called 'PureSound', as well as working previously to help organise music seminars and festivals across NZ. We're excited for Rosie to support some Aston Road sessions to help the artists feel welcome and at home.
ALL SORTS OF THINGS
Born and raised in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Isaac Adams has worked as an artist manager over the last 3 years managing the talented RIIKI REID. After completing a Bachelor of Commercial Music Industry, Isaac has also had a range of experience with festivals, shows, artist liaison and PR.
Wallace Gollan is a musician who has designed visuals for her project from day one in the music biz. Over time she started designing for other artists and what started as a hobby, has grown into a thriving freelance graphic design business, creating posters, merch and assets for social media campaigns. Wallace's goal is to create cohesive and exciting work with an emphasis on colour and audience engagement.
Nina is a wizz on all things social media, digital marketing and optimising social engagement. Through her experience with media management through the NZ Music Commission, as well as Radio New Zealand, we are excited to have her on the team to guide and support sessions. She will also help facilitate and mentor on module 5.
With thanks to the NZ Music Commission for making this possible
Aston Rd was founded in 2010 and is owned and operated by Cushla Aston (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Pikiao).
Aston Rd specialises in Artist Management, mentoring, music business education, artist development and project management.
With over a decade of experience in the New Zealand music industry Cushla has worked with notable independent platinum selling acts such as Fat Freddy’s Drop, Kora, Trinity Roots and currently manages Louis Baker.
In 2012 Cushla won ‘Upcoming Manager of the Year’ and was a finalist for ‘Manager of the Year’ in 2015 and 2021. She is the Chairperson for the Music Managers Forum, has over 300 hours of artist mentoring experience supplying services to the MMF and Te Māngai Pāho; and is a Senior Lecturer at Massey University College of Creative Arts delivering the industry paper on Artist Development. In 2022 Cushla launched Aston Rd Music Career Masterclass, a six module series of Masterclass focused on supporting the careers of ten self-managing and independent artists based in Wellington.
Collectively her clients have been winners and finalists in the APRA Silver Scrolls, Taite Music Awards, Aotearoa Music Awards and NZ Music Critics Choice Awards. They have toured both nationally and internationally including territories such as the UK, Europe, Asia, Polynesia and Australia. Acting as her clients’ independent record labels she has also helped them reach Top 10 debuts in the official New Zealand Album Charts.
Cushla is a certified and accredited life coach, has diplomas in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neurolinguistic Programming, a Mental Health First Aid Certificate and has the Mana Ora - New Zealand Certificate in Māori Business and Management.
WHAT MATTERS TO US
Contributing to the art of happiness and well-being through creativity
To nurture, empower and help support creative talent
Enable our people to live off what they love
To grow our community through collaboration
friends of aston rd
We work with many great organisations, talented individuals and small businesses. We'd like to take this opportunity to give them a shout out.