Balancing the Grind with Evan Buist, Founder & Managing Director at Melodie Music

Evan Buist is the Founder & Managing Director at Melodie Music, a music licensing platform and publisher providing access to authentic, high-quality, copyright-safe music from composers and independent artists.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

My background is in music and audio post production. I started playing guitar when I was 8 years old, writing music in my early teens, and went on to study music and sound production. I spent most of my life composing jingles, and mixing movie trailers and promos for companies like Fox Sports & National Geographic Channels.

I’ve always loved creating things. It’s the best way to learn. Straight out of high-school I created an on-hold (phone waiting) music business, an emerging industry at the time. Later in my career, between freelancing in music and sound, I co-created a 65-episode pre-school musical TV format, The Moogies. Then, in 2014 I founded a bespoke music crowdsourcing platform, NeedaJingle, which 5 years ago evolved into Melodie.

Melodie is a music licensing company, currently representing a roster of 115 talented independent artists and film and TV composers. Our music can be heard in pretty much every country in the world across millions of minutes of broadcast television (i.e., Ninja Warrior, Bondi Rescue, Deadly Women, Drunk History, Love Island, Monster Croc Wrangler, Territory Cops, and more).

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Every day I swim 1km before work. It’s what keeps me sane. I’m out of the house first thing, back in time for breakfast with my family before the day starts. I love it.

My office is an 8-minute scooter ride from home, so I get in early: coffee, clear the inbox, scan headlines, and confirm priorities for the day. My life is managed in Asana.

Being based in Australia, days typically start with calls to the US, ending with calls to Europe. I love Mondays as the rest of the world sleeps or has a weekend, allowing me to focus right at the top of the week. Our team sprint meetings don’t happen on Mondays, which also gives everyone in our Australian office this time to focus.

In my role as Managing Director, I work closely with our team to ensure all relationships are well nurtured, from artists and clients, to employees, advisors and investors – each of these relationships plays a critical role in our success. 

A lot of my time is spent driving the company’s growth and strategic initiatives, as well as managing the team, business development and overseeing Melodie’s suite of technologies – from Platform to API – ensuring Melodie continues to meet the evolving needs of our fast-changing industry.

I also like to spend a portion of each day personally responding to our users via email or social media. I learn so much from our customers individually. It keeps me connected to the reality of our business: how it’s perceived, where we’re meeting demand, and where we can improve.

Melodie HQ is at Manly Beach, Australia, so if there are no client meetings or lunches happening, I’ll take a salad and watch the ocean for 20 minutes or so – science says Vitamin D is great for cognitive function!

I’m home in time for the bath/bed routine with my daughter. I love to cook but rarely have time for anything extravagant during the week. Usually a stir fry. Vegetables and protein. Extra spicy. I like to open a good book before bed – always fiction –  nothing too serious before sleep.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Here’s a fun fact: in my 20-odd years of working prior to Melodie, I never had a full-time job. Rather, I worked as a freelancer 3 or 4 days per week. I made perfectly acceptable money and had a fantastic tan. 

Freelancers manage their own bookings and time. If a freelancer takes a sick day, they don’t get paid. If they perform badly, they are not asked back. Because of the insecure nature of a freelancer’s work, there’s an expectation to work effectively every time. But in exchange for that output, they have time off to enjoy a great work-life balance.

I try to take a few of these learnings into my current role. Of course, I work longer hours these days, but it’s on my terms, and I maintain time for the essential things that keep the engine running: diet, exercise, family, community, self-care. I’ve learned that putting essential non-work activities in the diary (like “lunch” or “gym”) helps to make sure they happen no matter how busy you get. 

Also, don’t underestimate the power of short breaks. Jumping in the car on a Friday afternoon or taking a short flight somewhere with the family – just for one or two nights – it has an incredibly regenerative effect. Stepping out of your day-to-day routine brings a fresh perspective that lets you refocus on what really matters.

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

As I get older, and especially becoming a dad, I have a new respect for time. The time we spend – no matter how we spend it – will never come back. Our time needs to be well spent. My dad used to say to me, ‘life is not a rehearsal’, and I really agree you have to make the most of every moment.

I’ve always been interested in self-improvement. Over the past year I have made slight changes to help me to better manage my time. Like learning to delegate more effectively, introducing better structures into my life, empowering my team to be more efficient, trying to be more present. Being organised, carving out parts of the day, and breaking down tasks into manageable ‘chunks’ allows me to achieve significant progress at work, respecting the time needed to maintain relationships, health, personal hobbies etc. 

In 2023, diarising, task management and the careful use of reminders are key to managing the fast pace of life. My watch even tells me to stop and breathe! 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I’ll switch this up and offer a few hot tips, things I believe help me to manage the “grind”:

Task Management: Getting things out of your brain and into a calendar or task management system (like Asana or is really helpful. Once you write it down and assign it to your future self, you can forget it. *exhale*

Books: It doesn’t matter what you read, but if you are reading as part of your leisure time, or before bed – try to read fiction (not educational or personal development books). Getting your mind off work and into a good story for a period of time every day will greatly improve the longevity of whatever it is you’re doing at work. I’m reading ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr right now and it’s fab.

Podcasts: Try listening to an audio book while you drive, at the gym, going for a walk. Audio is one of the most effective ways to digest information (very good for educational reads). Plus, you can get two things done at once. If you’d like to hear some Melodie tunes inside a podcast, try ‘First Eat with Nakkiah Lui’, by Nicola Harvey on Audible.

Turn off Notifications: If someone likes your post on Instagram, you shouldn’t hear a “ding”. Turn notifications off wherever possible. These distractions are almost always not working in your favour. 

Optimise your phone home screen: Grab your phone and do this now – take every time-wasting app (Instagram, YouTube etc) and remove them from your phone’s home page, and place them in a folder on the second page called “Leisure”. Only you can decide what those apps are. Again, turn notifications off. Make any remaining apps on your home page a balance of apps you need for work, and those you use for health, mindfulness, self-improvement (languages etc). By doing so, you will naturally reduce the time spent on apps that you consider to be time-wasting. It’s like magic!

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Love what you do, or find something you love doing.

Laugh, learn and surround yourself with good people. Nourish the relationships you already have.

Identify what matters to you personally, and establish healthy boundaries that allow you to find balance and fulfilment in every part of your life.

Seek out a harmonious integration of work and life, knowing that both contribute to a truly satisfying existence.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.