Not many hip-hop managers would admit to idolising Paris Hilton as a kid. But for Wellington entrepreneur Paige Fraser, who laughs it off with a shrug, life's all about straight-shooting.
"Paris was a superstar who was famous for being a socialite, yet she made waves. I thought she was so smart and even as I kid, I was like, 'I know what you're doing!' says the Neighbourhood Collective founder, 28, who is gearing up to run her latest music event Euphoria in collaboration with Southward Events this May 28, on the Kapiti Coast.
"I'd watch her on MTV, and I read the play and thought, 'I want to be like her, she's a boss. It was the same with P-Diddy. He was the guy who had the click, the clothing labels and the artists and I was like, 'That's going to be me'."
Fast forward a couple of decades and Fraser is bringing her own surge of innovation to New Zealand's entertainment scene, managing young break-through Kiwi hip-hop artists and running underground music events and festivals throughout the North Island.
The former bartender, who learnt the ins and outs of music promotion during her years managing Auckland City clubs, has been on the rise since running New Zealand's first live Post-Covid music event Neighbourhood Noise in the Wellington region.
"As a kid all I wanted was to grow up and work with music," recalls Fraser, who runs her business from a beachside home in Raumati South.
"When I wasn't skateboarding up and down the street with a minidisc player or Walkman, I was at home researching music and the business behind the music. I guess I wasn't really like other kids around me!"
A three-month trip to Los Angeles at age 21 to visit party hotspots, Miami and the Bahamas only fuelled Fraser's passion for the music scene, where she fell in love with the culture in its entirety.
"I truly think I'll reside there one day," admits the Auckland-born entrepreneur, who grew up near Sydney's Bondi Beach, in Australia, before returning to Aotearoa and settling on the Kapiti Coast in her teens.
"After I got back from LA I moved to Auckland because I needed somewhere bigger than my town, and I got my first bar job as a glassy and was made manager a few weeks later. That's when doors really started opening up."
Over three years, while running a busy bar, Fraser gathered a string of music industry connections and soaked in as much information and advice as she could.
"Working in hospitality, the party never ended, and some of the best conversations and connections happened at five in the morning," she recalls.
"There was always a method to my madness because I wanted to run events and music is all about relationships and people. I'm pretty good at getting along with everyone, I guess."
But what Fraser found lacking in pockets of the New Zealand industry was a pure passion to help support up-and-comings.
"In Auckland it was so intimidating to start out because everyone was doing it, you know, and I was still fresh on the scene. I knew I could give the events stuff a real go with support around me, so I moved home to the Coast," she says.
"I was close to the beach with a tight network backing me, but I could also have the best of both worlds because Auckland's only an hour's flight away."
Fraser picked up another bar manager role, where she was given the freedom to organise and run live music events and gigs, starting off by exposing local talent and eventually flying in performers from around the country.
"It was going really well and so I decided, why not turn it into a business? I was at a staff party and again, it was one of late-night ideas, when we came up with the name Neighbourhood Collective," Fraser explains.
"Part of my concept was a clothing label, so I just got brainstorming and made a range of T-shirts with our logo that we started selling at gigs and through social media."
In early 2020, Fraser and her girlfriend purchased one-way tickets to Spain for April, where they planned to travel and attend large festivals.
"You can't put on the best festivals if you haven't been to them all!" laughs Fraser, whose vision was quashed by the Covid-19 lockdown. "I wanted to work in the bars and Ibiza has always been a dream since I was a kid. We'd booked all the festivals and were pumped to go."
With the pandemic putting Fraser, as well as the entire music industry, on hold, she dived deeper into her business goals.
"I had the time to really sit down and work on the clothing collection and I made a website, so it was more available for everyone. And I started planning Neighbourhood Noise, my first major music event. I realised that more than ever, it's important to celebrate local talent and bring the New Zealand music community together, to support and back one another. Lockdown was an amazing time to put Kiwi artists on the map. It gave us a space to promote our own talent and give these artists the recognition they deserve."
She also picked up her first major artist, African-New Zealander rapper Waguan, who travelled from Auckland to headline Neighbourhood Noise, which Fraser later learnt was potentially the first live music event in the entire world to happen post-Covid.
"Waguan makes my life super easy because he's so committed to his craft and we're on the same level at all times. I've worked with a bunch of different artists now and it's always different, and I'm still learning as I go, which is what I love, I'm obsessed with learning about the industry."
Fraser also recently released her 20/21 FALL SZN clothing collection, a gender-neutral, street-style line-up designed during the lockdown.
"It's dope. I created it with the inspiration of heading into autumn, or the fall season, as well as the idea of a lot of things 'falling' into place after so much uncertainty last year."
Now, with more upcoming music events up her belt, including this Friday's Euphoria event at Paraparaumu's Southward Car Museum, Fraser plans to continue carving her niche as an entertainment platform going against the grain. "The music scene can be quite 'clicks' and if you aren't in the know, you don't get as many opportunities as others," she says. "I decided to make my own lane with Kiwi artists, where everyone's welcome. Music is about community and connection and bringing people together for a shared passion. I just want to create a safe space, where diversity matters and to see people thrive and be happy."
• Neighbourhood Collective presents Euphoria, a show featuring New Zealand drum and bass and electronic DJs, this Friday at Paraparaumu's Southward Theatre.