Restless Rockers

Published in Billboard Magazine


Amy Meredith sounds more like the name of a sensitive singer/songwriter than an all-male Australian rock quintet, but that hasn’t slowed the band’s growth. Its Sony Music Australia debut album, “Restless,” opened at No. 8 on the Australian Recording Industry Assn. (ARIA) albums chart on July 12, after single “Lying” cracked the national top 10.

Now international plans are taking shape, and the band recently played a showcase in New York for Sony’s stateside executives. Meanwhile, an 18-date Australian tour booked by Sydney-based Artist Voice starts Sept. 22.

The group’s name “confuses people at first” artist manager Matt Emsell says, but any confusion dissipated after a string of high-profile mainstream TV appearances this year, plus live dates supporting Stereophonics, Good Charlotte and Cobra Starship.

The band has taken care to build an active online fan base, Emsell adds. “Everything’s been driven through interaction with the fans online. The fans feel like they’re friends with the band.” They also “helped the momentum at radio by getting on the phone and requesting songs,” Emsell says, with plays on commercial radio networks Nova and Austereo pushing debut single “Pornstar” into ARIA’s top 30.

“It seems like an overnight success,” Emsell says, “but the band has been working hard for over three years to get to this point.”

Best Life: Brian McFadden on his lucky second chance

Published in The Music Network


From boy band phenomenon, stadium filler and tabloid fodder, through to dad, immigrant and rising pop star. Brian McFadden has experienced all the trappings of fame and fortune. Now at 30 years of age, the Irish singer is going through his own personal renaissance, as Lars Brandle discovers.

When asked to choose his three biggest career highlights, Brian McFadden is quick off the mark. Right up there is the first time he played to 80,000 fans at an open-air stadium, standing alongside his former Westlife bandmates. And there was the time he performed for and met the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Both are extraordinary moments, the kind you could dine off for the rest of time. And to round-out the highlight reel perhaps the first million dollar cheque, or the inaugural world tour?

Nope. McFadden instead recalls the time his single Just Say So (featuring Kevin Rudolph) topped the Australian singles chart.

“I never thought in the twilight of my career, if you will, that I’d ever get back to that. I thought my days of getting No. 1s was in the past,” he tells TMN. “It meant more to me than any other No. 1 I’ve ever had.”

That McFadden ranks Australian chart success alongside an audience with the Pontiff and those early tastes of the “big league” shows just how far he’s come. The lad from Dublin is a changed man. He’s now at home in a new country, he’s got business on his mind and his musical output is a world away from his pop fare with Westlife.

On his latest effort, McFadden has turned away from the generic pop-ballad-with-key-change formula and ventured down a more synthetic route. One new track he’s road-testing introduces a rap, performed by Marvin Priest. McFadden knows he’s not getting any younger, and pop music shows little respect for the aged.

“I’m probably the oldest pop artist out there at the moment,” McFadden muses. “If you take away rock bands and established artists like Elton John and you just consider pop music — people like Justin Bieber, or even Gaga, who is an older artist — there’s probably no-one older than me doing it at the moment.”

When TMN calls, McFadden’s voice is swamped in an aural haze of beats and synths. He’s in the studio, laying down tracks with US-born Rob Conley, his collaborator on the Wall of Soundz album. His third solo set spawned Just Say So, the top-20 hit Chemical Rush, and airplay smash Mistakes, a duet with his fiance Delta Goodrem. However, Wall of Soundz debuted at a disappointing No. 27 on the ARIA Albums Chart in May, well-down on the No. 5 opening of his 2008 sophomore solo album Set In Stone.

“I’m not happy at all about that, but we’re in a singles market,” he admits. “We sold 150,000 copies of the single and when the album came out people just went to iTunes and clicked on You Say So. Our plan had always been at the end of Wall of Soundz to have released every single song on the album as a single.” The set will be repackaged for the Australian market with three new songs, including a Mark Endert remix of Mistakes, and should get a staggered international release later this year through Universal’s machine.

McFadden is currently in L.A. — his other home – which will serve as the launch pad for promo excursions in support of the album release there. Australia, however, is the artist’s proper home. “I wanted to come here and start from scratch, where there’s no baggage,” he explains. “Here, I had to start from the very beginning and try to win over a fanbase.” It was a humbling experience, he admits, to go from playing Dublin’s Croke Park to performing at Rooty Hill RSL.

“I love working here and making music here. Songwriting-wise, Ireland is a very hard place to be inspired. Band like U2, Cranberries, The Script, they leave the country to make their albums.” There’s little he misses of the Emerald Isle, expect for the two beloved daughters he left behind – the “hardest sacrifice” he’s had to make.

Financially, heading Down Under has also proved a sacrifice on the wallet. “The reward is nowhere near what it used to be. If you could have had that level of success, landing a No. 1 single five years ago in the UK you’re talking in the millions you’re making. It’s just not like that anymore,” he notes. “Australia is my base, but you have to spread your wings, try America, Europe and Asia.”

Westlife was one of Europe’s biggest ever boy-bands, and the best-selling male group to come from Ireland who’s not called U2. With McFadden on side, Westlife enjoyed more than 30 million album sales, and landed 12 No. 1 singles in the UK. He left in 2004, but “loved every second” of the experience, he recounts.

“We were five kids from Ireland at the same age, with the same interests and we had nothing. We hadn’t even been on holidays outside Ireland. Then all of a sudden we were flying first-class to Japan, Australia, going all over the world staying in the best hotels, getting to play arenas. We never even got a chance to understand how big it had got so quick. It was almost like a seven-year party – we just got pissed the whole time, had loads of fun and enjoyed everything that happened.” Would he emulate Robbie Williams and reunite with the band it all happened with? “I would definitely like to get back with the (Westlife) boys and do a show,” says McFadden. “A greatest-hits show perhaps.”

What McFadden doesn’t reminisce about is the British tabloid press. McFadden couldn’t stay out of the Red Tops. If it wasn’t a headline about the Irishman’s weight-gain, it was another salacious tale about former Atomic Kitten member Kerry Katona, the mother of McFadden’s kids.

“They never write positive things about me in the UK. And when I got to No. 1 here, it wasn’t even mentioned in the UK press. Maybe (Brits) thrive on pain, or their sense of humour is about watching people hurt. I grew up with it; it’s the same in Ireland.”

The Australian press hasn’t all be kind to McFadden. Celebrity columnist Ros Reines dumped a pile on the Irishman, recently labelling him a “misogynist” and “womanhater” in a Daily Telegraph article entitled, Brian McFadden is an Absolute Dork. He shrugs it off. “If you only had one person writing shit like that about you in the UK, you’d be laughing,” he explains. “Over there, you’d have five or six people each day taking half a story and twisting it in the papers.”

As much as McFadden can live incognito Down Under, there’s no question that his relationship with Delta Goodrem is a “will they or won’t they” headline just waiting to be published. “Everyone keeps asking us. And, yes, the wedding is definitely on the cards,” he says, clearly not for the first time. “We’re so busy at the moment. It takes a year to organize a wedding.”

McFadden has kept himself occupied with a stint as a judge on Australia’s Got Talent, a role in which he found himself cast as the tough guy. Now with the reality TV show’s season over, McFadden is turning his sights to Fantum Records, a new pop label he’s established with Conley under the Universal Music umbrella.

“I’m 30 now. This is probably my last shot of getting back there,” says McFadden. “Maybe turning 30 is the new beginning.”

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The Aftershock: What’s next for Shock and Stomp

Published in The Music Network


The full extent of the financial mess surrounding Shock Entertainment and Stomp is only now coming into focus.

As both companies enter the next phase under new ownership, it appears a long line of artists, labels and small businesses will be left out of pocket. Shock and Stomp racked-up multi-million dollar debts, which weren’t picked up when their new owners swooped in.

According to Shock’s administration report, seen by TMN, the music company left a trail of creditors who were owed a total of about $4.2 million. Songwriters signed to Shock Music Publishing, which was placed into voluntary liquidation on June 7, are owed $1.5 million in royalties.

It’s a similar, yet considerably worse, tale of woe for Stomp, which went to the wall with $11 million owing. Like Shock, few creditors are likely to see much, if any, of a return.

When Regency bailed out Shock Entertainment, one of the keepsakes in the arrangement was the familiar and previously pristine Shock name. Hall Chadwick’s David Ross and Richard Albarran were appointed joint administrators on August 10, on which day the obligations and liabilities to creditors were frozen.

The creditors report is now with the administrators, and sources say it’s unlikely there’ll be anything in it after lenders National Australia Bank take their cut. The other secured creditor due $1mil is Mrs Maria Cristina Falvo.

On August 13, it emerged that the old Shock Entertainment company trading name had been changed at the time of sale to Dotvan Pty ltd. It’s under that trading name that Dotvan declared insolvency.

It looks a sneaky move. Former Shock Group chairman David Williams denies any unethical behaviour. But he accepts the blame for the turn of events.

“I acknowledge that the old company had some difficulties and there will be some pain to come out of that,” says Williams, who is retained by the new owners as CEO of Shock Entertainment. “Equally, I wouldn’t want to see the new chapter of the Shock business punished for what happened under my ownership, because the business can do a lot of good in the music industry. It’s certainly not the fault of Regency’s that people have lost money. It’s my fault and (co-founder Frank) Falvo’s fault.”

The reports make for sad reading. Many creditors owed are artists and indie labels. Various artists appeared on the Dotvan list, including Architecture in Helsinki, Little Red, The Hoodoo Gurus, and Painters & Dockers.

The biggest losers include local replicator Technicolour ($155,000), manufacturer CCS Media Packaging ($243,000), DVD label Aztec International Entertainment ($122,000) and the 40 staff at Shock’s Northcote warehouse, which is now superfluous to the needs of Regency, which already runs a warehouse out of Sydney. The warehouse staff, many of whom are musicians, will likely all be let go.

The Dotvan list also identified Regency as a major creditor with a whopping sum of more than $1.1 million outstanding. It’s a figure which raises huge question marks about the arrangement Shock and its new owner Regency came to.

The question was put to Williams on whether Regency forced the sale, or gained a distinct advantage over the other creditors. “No, that wasn’t the case. And effectively that money was lost as well, as they were a creditor of Shock.

From a Regency perspective, they lost that money. We had discussions with other companies as well. There was no offset or anything like that.”

Shock tried to stop the haemorrhaging in June when it shut-down three units including the poor-performing One Stop Entertainment division, which had saddled the company with debt. It bought little grace with its bank. With credit lines frozen, Shock sold its business around July 30, and ceased trading at that time.

TMN understands Regency was one of four companies that circled the assets of Shock, including a British firm.

The downfall of Shock and Stomp have similar origins. Both companies suffered from some poor decision-making in what is clearly a tough climate for selling CDs and DVDs. And neither company enjoyed much support from their banks. In the case of Shock, acquiring its One Stop Entertainment was the catalyst for its collapse. “If we’d never bought that company in the first place, we never would have had that debt,” notes Williams.

Drew Jorgansen, founder of Stomp in 1995, and his key executive colleague John Barry were unable to evolve Stomp to keep up with the upheaval going on within the industry, and the numbers caught up with them. Stomp’s lenders BankWest called in the debts.

“With the GFC tightening up, this has been a wakeup call,” says Paul Uniacke, who together his fellow Franchise Entertainment Group director Edward Nedelko picked up the assets of Stomp in early August. “These are small businesses, and the banks are being pricks to them at the moment. They’re not supportive of SMEs at the moment.”

Uniacke and Nedelko acquired Stomp through its shelf-company Surrealus, but the huge sums owed won’t be shelled out by Surrealus. Many of Stomp’s creditors are overseas labels, including Jonathan Poneman’s Sub Pop owed $219,000 and Tony Brummel’s Chicago-based Victory Records is owed $240,000. Neither exec wanted to comment on the situation. Other U.S. labels owed big sums include Tom Silverman’s NYC-based Tommy Boy Entertainment ($20,000-plus), and six-figure amounts to San Francisco’s Revolver and Californian labels Metal Blade and CMH Records. Closer to home, Stomp owes money to labels including all four majors music companies, and ironically, Shock.

Jorgansen and Barry are on “gardening leave,” and it’s unlikely they will play a role with the new company.

“We’ve got a fair bit of work to do mending bridges with suppliers,” says Paul Uniacke, “but it’s still a sound business.”

Shock and Stomp’s respective teams are currently engaged in the arduous task of trying to re-sign their content providers, and rebuild the music companies. When the dust settles, the name Stomp may be dumped. A handful of local and U.S. companies who spoke with TMN have re-signed. It’s business as usual, only with a string of angry creditors.

“You hope they haven’t left too many people in their wake, which would apply a negativity to the two brands,” notes Rubber Group of Companies MD David Vodicka. “There’s no doubt a degree of fallout. Shock had just a solid name, nationally and internationally. You may see that name diminish to some respect.”


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The Hot Seat: Patrick Donovan

Published in The Music Network


We speak to Patrick Donovan, the new CEO of Music Victoria about the threat to live music, raising radio quotas for Australian music and their five-year plan.

Congrats on the new gig. You’re not the first journalist to step into the music biz. What advantage does a writing background have?
Certainly there are a lot of reports to write. After being a journalist for 20 years, I have the ability to cut through the spin.

Why did Music Victoria come about?
Until now, there was no peak music body for Victoria. We’re a member of AMIN, the national network of peak bodies. If they were going to be a truly national voice, they needed a voice from Victoria. Obviously there’s been some big live music issues in Melbourne over the summer. In a bid to address the increased alcohol-related violence on the streets, the state Government cracked down on the pubs and clubs.

Unfortunately, live music venues became linked to this violence, when it should have just focused on the booze barns and strip clubs. These threats galvanized the music scene, and Music Victoria was well on its way. It really gave us a mandate, and a real sense of purpose.

What are the big issues on your plate?
Live is the main one, but we’ll be looking at many things. Firstly, we ticked off the Live Music Accord to protect the venues. We’re looking at a best-practice charter which venues will be encouraged to sign and become part of. There’ll be a set of guidelines and recommendations on how live venues should run and treat musicians, such as providing them with hot meals and permits so they can park in loading bays.

The Government would look to provide incentives as well. We’re also finalizing details for me to be on the liquor licensing advisory board. And there’s funding issues. We don’t want to be solely funded by the State Government.

Why does the Victorian music industry need help?
Well, it was unfairly linked to violence. That was a mistake by the State Government which they’ve effectively acknowledged.

If you look at radio quotas for local music, it’s much higher in places like France and Canada. I’m a firm believer that people buy music because it’s rammed down their throat. If the quotas were raised on radio, more people would buy Australian music.

With piracy and burning music, it’s a lot harder for musicians to be making a living out of selling music. Live music is so much more important than it ever was.

How is Music Victoria’s five-year strategic plan coming along?
That’s a priority. We’re in the process of putting out to tender the business plan, which will look at how the whole industry is going to develop. It’s a pivotal stage for music in Australia, from digital distribution to the live issues and everyday problems for musicians, the cultural cringe, and radio stations reluctantly playing Australian music.

We’re trying to address all these problems. And working closely with the state bodies and drawing on their experience.

When will it be ready?
We’ve got the Victoria state election coming up, on November 27. The Government goes into caretaker mode for about six weeks before that, so we’ll try and get some early results and recommendations before then. We’re hoping the Government will commit on supporting the music industry before the election.


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