Single-minded Regurgitator

 

Art-rock outfit Regurgitator own an ARIA award for album of the year, but there won’t be more for the collection. Regurgitator will now release tracks as they see fit, becoming the highest-profile Australian act to shun the albums format. Following the September release of the four-track “Distractions” EP, the band digitally-distributed the tracks “Born Dumb” and “Evil Eye” for free via their  Web site. Over time, recordings may be released in packaged physical versions to coincide with tours, explains Paul Curtis, founder of Brisbane-based Consume Management and Valve Records. The multi-platinum duo – comprising Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely — has built a career from the unconventional. “To be truly independent of the record industry you should forget the old release mentality and match the current listener mentality,” says Yeomans. “This is what we will be doing in the future.” Regurgitator exploded on the scene in 1996 with the debut “Tu Plang”, which peaked at No. 3 on the national albums chart. Synth-pop follow-up “Unit” was a radical departure form their earlier alternative-rock sound, but it still managed to win the 1998 ARIA award for album of the year. Leaving the Warner Music stable, Regurgitator experimented further in 2004 with the “band in a bubble” project, which saw the group record for Valve Records the “Mish Mash!” album in a self-contained glass studio in the center of Melbourne. As part of the “Graphic” animation confab at the Sydney Opera House, the group on Aug. 8 produced a live score to the Japanese anime film “Akira.” On Nov. 10, the band played a free show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, ahead of an inaugural visit to the Middle East, where they played shows in Dubai (Nov. 27) and Bahrain (Dec. 3).

The Hot Seat: Scott Horscroft

Published in The Music Network

 

We talk to Scott Horscroft, VP of A&R Labels EMI Music Australasia and Director of Archangelsky Music and BJB Studios, about his new role at EMI, the local talents that’s caught his ear and his highs – and lows – of 2010.

 

Hi Scott, how are you settling in at EMI?

It’s been an amazing month. My kick-off at EMI was basically ARIA week which turned out to be filled with fantastic things for EMI and my production team, such as Birds Of Toyko winning Rock Album Of The Year and Angus and Julia Stone winning basically everything else. It was a great time to be inducted into the family vibe of EMI; I’m surrounded by industry experts and music maths mentors from multiple areas of the record industry. I’ve always had a dream of working with acts from the developmental stage all the way through to the big top. I guess I’m now one step closer.

The curtains are closing on the year pretty soon. When we’re glancing at the history books some time from now, what will the ‘2010’ entry look like for the Australian music biz?

We’ve seen some great Australian talent coming on this year and really taking on the international market in a big way. New bloods like Flight Facilities, Boy and Bear, Miami Horror and Gold Fields are really exciting prospects for 2011. Domestically, it’s great to see interesting projects like Little Red and Washington really staying in the charts. We’ve also seen some really interesting hip hop and dance, which has formed a nice platform to really launch some more great acts and records in the year ahead.

Any new albums you’re working on that we should keep an ear out for?

Production-wise, I’ve been working on the new Leader Cheetah record for the past three weeks and it’s sounding amazing. We’re finishing that record by the year-out and we’ve just completed a great new track by The Delta Riggs. In the new year I have Matt Gow and The Dead Leaves, Sugar Army and a few others projects. In EMI-world, we’re super-excited about Faker’s new record, Papa vs Pretty, King Cannons and 360 dropping early in the year.

What have been your 2010 highlights?

The year has been absolutely massive, starting with a trip to Sweden with the Birds Of Tokyo entourage to continue making their self-titled album. This was an absolute highlight in my career and for six weeks we laboured in Gothenburg and Air Studios in London. I flew straight from Sweden with terrible post-record exhaustion to meet Sam Pearton – my partner in production – who informed me we had to jump on another flight to start Little Red pre-production. Another highlight has been seeing Empire of the Sun take on the world in a massive way. We Are The People has peaked at No. 1 in Germany this week! Also seeing the digital market continue to become stronger and continue to be a major player in transforming the music industry.

And the lows?

Seeing fantastic groups continue to struggle financially and have to work second jobs to facilitate their art. Illegal downloading of music is still having a terrible impact on the whole industry and we’re still not doing enough as a musical culture to battle this. I hope to see the industry’s involvement in finding a solution to this problem becoming a priority.

Looking ahead, who should we be keeping an eye out for in the year to come?

The next The Sleepy Jackson album, Papa vs Pretty, Stonefields, Stephanie Cherote, The upcoming Presets record, Leader Cheetah, Silverchair, Gold Fields, Sophie Brous, Delta Riggs, King Cannons, Blue Juice and 360. It is a diverse, exciting time for Australian music.

And what are the big changes you predict for the year ahead in the music biz?

I see the music industry moving back in time with record companies becoming full music service business and becoming more involved in facilitating careers than just being involved in the record-making process.

Will the four majors become three by this time next year?

EMI Music is stronger than ever. Let’s just say that I hope Paul Harris and Mike Taylor don’t end up in the same office.


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Melting Pot: Songs In The ‘Key Of Sea’

Published in Billboard Magazine

 

Australian release “The Key of Sea” teams refugees with stars from the country’s music scene. Released Nov. 12 through MGM Distribution, the album of original recordings pairs Sarah Blasko, You Am I frontman Tim Rogers and the Cat Empire with refugee and immigrant musicians.

“Immigration had become a hot topic, there had been racist attacks on Indians, and there was bad juju going around,” says Nick O’Byrne, GM of the Australian Assn. of Independent Music, who founded the project with civil rights advocate Hugh Crosthwaite. “We thought the best way to start turning things around was to get a message out in a nonthreatening way: through music.”

“We were really drawn to the campaign,” says Harry James Angus, vocalist with the Cat Empire, which recorded “Zero” with Ethiopia-born artist Anbessa Gebrehiwot.

The Cat Empire joined a handful of participants onstage for a Nov. 11 concert at Melbourne’s 800-capacity Prince of Wales venue. The show sold out, generating $28,000 Australian ($27,300). All proceeds go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Human Rights Arts and Film Festival and Refugees Survivors and Ex-Detainees.

There are plans to revisit the project with live shows next year and possibly more album releases.

 

The Hot Seat: Paul Sergeant

Published in The Music Network

 

Decorated venues manager Paul Sergeant is the new GM of Sydney’s 21,000-capacity Acer Arena. Australian venues operator AEG Ogden appointed Sergeant as the successor to David Humphreys, who will manage the company’s Perth Arena when it opens in 2012. Sergeant, who in 2007 was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to the events industry, is already well known to the Australian industry having served as GM of the AEG Ogden-managed Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane between 2007 and 2009.

How’s business?
Really healthy. Ticket sales are strong, the Australian dollar is encouraging. It’s very much a buoyant events market.

So how’s Australia’s live market faring with the business in Europe?
Europe generally is a lot more depressed than it is here. There’s still product around, of course. But it’s a tough market. The areas that seem to be suffering most in Europe seem to the corporate sector, corporate hospitality and sponsorships. Ticketing is holding up reasonably well, but other areas are being decimated. Here, the market by comparison is a lot more buoyant.

You arrived at Acer Arena in September. Are you planning to ‘shake-it-up’?
My challenge is to identify where we can move onto the next level. For the staff here, it’s no good to them if we’re a top three venue in the world by chance. I’ve just completed a one-on-one survey with all the staff, to gather their thoughts on what we can do to move ourselves up to the next level. You can never sit still in this business or you’re going to die.

What are the big challenges facing arenas Down Under?
The practices of unauthorised ticket reselling and scalping is still a big issue. There are some people who try to “legitimise” that business. We’re strongly opposed to that at AEG Ogden. We’ve got more home-grown scalpers now probably than ever before, because the Internet has opened up that marketplace. Other than that, the events business is ticking along nicely. The economy has not been impacted as much here by the GFC as a lot of places in the world. But for us, it’s just to make sure we don’t overcook things. We must make sure we keep our feet on the ground as a business.

How many shows a year can you realistically do without “overcooking”?
We’re doing somewhere between 85 and 110. This year the vast majority of those, about 70%, have been music-led. It’s our strongest performer without a shadow of a doubt. There’s probably still a bit of space for us. It’s good for us to see a mix of concerts, sport, and family shows developing into next year. That helps us make sure we share the exposure, the risk. We’re doing well in terms of the number of shows, considering where we physically sit in the world.

You’ve an OBE. I don’t suppose many venue operators receive those?
I think it stands for “Other Blokes’ Efforts” (laughs). While I’m humble to have been awarded an OBE, I think it’s recognition for all the people I’ve worked with. I’ve done 3,000 events, it soon clocks up. In the sport and entertainment business, there’s something going on all the time. It’s wonderful to be involved in it.

What lessons learned in the UK will you bring to Australia?
Our responsibility is to look after (the audience), make sure they enjoy that experience and when they go away they’re really pleased. People put the show on, that’s what promoter and the artist does. But we touch a lot of things around that. It’s also making sure we work with the promoter and crews who come in so that they have a good experience. When people come to a venue, they should be treated no differently than if they’re going to the cinema, theme park, or shopping mall. They spend their hard-earned cash and they’re here to have a bloody good time.

Sydney has two big arenas – Acer and the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Is it working?
Yes. There are 4.5 million people in Sydney so it’s a big marketplace. Coming from London, in my day you had Wembley Arena, London Arena and Earl’s Court; they were the competitive venues in town. So I’m used to dealing in those types of market. We’re very much focused on our business and what we can do to grow it. We’re perfectly positioned in the geographical centre of Sydney. While we’re far away from the CBD, we’ve got a great demographic to tap into.

Will the ARIA awards be coming back anytime soon?
The ARIAs were here before my time. It’s something we’ll probably need to consider.

Do you see a time when the duopoly of Ticketmaster, Ticketek is smashed open?
It’s a tough industry, ticketing. And it’s an expensive one. The likes of Ticketek and Ticketmaster have invested massively in the IT and infrastructure in the business over the years. And now we see Foxtix knocking on the door. It’ll be an interesting 12 months watching the outcome of that. “The practices of unauthorised ticket reselling and scalping is still a big issue”.


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