The Hot Seat: Sat Bisla, MUSEXPO Conference Organiser

Published in The Music Network

 

Do you consider yourself a publisher or a conference organiser?

Our core business is about artist discovery, development, marketing and consulting. The [Musexpo] conference is an afterthought. I started the A&R Worldwide newsletter about 15 years ago, to share information with all the relationships I’d built globally since I’d started at 16 in the music business. We now have over 12,000 subscribers.

So what’s the goal of Musexpo?

We always want to give people an experience that is tangible, whether it’s creative, a new business relationship, or a new personal relationship. The whole concept behind it is to bring together true, passionate fans. It’s about the music business. But if you put music first and you have good music, the business will come.

For the performers, it’s about providing the best platform possible to look, sound and be presented the best way possible. We’re not a publicly-traded company, we’re not looking at making millions of dollars off the back of the music industry. We’re partners with the music industry. And our goal is to help contribute to the betterment of the music industry eco-system, where everyone wins.

How many numbers are you looking to pull this year?

It’ll never be more than 700. When it grows over that size it becomes unmanageable. We always want to provide an intimate, focused and manageable experience.

So the plan isn’t to become the MIDEM of America?

No, we want to be the Musexpo of America. MIDEM is part of a publicly-owned company. It’s a corporation that is obviously trying to make as much money as possible. All power to them. They’re one of our partners and I wouldn’t criticise them; I’ve certainly got a lot of benefits out of it myself. We’re a “mum and pop” operation.

Many conferences outside the US get support from taxpayer money. We’re self-supported. My parents always told me, “Don’t take money that you haven’t earned. That way you’re never in debt to anybody.” That philosophy still stands. We don’t take taxpayer money. This is all self-funded, and it’s all built on passion.

The rumour buzzing around is that Perth’s One Movement for Music won’t survive for a third year. Is that true?

I don’t foresee the plug being pulled. I think it will have to be reconfigured, but it will be done in a way that everybody wins. EventsCorp and One Movement are currently discussing possible changes to the format of the event.  It’s an incredible event. It’s done so much good for Australian music.

Your Musexpo Europe event in London won’t happen this year?

Part of the reason is that we’re also doing a (April 29-30) Worldwide Radio Summit in L.A, which is another two-day event. That’s essentially taking Musexpo into a six-day event. I just couldn’t fathom myself and my staff doing an event like (Musexpo Europe) just six weeks later.

While I was really proud of the first years of Musexpo Europe, last year we competed with the World Cup and due to the six-week window it was too demanding on my staff.

We weren’t able to give 110%. If you do an event, you’ve got to make sure you give 110%. We’ll take a year off, and return in winter 2012. You continually show support for Australian and New Zealand acts through your newsletter.

Is there a real hunger for acts from Down Under, or are we just another English- language repertoire source?

I don’t distinguish between borders. I consider myself a citizen of the earth. And for me, music has no borders. If it’s a great song or artist, it will resonate.

Whether it’s from India, China, Australia or NZ. Australia and New Zealand seem to be generating a lot of interesting sounds, which are connecting with people all over the world. It’s very creative, it’s very passionate, it’s emotional and it’s timely. But it goes in cycles. Obviously Asia is now rising again.

Lately, I’ve been touched by Sydney’s All Mankind, which reminds me of the strength of [U2’s] Joshua Tree and the commercial accessibility of [Coldplay’s] Parachutes. In six weeks they’ve generated such an impact globally, I felt like I had to get personally involved. Their time is coming.

The seventh annual Musexpo takes place May 1-4 in Hollywood.


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Icehouse, Kobalt Pact On Publishing Deal

Published in The Music Network

 

Iva Davies has struck a worldwide administration deal with music publisher Kobalt, in what promises to form the cornerstone in a new phase of activity for the iconic artist’s group Icehouse.

TMN can exclusively reveal the new arrangement with Kobalt Music Publishing Australia, which should ignite a wave of sync placements for Icehouse tunes across film and TV, ads and in video games.

“Almost none of my songs have been attached to any kind of advertising, and very little of it in local film and television. This is the sort of area I’m looking at now,” Davies tells TMN.

“It’s not for the fact we haven’t had offers over the years, but until now I’ve been incredibly precious, and precious isn’t too strong a word, about associating my songs or pieces of music with product placement.”

The newly-formed Australian arm of Kobalt will globally represent all new and previously released works including the entire Icehouse catalog and Davies’ other compositions written for theatre and film, including the soundtracks for Mary Bryant and Razorback. The exclusive Kobalt arrangement concludes Davies’ long-time association with EMI Music Publishing.

“We’re going through a general restructure,” Davies explains. “This deal with Kobalt is a major part of it, and we’re also looking at a new record company. We’re right on the edge of some exciting things.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary since the release of the classic debut album Icehouse, by what was then known as the group Flowers.

Driven by the hits Can’t Help Myself and We Can Get Together, Icehouse enjoyed nine months in the top 40 and shifted the equivalent of five-times platinum. Davies is planning to mark the occasion with a reissue project. “We’re looking at ways we can re-release this with some sort of value added to it. Within that process we’ve been going through a lot of old live tapes, going back to the late 70s.”

Talks are ongoing record label partners to release a special edition Icehouse package, tentatively planned for May.

Icehouse will also deliver a rare performance for the May 7-14 Arafura Games in Darwin. In recent years, Davies’ group returned to the stage for the 2009 Sydney leg of Sound Relief, and a pair of charity benefit shows last year in Perth.

With album sales topping 28-times platinum in Australasia, Icehouse has produced eight top 10 albums and 20 top 40 singles down under. The band was inducted into the 2006 ARIA Hall of Fame.

 

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The Hot Seat: Peter Noble, Bluesfest Director

Published in The Music Network

 

The man behind the Byron Bay festival discusses extending the event to six days, battling local councillors, the current festival climate and how he finally convinced Bob Dylan to come and play.

Much has been written about your amazing line-up this year – Bob Dylan, BB King, Elvis Costello, and now George Clinton. How did you pull it off?
I picked up the phone and sent lots of emails. I harassed people. Those who didn’t answer me first time, I caught a plane, jumped their fence knocked on their back fence and said, “g’day”.

There’s talk you worked a decade on securing the services of Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan played Ballina in 2001. He wanted to play in Byron but he couldn’t at the time. I was at a show in 2007, backstage at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, and I spoke with Bob Dylan’s manager [Jeff] Kramer. His response was something like, ‘he doesn’t want to play no fucking town he’s never heard of.’ So we then went about educating him of the values of performing in one of the world’s most wonderful spaces. Every year we go for a whole bunch of talent, and then the talent decides. Hopefully with every year, you can edge them a little closer to a point where you get them over the line.

So you have to play something of a tourist-operator role?
Well, it’s just about making people aware of Byron Bay, in so far as it’s a town with an incredible history and culture with wonderful facilities and environment. We draw more people to Bluesfest than to Montreux Jazz festival or North Sea Jazz Festival.

You’re extending the event to six days, and you’ve had your battles with council.
Well, it was really one or two people who tried to bushwhack us. Two councillors who don’t normally come had shown up to the meeting. One was on the far-left and the other was so far up his arse he doesn’t know his left from his right. It was un-Australian. It’s not about mateship or a fair-go, it’s about people being pricks. We need people who represent communities, not themselves.

You’ve set the bar high with your talent line-up. Where do you take it next time?
I’ve had that asked of me many years. Last year, we won the Australian Event of the Year and Best Cultural and Arts Event [at the Australian Event Awards]. We try to put out these incredible bills every year. I’m learning each time what the public wants, and the public has spoken. What I need to do is give them even more next time (laughs).

Is Bluesfest feeling the heat like so many other fests?
There’s a lot of blood in the sand. Festival directors are getting burned on a regular basis. For years, the veteran guys have been saying, “festivals are the new pub-rock – one on every corner”. The economy tells you, you cannot maintain the level of festivals in Australia and the supply of talent doesn’t exist. Economics then pushes up the price of talent and makes it unviable. It’s an untenable situation.

The big events will remain established. The mid-level ones will do it tough. And it seems to be happening this year. In general, there has been a re-evaluation by the public. I am one of the events that they’ve decided to support. The differential between profit and loss can be 10-20% of the margin. It’s that tight. I hope much-loved events like Woodford Festival, which was hit by torrential rain, are able to quickly recover. Woodford, I think, is the best event.

How is your site?
We’ve not been flood affected, but there’s a perception that the whole area got blitzed. Tourism is down. Of course, we are not expecting people in Brisbane to be coming down at the moment.

So how do you rise above the market issues?
You can’t buy a ticket for Bluesfest unless you buy it through us. We know where our audience is. You have to become a member to buy a ticket. The average ticket buyer is 26-years-old. The vast majority, something like 70%, are under 30 years old. That astounds people. We have a big dip in the 30s, then the plus-40s to 50-55 picks up again.

People often come up to me and say, “I grew up going to your festival. My mum and dad used to take me. It’s my favourite music, and I go to Soundwave too”. We’ve got to use all that rootsy-type music, world music, the stuff you can shake your arse to. We have 110,000 subscribers. If a third of those people every year want to buy a ticket, we’re oversubscribed.

A lot of subscribers go every three years, according to our information. With direct marketing, you’re able to build an event on a yearly basis without doing print or any other forms of marketing. It costs more to advertise in the Sunday Mail, and you get better results doing direct marketing. It changes the world we’re looking at.


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The Hot Seat: Anthony Field from the Wiggles

Published in The Music Network

 

Entertainment industry veteran Anthony Field, aka the Blue Wiggle, talks to TMN about 20 years of wiggling, being awarded an Order of Australia medal, merch, the ABC and their constantly evolving audience.

Congratulations on The Wiggles’ 20th anniversary. What’s the secret?
I try to keep myself fit so when I’m on the road it doesn’t kill me; it’s so physical. (When touring) we do three shows on Sundays and two most days. We do about 350-400 a year. We used to do 520. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t enjoy the show. And the audiences are really into it, which is probably more important. There’s never a dull moment. When I’m not on the road I spend a lot of time at home with the family.

Twenty years for us doing the show is a real milestone. There’s a lot of great memories to take away. I could certainly do another five or ten years.

And you’ve now got an Order of Australian Medal around your neck.
Yeah, it’s humbling. But I don’t wear it around the house or anything (laughs). We just have to keep trying to put on the most entertaining shows for children. It was a really humbling thing, but I know there are a lot more people who deserve it more.

When you consider the Wiggles, Hi-5 and Bananas In Pyjamas, Australia has been a world-leader in children’s entertainment for some time. Is that by accident?
The ABC has always employed knowledgeable, qualified programmers and advisors on early-childhood shows. It’s meant that children’s shows here are really good for developmental age children. The difference is that the ABC really thought hard about the age groups. If you look at Playschool, it’s so right for really young children.

Three of us (in The Wiggles) are early childhood teachers, and so we bring our own knowledge to it. I think Hi-5 also came from early childhood advisors. In America, a lot of shows have come out of merchandise or commercial companies wanting to make a buck. We didn’t come out of that at all.

So how important is merch to the Wiggles machine?
It pays the bills for us. But touring keeps us going and we play to a lot of people on the road. We’ve also got our own TV studio. With merch, it’s good for the company but there’s a responsibility with merchandise. We don’t have time the time, the Wiggles, to really look that over.

My brother (Wiggles Managing Director of Production Paul Field) and Mike Conway, (Managing Director of Business Development) who comes from Standards Australia, they really look at the merchandise. And we get the children in to look at it as well. [The Wiggles recently retained the No. 3 position on Business Review Weekly’s Top 50 Entertainers list, earning $33.5 million in 2009-10, down from $45 million in 2008-2009].

You met your bandmates at Macquarie University, where you studied early childhood education. How did your training prepare you for your musical career?
It’s never deserted us. Because we’re pre-school teachers, it’s really helped us communicate with children. You have to develop ways to get the kids to do what you want during the show without becoming an overbearing adult. If we ask them to sit down, we’ll do it very gently. It’s different to ordering people around in a rock ‘n’ roll situation. We’re very conscious of the sensitive children’s egos out there.

Rockers can play for twenty years and the fans stay with them. But your group needs to constantly find new fans.
Yeah, it’s funny. It presents its own challenges. Every three years there’s a brand new Wiggles audience and it’s all new to them. Some children now don’t know who Greg is [Greg Page left The Wiggles in 2006]. And vice versa, older children don’t know who Sam is [Sam Moran joined The Wiggles that year]. We’re at the stage now where people are thanking us for the shows we did when they were kids, 20 years ago.

Last December, Cinemalive beamed your concert from Acer Arena into movie cinemas. What’s behind that?
It gives a chance for those people who can’t get out to the shows. The kids can get up and dance and wiggle in their seats and make as much noise as they want in the cinema. It’s perfect for children. It’s all the excitement of a live concert.

Do you still have goals?
To keep playing shows to an audience who wants to go see us, and still enjoy it. I’d also like to produce other TV shows. Halfway through this year, we’ll travel the country and through the outback in a circus-tent style. We’ll go all through Australia in this tent, in the round. We’ve never done it before. Keeping the standard up is the ultimate goal for me.

 

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