The Hot Seat: Stephen Pavlovic

Published in The Music Network

 

Stephen Pavlovic is founder of the hugely successful Sydney- based record label, touring company and international brand, Modular. This year, “Pav” added to his CV the title of curator for the VIVID Live programme. TMN caught up with the music man just hours before VIVID Live kicked off.

Pav, can you give me an idea of what goes into this event?

An incredible amount of patience, government funding, luck and all the planets aligning themselves. The reality is, a lot of energy has gone into it, and a lot of people have worked hard on it over the past four months. As curator, my job is probably the easiest. I get the nice end of it. Of course it was a big honour to get a tap on the shoulder. To be asked to curate at such an iconic building, well, it was an exciting, proud, honouring experience.

Have you been losing hair or going grey in the build-up?

I don’t lose hair or go grey over anything. When things get hot in the kitchen, I tend to sleep more. I have a beautiful ability to just sleep it out. Then when I get up I feel better about it all. I just believe that everything I do is going to be good. I go about what I believe in, that something good is going to happen to me today.

How did you pull off the coup of booking The Cure?

That’s the one thing that required the most patience. It took a long time. I got in touch with Robert Smith, who looks after the Cure’s affairs himself. The actual concept they wanted took time to take shape and we weren’t able to get them to commit in time for when we wanted to announce the festival. I figured, let’s just throw out any imposed deadlines and this thing will work itself out if it’s meant to be. Everyone was up for it, so we just had to be patient and work through all the details. If it happened the day before the show, then great. It’s still a good result.

And there’s a rumour of the Cure signing with Modular?

(Laughs). I think that’s just a bunch of bored people at a website (making it up).

When the bill was announced, you took some flack about booking a number of Modular acts. What’s your response to that?

If someone invited me to a kids’ party and I brought someone else’s kid, they’d think it was pretty fucking strange. Look, if anyone wants to assume I wouldn’t book some of my artists on the bill – artists that were relevant – then you’d be tripping. I’d say the majority of the lineup isn’t on the Modular roster. Modular hasn’t signed the Odd Future, Spiritualized, Bat for Lashes, The Crystal Ark, Yo Gabba Gabba, Sonny Rollins, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. I’d say, “Look at the scoreboard and weep.” That’s what I was told to say when I was playing football and people were crapping on you. Point to the scoreboard, and keep yourself focused on what you’re there to do. I was paid to do the job, I’ve done it very well.

Yo Gabba Gabba was an interesting choice. Is that booking a sign of your fatherhood?

No, it’s a sign of my misspent youth that I can still find something like that so appealing. They have great pop songs with great messages, like Party In My Tummy and Don’t Bite Your Friends. Most kids TV is insipid. But it’s great that there is something you can enjoy with your child.

There’s a huge buzz on OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All). Was it tricky booking an act with floating membership, with some youngsters in the group?

Nah, they were the first band we booked and signed up to VIVID. It’s all about timing and I was in the right place at the right time I made the right call to the right person and it was done and dusted in no time flat. To make that phone call now, you’d be in the ring with everybody else. But at the time, I was ahead of the curve.

You’ve signed Sneaky Sound System to Modular. Do you have big plans for them?

Their new album is awesome. I asked Angus (McDonald) for a copy, I put it in my car and I listened to it over and over. The planets aligned and we were on the same page at the right time. I don’t intellectualise about what I do, and how I do it. If I like something then I have an overwhelming need to want to share it with people.

You told me some years ago the Avalanches had recorded a second album, but they’d scrapped it. Is there any news on that long-awaited second album?

We are on the home stretch. Most of the album is there, it just needs some tweaking to the production elements. But the structure and songs are all done. We’ll probably see a song from it this year. The reason they’re DJing at VIVID is because they’ve been in the studio for 10 years, so to speak. But they’re finished, and they’re celebrating. And they’re going to have a little party to celebrate finishing it. The next stage will see the album go to someone to mix. And then we’ll probably drop a song later this year, and the album early next year.

Is there a new Ladyhawke album coming?

Pip is really close. The album is pretty much done. We’re looking at dropping a song in the last quarter of this year.

What’s your final word on VIVID Live?

Don’t let the lights go out.

The third annual VIVID Live at the Sydney Opera House began May 27 and concludes June 5.


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Hot Seat: David Albert CEO, Alberts

Published in The Music Network

 

David, you’re overseeing some key changes at Albert Music. From now on, the company will officially be known as Alberts?

That’s right. Everybody I talk to either locally or overseas calls us Alberts. When we talk about ourselves internally, we call ourselves Alberts. It made sense to have it as our brand. And it aims to reduce any confusion around whether we are the publisher (J Albert & Son), the music studio (Albert Studios) or our famous record label (Albert Productions), which is tied very closely to AC/DC. Our goal is to utilise all these aspects to continue to develop a creative music rights management business. Alberts pulls together all the components of the business. We’ve also given the logo a (revamp). We believe we now have an old classic with a contemporary touch.

Was there a sense that Alberts had a dusty image?

Yeah. There have been a few different terms used to describe it. Why? Well, we’ve been around for such a long time, and as a family business it’s always been fiercely independent and very private. Until last year when we celebrated our 125th anniversary, we’d not done any real publicity. That gave us a moment to think about what sort of business we want to be, our strengths. Alberts has always been about music. And the business seems to be able to change at different times in different ways. That’s how we need to be thinking at the moment.

What’s your vision for the company?

It’s about building the model of the creative rights-management company and using a creative-services approach. And it’s about having an international focus. You need to be able to break internationally in some way to really build a long-term career. We’re also trying to drive the studio as an opportunity for our artists and writers to use. The studio is the heart and soul of what we do.

The industry’s problems are well documented. Are there any solutions?

You have to be metered in the way that you approach things like creativity and artist development. Being measured, but taking risks. You have to look at other ways to seek out a return, like song pitching and having a strong licensing team and relationships both locally and overseas. In Australia, we have some very strong record companies. We’ve got a strong collecting society in APRA/AMCOS. We’ve got some amazing talent. Bands like the Jezabels are the future of what the Australian music will be like. With Google coming into the fold, that’s another new opportunity. The challenge is how the licensing will happen and what the royalties will be around that. And getting the majors and Google on the same page. Piracy is an issue, but it’s hard to believe that piracy will ever go away.

You were born into the company. Has there been pressure on you from a young age?

No, far from it. For the first 15 years of my life I was involved with marketing. I came into the business about seven years ago, at a time when dad was the chairman of the business, and he was looking to have an Albert involved in a more day-to-day basis. As a family, we’re all of the belief that the music business is the cornerstone of our heritage and our name. There seemed to be a need to have an Albert on the ground in the business to help in regard of setting the vision going forward.

Is Megan Washington planning a new album anytime soon?

She’s writing all the time. But the number one driver at the moment is the U.S and U.K., and touring those markets. She’s signed record deals in the U.K. and U.S., which is incredibly exciting. Megan has an incredible jazz talent but she’s just so driven. She’s very smart too. She understands the music business. She understands when you need to be commercially-minded and when she needs to be independent-minded. And she seems to be able to balance it all extremely well.

There’s rumour of a new AC/DC album in the works?

Angus and Malcolm are writing all the time. But you’ll have to wait for the announcement on that one. One thing we can all agree on, they’ve always done things at the right time. And only at the point when they’re ready to make something new or take another step. They’ve worked bloody hard to make it work.

Is Alberts regularly approached by acquisitive partners?

We’ve definitely been approached. But my uncle, my grandfather, my great grandfather and my great great grandfather would turn in their graves if they had an inkling that we were going to sell this. It’s definitely not part of the plan.

 

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The Hot Seat: Carl Cox

Published in The Music Network

 

Carl, Australia is a long way from where the big action is in the dance scene. Why did you relocate?

This place has the essence of life; it gives me sensibility and grounding. There’s a lot of great energy here. In the sense of the arts and music in Melbourne, there’s just so much going on. Every time I’ve come to Australia since 1988, I’ve probably done my best sets in Melbourne. It feels like I’m coming home when I play in Melbourne.

I’ve been doing what I’m doing for nearly 30 years. There’s going to be a point when I hang up my turntables. When that’s done, I’ll kick back and enjoy what Australia’s got to offer. Until then, I’m still being creative in the sense of my DJ sets, my record label, my radio shows and creating my own music.

You have a new album out this year.

It’s called All Roads Lead to the Dancefloor, and all the artists on it are from Melbourne. I’ve been working with Josh Abrahams and David Carbone; there’s a lot of talent here and I want people to see that. It’s probably the most technical, sound-enforced music I’ve made. It’ll come out this year through Intec, my own label. This is the first time I’ve represented my own music on the label. All Roads Lead To The Dancefloor will be delivered on a USB format-only, in three different configurations. The USB stick will contain various interactive elements and bonus content].

Is now a good or bad time to launch a label?

It’s a good time, I think. It’s quite easy to do now and it’s not as cash-heavy to set-up a label as it was in the early days. The problem now is that you don’t have anything tangible. I’ve got more than 150,000 pieces of vinyl. There’s nothing better than caressing a piece of vinyl. Illegal downloading really has killed the industry.

If anyone wants to make an album, it’s going to cost $50,000. It can be a lot less, but that’s money you might not have if someone downloads and shares it to the rest of the world for nothing. That’s a lot of money to lose. But it’s also about your music being shared by others, which costs you time, energy and your talent. No-one’s music is there to be thrown away.

How did you get started in this business?

I started playing music when I was 8-9 years old. The best grounding I ever had from a DJ and performing point-of-view was from playing weddings. When you’re playing weddings you have all types of people who want you to rock it for them. Some people want Madonna, some want Adam and the Ants with Elvis Presley chucked in for good measure. Eventually it all came together. I played weddings for at least 12 years of my life, and probably became one of the best wedding DJs of the moment.

How did you find the transition from vinyl to digital?

It was a big scary change. I never thought in a million years that the CD player would replace the turntable. Then Pioneer brought out a machine that could emulate the turntable. When I first saw it I thought an alien aircraft had landed. From a technical point of view, it’s fantastic.

From 2005 I stopped buying vinyl and started burning music onto CDs using download sites like Beatport, TrackitDown, DJsUnlimited. Behind all that was the Final Scratch system, which is now called Traktor. I will probably end my career on Traktor.

What’s the problem with clubland?

It’s difficult here in Australia. Every club owner wants to make money and nothing’s stable. There’s a point where I’ll be playing a venue for two years, and because we’re making a certain amount of money they decide to turn it into something else. That’s happening all over this country. The London club Fabric started off as a dance club and its still there today after ten years. That’s what you need, some stability.

You’ve had a few film roles. Anything in the works?

I’m working on a series for American TV called DJ’s Diaries. It’s a day-in-the-life, or rather, the years-in-the- life of Carl Cox, played by actors. We did a pilot and we’re looking at one of the big companies to pick it up. We’re hoping for that to come out by the middle of 2011.

Any plans to hang up those headphones?

Not any time soon. But there will come a point. I’ve given most of my life to nightlife. It’d be nice to see daylight for a change.

Carl Cox’s fourth artist album All Roads Lead To The Dancefloor will be released in three phases from August 1. Family Guy single arrives July 4.

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Clips of Lars Brandle’s interview with Carl Cox can be found here.

And here.

The Hot Seat: Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s worldwide manager

Published in The Music Network

 

Lady Gaga has done some phenomenal business. How do you manage an artist like Gaga?

She’s incredibly intuitive in regards to how things are supposed to roll out. She and I are partners. We talk a lot in terms of strategy and specifically the set-up around the Born This Way record. She’s really involved on a day-to-day basis. Gaga is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She pretty much keeps me busy.

You also run Atom Factory, and Coalition Media Group? How do they fit together?

Coalition is the parent company, and Atom Factory is the management division. We have Atom Digital, which is the digital marketing company; we work with everybody from Sony Pictures to Coty Fragrances, and a bunch of artists hire its services. We also have a music licensing division, a producer-and-DJ management division and a VC (venture capitalist) firm. We do angel investment in companies. We’re busy.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from managing someone of Gaga’s scale?

Don’t rest on your laurels. We don’t take anything for granted. We just get out there and work just as hard as we worked four years ago. We’re going to work more on Born This Way than we worked on the first album. You just can’t take the fans for granted and you can’t take the marketplace for granted.

You’re from an urban background. How did you bring that to the mix?

The fundaments of management are the same. Management has to really sincerely care about the artist, whether it’s R&B, hip hop, pop or folk music. We approached managing Gaga in the beginning like she was a hip hop act. We didn’t know a pop star wasn’t supposed to be doing two or three shows a day. We applied the same hustle that we put into managing a rap act. It’s something we’ve done since the beginning of time in hip hop. It worked well with pop music.

The lead single is reportedly the fastest to hit one million sales. Are record sales still something worth chasing?

Absolutely. Record sales are a great barometer to see how you’re doing in the commercial marketplace. We also look at web traffic, ticket sales, merchandise sales. All of those things are a factor. Are there any concepts Gaga has laid-out that you had to knock back? No. Creatively, I trust her instincts. We’re always looking for the biggest idea. We’re always working to try things that haven’t been done before. The crazier the idea, for me, the better. That’s what the world wants to see.

So what next with Gaga?

The Born This Way album. It’s about singular focus right now. All the energy over the next couple of years will be put into promoting this album around the world.

You’ve said in the past that Australia and Canada were the first places where Gaga broke. What happened there?

Australia has good taste. Aside from that, Australia and Canada don’t tend to just follow. Many markets simply follow what’s happening in America. When you look at band like Kings of Leon and the success Pink had, Australia just embraces things earlier. They’re two places that aren’t afraid to take chances.

Any visits to Australia on the cards?

Oh yeah, we’re coming to Australia. We’ll make a couple of trips. And we’re going to stay there for a while when we come. We were over there when Pink was playing and it was a great lesson for us to learn. When you invest in a country like [Pink did], a country will invest in you. It wasn’t about Pink going over there and piling everyone into a few stadiums for a few nights. She went over there and lived there and became part of the culture. We’ll be there in July to promote the album. Then we’re back out that way… well… it’ll be a surprise.

Carter is a speaker at the Musexpo summit in L.A this week (May 1-4).

Born This Way is out May 23 through Universal.

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