The Hot Seat: Penny Weber, Director, Cover Your Artz

Published in The Music Network


Cover Your Artz has launched a new one-stop website for tour logistics. Can you tell me a little about the service?
It fills a gap in terms of finding production staff anywhere in the world and of course in Australia. It means, for managers and for booking agents and production managers and touring managers, instead of spending hours on a phone trying to find the right people in the right spots with the right skills, and the right money, you can find that information instantly. The website also generates all the necessary paperwork. If you’re hiring a production engineer, the website will send him a booking sheet and an agreement. It automates some of those back-room services which drive you bananas because they’re so time-consuming and fairly inane.

Why hasn’t this type of thing been set up before?
Because it costs so much money. I came up with the idea in 2003, when I was running a national tour for a band who had a grant application approved. We were trying to minimise the cost of touring. I couldn’t find engineers in two areas. I ended up taking a sound engineer from Melbourne who doubled as a tour manager. The tour was financially successful in the end, because the band was on the up and we sold lots of merchandise. But there was a downside. I figured “Wouldn’t it be great if that kind of database existed,” and I wanted to set one up. A friend who was into computer programming gave me a “mates rate” of setting it up at $150,000. The card rates would be about $250,000. I was 23 at the time, and I didn’t have the cash. Fast forward several years, technology has improved drastically and you can almost buy this type of computer programming off the shelf, which minimises the costs greatly. I have a private investor, but it wasn’t a huge amount of money in the end.

Who do you anticipate will use this?
I hope everyone uses it. The target demographic essentially is anyone from artist managers to bands. It’s for anyone doing a theatre show, an opera, a dance show, a band show, whoever it is looking to take a performance around the country and looking to fill those roles.

Can bands living abroad use this service to explore the market?

Are there any dreams to build this into an international network?
Yeah, when I first started working on the idea, I got chatting to some of the international speakers at Bigsound in 2008. There was some interest about those people representing the brand, or franchising the brand in those territories. I was looking at making it an international website from the outset. But because the booking sheets are contractual, you can’t legally just transfer that to England or America without actually setting up a website primarily for those areas.

On a personal note, you had a near- death experience some time ago. How did that incident shape your focus as an industry professional?
As a pedestrian, I was hit by a car doing 60km. That was in June 2009. I broke 13 bones and spent three months in hospital and it’s been a fairly long recovery process. In those two years, I’ve learnt to walk again, got my life back together again, rebuilt a website. I have a lot of respect for people in the medical profession, and anyone who can maintain a work-life balance successfully. It’s been a really interesting process. I certainly prioritise my friends and family more than I used to. I’m just thankful to be here.

What’s on the slate for the coming weeks?
We’re hosting a series of workshops in Melbourne [August 20 at NMIT Fairfield], Sydney [August 28 at Notes Live] and Adelaide [September 3 Chapel Lanes studio]. The workshops are the real-world launch for the brand Cover Your Artz. We’re doing it for two different sectors of the industry. One is the performers, the other is production staff. For the performers, we’re teaching them how to interact and engage with an audience, how to look after their nerves, how to present themselves on stage. We’re looking at teaching sound engineers how to be tour managers and production managers. It’s more cost-effective taking a sound engineer on the road who can also tour manage.

Workshop speakers include managers Gregg Donovan (Grinspoon, Airbourne, Josh Pyke), Keith Welsh (Icehouse) and Catherine Haridy (Eskimo Joe, Bob Evans, Jimi Maroudas) plus Chapel Lane Entertainment owner Wayne Ringrow, Andy Walters (AJ Sound/FOH Shannon Noll) and Angus Davidson, front-of-house for Crowded House. Early bird rates apply to those who sign-up before Friday August 12.

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The Hot Seat: Bob Aird, MD, Universal Music Publishing Group, Australia

Published in The Music Network


Australian music publishers have gone some way to casting off that dusty image of the industry’s bankers. They’re more proactive in pursing new talent. How so?

Publishers are in constant contact with managers, lawyers and venues, and they’re trawling the Internet in search of emerging writers and bands to develop to a level where they can be presented to labels and managers. Publishers traditionally didn’t have much profile in consumer-land so there could be a dusty image in the outside world, but definitely not from within the music and creative industries. Music publishers control some powerful rights on behalf of songwriters and they’re the engine room of the music industry. Smart, experienced label A&R staff know this and have always regarded publishers as satellite A&R departments and the go-to operators when looking for that hit song. As do film and TV producers, games developers, advertising agencies and anyone needing music for their productions. That’s what it’s all about… the songs.

What are the biggest issues facing Australian publishers today?

There is no doubt that piracy and illegal file- sharing continues to be the major issue for the industry, although some excellent news has just come out of the US following considerable discussion, the major US ISPs have agreed with the music and film industries to install a system of copyright alerts which highlights non-copyright works and directs the consumer away from piracy and towards legitimate streaming and downloads operators. Rights-holders around the world can take heart from this. Practically everything we do in our leisure time involves music. And all this music has to be correctly licensed at a fair fee, which can sometimes be an issue.

Is there money out there that songwriters aren’t getting their hands on?

The most important role of the music publisher is to ensure that songwriters are correctly and promptly compensated for their work. Of course there is money out there that song writers and publishers are not getting their hands on, many millions of dollars, and that’s due to illegal file sharing and piracy. It goes without saying that the music industry can’t keep investing in new talent if it cannot get a fair return for its investment. Look at Spain where there is a very high piracy rate and the consequence is that there was not one new local artist on the Spanish singles chart last year.

Although the record business has been banging the drum for a long time, do you think the Government is truly aware of the role of music publishing and songwriting?

They’re very much aware. Music publishers via APRA, AMCOS and AMPAL have a very positive relationship with Government and are in regular contact with Attorney Generals, Arts and Communications departments on issues relevant to songwriters and publishers. Some current issues are the value of music creators’ rights particularly in the digital world, addressing online copyright theft via an ISP Code of Practice, and the economic value of live music. We are also involved in meeting with Federal and State MPs and departmental staff supporting the message that Music+Rights = Respect. The APRA Song Summit which is co-sponsored by the NSW Government attracts plenty of attention.

Sync has been the buzz-word in publishing circles for some years now. Where are the big areas of growth for music publishers?

Yes, sync has become a major marketing and promotional tool and a solid revenue stream which has returned to pre-GFC levels. It’s worth noting that publishers secure many sync licences, locally and internationally, on tracks which are not released, which highlights the fact that publishers can generate income for songwriters even though they may not be getting any interest from labels. Publishers have five main sources of revenue: mechanicals, performing, sync, digital and print. Predictably, mechanical revenues for the industry are decreasing but I can happily say that for Universal Music Publishing Australia all other sources are on the increase. APRA recently reported a 7% increase in payments to members, and although digital has slowed a little it still shows year-by-year increases.

And the weakest?

Well, what’s really annoying me today is the devaluing of music by people in the industry who should know better. Music is being licensed for well-under its real value by short-sighted people for a quick buck.

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