The Hot Seat: Chris Johnson, Amrap

Published in The Music Network

 

It’s crunch-time for Amrap. Until now, the national community radio initiative has been funded through the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and is managed by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. When the Government revealed its Federal Budget on May 8, however, there was no money allocated for the service. It’s a situation which has left the independent music community bewildered. And it’s placed Amrap on a knife’s edge.

Amrap distributes new Australian music to more than 1,500 broadcasters from 300 community radio stations nationwide, and last year serviced music from upwards of 1,000 unsigned artists and 100 record labels. The organisation has distributed more than 90,000 Australian music files online since its AirIt arm launched in October 2009, and its packed-and-posted 70,000 CDs to stations with limited Internet access. The project also claims more than 900 broadcasters use its Amrap Pages service to promote homegrown artists on station websites. Chris Johnson was appointed manager of Amrap in late 2008 when it received funding to generate airplay and online promotions opportunities for contemporary Australian music through community radio stations.

Amrap is in a tricky funding situation. What happened and what’s the latest?

Last year the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) asked us to apply to renew the four-year funding term we’ve operated under since 2008. They commissioned an independent review of Amrap which returned highly positive results and they asked us to apply for the existing budget of $600,000 per annum and provide an alternative bigger budget of $1 million per annum. So things looked really positive. But it appears that late in the Federal Budget, Amrap was shuffled to the Arts portfolio and fell into a defunded hole. The DBCDE and Senator Conroy’s office then said that they were working to find solutions. The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia is continuing discussions. But weeks on from the budget we still have no clear indication that the Government will resolve the crisis before funding runs out on June 30. If we don’t receive funding soon, the Government will jeopardise the airplay and online promotion of Australian music to millions of radio listeners.

Why do we need Amrap?

Community radio listenership has risen in the past ten years to 4.4 million weekly listeners and 9.3 million monthly. Amrap provides critical community radio infrastructure to promote Australian music on air and online. Community radio supports Australian music, but it’s extremely challenging for musicians and labels to target and distribute music to the hundreds of community broadcasters who decide what gets to air. It’s also challenging to track airplay and efficiently promote Australian music through community radio websites. The commercial market has never resolved these issues, so Amrap breaks these barriers for thousands of Australian broadcasters and musicians. Since inception, Amrap has facilitated a 5% rise in Australian music airplay, taking the national community radio average to 37%, which is well-above the minimum mandated requirements for community radio. Community radio stations are becoming multiplatform broadcasters with fiercely loyal audiences and Amrap provides the gateway for Australian music.

What argument are you taking to Government?

It’s unfortunate that we were mistakenly shuffled towards the Arts department in the budget process but now we need the DBCDE to restore our funding. Amrap aligns directly with the media, communications and technology objectives of the DBCDE. It would be a massive step back for Australia’s media landscape – especially in regional Australia – if community radio lost access to new local music for airplay. Losing Amrap is also a massive backward step on the Government’s commitment to provide national online infrastructure to advance our digital economy. On one hand, the Government is rolling out a national broadband network to improve online services, and on the other they’re failing to support a critical online service that thousands of Australian musicians and broadcasters rely on to securely distribute and promote music on air and online. The Government has been fully briefed on the value of Amrap since we were funded through quarterly reports and last year’s DBCDE commissioned independent review. But we’ve restated our case and I’ve written directly to Senator Conroy regarding our latest achievements.

So what is your next move?
Up until now we’ve kept media coverage and stakeholder lobbying to a minimum to give the Government time to fix the funding. The CBAA is continuing discussions with Government but I can’t hold back stakeholder discontent if we don’t receive a clear commitment from the Government soon. Amrap is still a bona fide success story for the Government and it’s not too late for Senator Conroy to champion our revival.

What’s the worst-case scenario?
The community radio sector can only prop up Amrap for so long so we’d have to slash services and thousands of musicians would miss out on airplay and online promotions.

And the best?
If the Government immediately refunds the 2012-13 financial year and works with the CBAA to secure ongoing funding for Amrap.

What can the music community can do to help

Please post your support at amrap.org so we can share your stories with Senator Conroy and the DBCDE. Because we’re funded through the DBCDE we don’t detract from the arts funding pool but we deliver real results for the music community. That’s a win-win so now is the time to fight for Australian music on Australian radio.

 

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The Hot Seat: Bart Cools, EMI

Published in The Music Network

 

Bart Cools is a 20-year veteran with EMI. He’s a survivor. He’s also tasked with overseeing the music giant’s most recent global initiative, the EMI Dance Network, an A&R and marketing network for dance music. Dance music is big business, and EMI is a big player. Its roster includes frontline signings such as David Guetta, deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia. It’s anticipated the EMI Dance Network will be key in breaking EMI’s latest signings, which include Eric Prydz, Nervo, Goldfish, Sebjak and Wally Lopez. Cools has been around dance music since today’s clubbers were in nappies. In the mid-90s, Cools worked closely with the likes of Daft Punk, Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers and Air. Amsterdam-based Cools is also an ambassador for the EMI Australia- developed She Can DJ competition, which has gone global in 2012, its second year. TMN caught up with Cools on a recent visit to the Australian company.

Let’s talk about the EMI Dance Network, which you oversee. Why start this thing now?
One of the side effects of being good at dance music is that a lot of people have started to sign dance around the world. So we wanted to be ahead of the curve and foresee the pipeline issue that we’re going to have. We sat down at the end of last year, and looked at our rosters and our catalogue. We figured we’d have to be more proactive and see what we had to do to keep our competitive advantage. So we pooled all the talent we have in A&R and marketing into managers and bookers. Dance is traditionally a single track-based business and the culture itself is at the cutting-edge. It’s often said dance music suffers the greatest damage through file-sharing. Yes, partly it is a track-based business. Yes, we’re selling a lot of tracks. But we’re selling albums as well. We’re not in the business of immediately signing the next Romanian track and spreading it around the world. We’re best at artists and developing careers. Yeah, there’s a lot of file-sharing and track sales that have been affected. But at the same time with the arrival of streaming services, Spotify in particular, there’s a lot of streaming income to be had. Obviously that’s going to hit in Australia next. It’s amazing how much hidden income there is. The same goes for payments related to club play. And in almost all cases with EMI signings of DJs and dance artists we don’t have them just for records, we also share income on live, merch and brand partnerships. It’s a much wider business than just the track, releasing the track and comp-ing it out. There is a lot of money to be made, a lot of profit to be had, if we do it right.

You mentioned multi-rights deals. Is that something you’re actively pursuing?
Yes. All of our new artists have in some way, shape or form, a multi-rights deal. Not the ones we signed in the ‘90s. Depending on where the artist already is and what he or their management has done themselves, there’s no standard multi-rights deal. They’re all tailor-made to the artist and the levels of income he or she already has. All those deals have some element of non-record income in it.

Are there any Australian signings you’re particularly keen on?
We’re working with Alison Wonderland and Minx, who came out of She Can DJ. Minx’s first track comes out in June. The Australian team signed Aston Shuffle initially for Australia, but they’re also very interesting for us. The next Empire of the Sun album is massively important for EMI. Here in Australia, we sold more than 1 million albums. Definitely there’s a lot of work to do in the UK, US and Germany. Australia is very important for us. We’re carefully looking at the Australian market to see what we could do more, both incoming and outgoing.

She Can DJ was a rare example of an Australian-created project which went global. What was it about the project that resonated?
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of passion and commitment they put into it. And of course the concept. There were no women on the Top 100 DJs list that DJ Magazine published last October. We decided we could find some media partners in Europe to see if we could replicate She Can DJ. It exploded. In Holland we’re looking for the funding to make it into a TV format and have a run of She Can DJ shows culminating in the Amsterdam Dance Event. We’ve started talking with some TV production companies to see if they could help us develop a format around this. There will be a lot more countries coming in, and obviously we’ve got part of the rights.

It was interesting to see Universal recently announced its own Electronic Dance Music label, PM:AM, particularly given their planned acquisition of EMI.
Without knowing what’s going to happen, the only thing we can do try to work with and for our artists as best as we can. We have to do a job. All our artists have one career, and you can’t sit back, and wait-and-see while all those careers go to waste. The best way to get through the next few months is to do it as good as possible and keep doing it.


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The Hot Seat: Andrew Catterall, AFL GM of Strategy and Marketing

Published in The Music Network

 

Australians love their music. And they’re obsessed with their sport. It’s a fact that hasn’t missed the AFL hierarchy. The current campaign marks the second, expanded year of AFL Live at the Footy, a project which places Australian performers in front of premiership audiences. In the opening round, Tex Perkins, Tim Rogers and Even kicked things off. The likes of Hey Geronimo and Stevie Wright have followed. And there’s a whole lot more to come. Live at the Footy is a joint project between the AFL and Southern Cross Austereo, in conjunction with music supervisors Level Two Music. It’s also heavily supported by Channel 7 and Frontier Touring. TMN caught up with chief match-maker Andrew Catterall, the AFL exec who marries the music to the footy masses.

Why did AFL Live at the Footy come about?
We think it’s natural to tell the story of the Australian game with Australian music. That connection is at the player level, the artist level and the fans. Lots of players, artists and fans are into their music and their footy. So what we’re trying to do is make that natural connection. Where that’s most authentic is in Melbourne, where footy and music are two of the big things that make the city tick. At the heritage end, we’ve had Stevie Wright and of course we rolled out the AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way To the Top as the soundtrack to the AFL’s brand work. So we’re celebrating that on Saturday nights through the year, with established and emerging artists. This year we’ll do around 15-16 mini-concerts (in Melbourne), around 19 (nationally). We’re encouraging the clubs in the other states to, where appropriate, use music. The West Coast Eagles did a great show last year with Ross Wilson and Eagle Rock, to mark the team’s 25th year. The Gold Coast Suns are doing a lot of work with it, and last year in Adelaide we worked a campaign. It’s available in every other market.

Do you see a time when every game has a live show?
No, it’s got to make sense within the game. For us Saturday night is an appropriate night. Live music is absolutely a part of going out on a Saturday night, getting to the footy. It’s a very social environment. People might make it a part of a bigger night out.

What’s the format?
There’s two songs before the game as the teams are about to run out, then two songs at halftime. That gives the artist good exposure as the crowd moves in and out of the stadium and it gives multiple outcomes with the broadcasters. Post-match, the concerts will be loaded-up into the AFL.com.au environment. Austereo and the Radar network carry it and promote it. Channel 7 does a live cross within their broadcast and we promote it and talk about it through all the AFL channels. Obviously we give the content to the artists. The performance lives on in terms of the online environment. We get a lot of international traffic to our website. Perhaps 10-15% is from international.

Have you seen indicators that these concerts are sparking interest for the AFL fans?
We’re getting good feedback. Some people are seeing artists they really like and others are being exposed to artists they haven’t heard of before. We think we can take a really positive package to the artists as well. There’s a chance to play to a larger audience. We had some anecdotal feedback from artists last year that it helped them to sell their tours and saw surges in iTunes sales.

How do you select the acts?
They have to be Australian, first of all. We’re looking for artists that have had an impact in the Triple J Hottest 100 or the summer festival tours, or the EG Awards, or the AMP Awards and the ARIAs; obviously bands making a bit of a statement. Also we try to give a mix of sounds, like Last Dinosaurs and Children Collide, Bluejuice, Husky, San Cisco, or a Lanie Lane. And we’re label agnostic. Hopefully we have a working partnership with the whole industry here.

Are they paid a fee or is it purely promotional?
We have a package that we take to them which covers their expenses. There is a performance fee. It’s very consistent across all the artists.

The Meat Loaf performance at the 2011 Grand Final took a lot of flack. Now the AFL has a regular live component, what have you learned?
That’s a really important part of what we’re trying to do. Historically you ended up with one random concert on Grand Final day. By working with music more consistently through the season we learn how the stadium works better, how to work with the artists better. Hopefully doing a lot of this work for Australian music throughout the year provides a nice platform for whatever we decide to do on Grand Final day. Last year in the finals we did eight great concerts. We had the likes of Eskimo Joe, Ross Wilson, Glenn Shorrock, Dan Sultan, Tim Rogers. Everyone points at the Meat Loaf situation, but there was a truckload of great Australian music work that we did last year that we’ll do again this year. And, yes, we’ve got a few good ideas for the finals and the Grand Final.

 

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Queen’s Honours For Cottle, Young, Harris

Industry leader Brett Cottle, veteran singer John Paul Young and legendary entertainer Rolf Harris were among the Australians feted Monday in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Cottle, who is the well-respected chairman and CEO of the Australasian Performing Right Assn. (APRA) and its sister mechanical rights body AMCOS, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). The award was recognition for “service to the performing arts, particularly to songwriters, composers and publishers, through executive roles with copyright protection organisations, and to the community.”

APRA and AMCOS are separate not-for-profit organizations, which together represent tens of thousands of music-makers, and distribute to them tens of millions of dollars in royalties collected each year.

APRA alone represents more than 68,000, composer, songwriter and music publishers in Australia and New Zealand. Cottle has been at the helm of APRA since 1990. In its most recent financial report, APRA generated overall revenue for the year to June 30, 2011 of Australian $183 million ($182 million), up Australian $10.6 million ($10.5 million) on the previous year. Results in recent years have been on a similar growth trajectory.

The Order of Australia, Australia’s highest non-military honor, was established “for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service”.

Previous recipients of the Member of the Order of Australia include former Midnight Oil frontman turned frontline politician Peter Garrett, artist and broadcaster Rolf Harris, plus executives Denis Handlin, chairman/CEO of Sony Music Australia and New Zealand, and Mushroom Group of Companies chairman Michael Gudinski. 

Meanwhile, Young, best known for the international hit “Love Is In The Air,” received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Also today, Harris was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in recognition for his distinguished service to the performing and visual arts, to charitable organisations and to international relations through the promotion of Australian culture.

Harris, who is a household name in his adopted homeland of Britain, gained fame as a broadcaster, painter and singing star. He enjoyed a string of U.K. chart hits including the No. 1 single “Two Little Boys” (Columbia) from 1969. He is already an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and in 2006 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Cottle, Young and Harris were among the 762 Australians included in this year’s list.