The Hot Seat: Patrick Moxey, President of Electronic Music for Sony Music and President /Founder, Ultra Music

Published in The Music Network

 

EDM is an “overnight sensation,” 20 years in the making. Patrick Moxey knows all too well the path that finally got electronic music into the U.S. mainstream – because he helped get it there. Moxey established Ultra with his first 12” release back in 1996. Now, he helms the global dance music strategy for a major music company, having recently been appointed President of Electronic Music for Sony Music. It’s been a particularly busy year for Moxey; he’s also joined the inaugural board of advisors for the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM). TMN caught up with Moxey at MIDEM.

Congratulations on the new job. What are your ambitions?

It’s about global priorities. If there’s something I can achieve in the next few years, I’d love to have a roster of electronic artists that become absolutely huge around the world and get as much respect as any top rock act ever got. At this point electronic music has paid its dues and it’s shown how many tickets it can sell, and how influential it is. Now it’s the time for it to get the respect it deserves, and that’s what I’ve set out to achieve. We’ve switched distribution from Warner to Sony. Ultra is still an independent company; they made an investment into Ultra. It’s just got more access and resources and reach. It was a logical thing for me to do, and with the development of electronic music, it’s important that Ultra continued to grow as those changes were taking place.

You’re still a firm believer in the influence of radio.

We’ve had weeks where we’ve sold 100,000 records. Radio was playing those records non-stop. It absolutely has a big part. Ed Maya’s “Stereo Love” we sold more than 2 million singles, Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close” sold more than 2 million singles. I’ve had other records like Bennie Benassi’s “Cinema” Skrillex remix, could have sold millions and did sell a million without the daytime radio. We went to top 40 radio and they were basically fighting us on playing something with a dubstep drop. It’s still an education process. Radio is still conservative. But at least they’re giving it a chance now. They’ve played our Calvin Harris records, they’re playing Deadmau5 records, Swedish House Mafia and Guetta. So it’s a big improvement.

What was the “Road to Damascus” moments for Ultra?

In 2009, when David Guetta got his first top 40 airplay in America with a record on Ultra, love is gone. That was a big breakout moment. We got the record into the Billboard Hot 100 and into the top 40. The other moment was getting Deadmau5 to be the DJ/electronic artist presenter at the MTV Music Video Awards in 2010 where every segment was cutting back and forth to him. I was downstairs in the dressing room when I overheard one of Usher’s guys say, “who’s this deadrat?” It was a moment I realized, now we’ve penetrated to all genres. That was important.

It’s early times but what do you think AFEM can really pull off?

Well, to have a voice is a concrete priority I’d like it to achieve. I’d like it to have a voice with the key awards shows, to make sure that we’re properly represented in the depth that other genres are. There’s a certain “old-school” mentality that really does exist with these organizations, where they’d prefer to – for example, they’d struggle to understand an instrumental concert experience at one of these awards shows. And yet I’m at these festivals where I see over 100,000 people going bananas to instrumental music, with high production. That needs to be represented now in the mainstream.

How big can dance music become globally?

It’s about innovation and change. What’s on the radio today, people want something new, and electronic music keep diversifying and blending with other types of music. At this point, you’ve got multiple genres of dance music. And you’ve got the pop artists basically taking the dance production, whether it’s Usher or Rihanna, so arguably the impact is already massive. It’s going to keep growing, and splintering and changing. Deep house is now having a big rise. Hard style from Holland is on the rise. Trap is on the rise. As much as you have the pretty Swedish House Mafia vocals on the radio, in the mainstream, all this other stuff is bubbling, splintering and coming up.

By its nature, dance music should become the global language?

You’re absolutely right. Its ability to cross cultures is incredible. What other song could you make that could work in an environment across any language. That’s very difficult. And dance does that.

 

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The Hot Seat: Simon Halliday, Worldwide Label Head, 4AD

Published in The Music Network

Simon Halliday is a music man, a brand steward and a raconteur. They’re all requisite skills for the executive charged with running 4AD, an independent label whose legacy is greater than all but a small few. Established in 1979 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, the label enjoyed a golden era of indie credibility through the ‘80s. The Pixies, the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and Throwing Muses are all “classic” 4AD bands. The genre-defining 1987 club- track Pump Up The Volume by M/A/R/R/S was a 4AD release. The likes of Beirut and TV On The Radio have recorded for 4AD. Halliday is an Englishman in New York. He arrived at Martin Mills’ Beggars Group at the end of 2007, having led Warp Records’ U.S. division for the previous five years. The following year, the affiliated Too Pure and Beggars Banquet brands were folded and the two imprints’ staff and artists were migrated to the 4AD label. With a current roster featuring the likes of the National, Bon Iver and Deerhunter, 4AD is arguably enjoying another golden era.

What are your thoughts on Australia’s music scene?
Australia is our No. 3 market behind the U.S. and U.K. From the ‘80s, it’s always had an active live scene. With radio here being strong and accessible, and with good press and distributors, you can connect the dots. In France or Germany, it’s a lot more difficult to connect. Here you can make things happen at whatever level you want. I don’t mean blowing things up and sell hundreds of thousands. Sometimes selling 2,000 records is a real success if it’s something underground. It’s a well rounded market. And it has been for 20 years. There’s always something here that suits my palate, like Tame Impala, Cut Copy, Nick Cave and Avalanches many years ago. They’re not really selling on their Australian-ness. I always felt bands like Midnight Oil were “professional Aussies.”

Are the plans to beef-up your presence here?
We usually go where the music takes us. If we start seeing Australian acts who are suitable for us and want to sign with us and work with us, then yes. We go wherever the personalities are and the music is. When artists like Chet Faker come up and start to get your juices going, then why not?

Where’s the pulse of indie music right now?
Over the last 10 -15 years, if there was a league table the Americans would definitely be ahead of the U.K. on the adventurous independent music front. If you think of Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Bon Iver, they’re just wiping the floor with the U.K. for ‘album’ acts. The U.K. has some solid ‘singles’ acts, and it’s gone a bit more poppy and fake R&B. But if you’re looking at the stuff 4AD and the people like Domino and Warp sign, America has been leading independent music for a good 10 years now. That’s where we’ve been gravitating to, where I’ve been gravitating to. And 80% of 4AD’s roster is American.

Are there moments in your role where it’s terrifying that you’re at the helm of a ship with a history?
I’ve had to ignore the past, because it would make you trepidatious of either ruining that legacy or just getting it wrong. I felt we had to live in the moment. We had to sign things that were great contemporary, and not think about the past. And we had to look at the label with fresh eyes. The label then tried to sign the best music for then. If you start thinking about those things, you’re going to lose. What we’re trying to do is sign the best music for now. We try and do the best new music you can in any genre, which is timeless, original, that even if you had no commercial success you look back in ten years and say, “well that was a great record. History proved us right there.” It’s not a struggle, but it’s a challenge to go through the oceans of music there is at the moment to try to get a vibe. We think we’re pretty varied in the musical output that we do. We do hope there’s a thread running through it.

What’s the future for 4AD?
Just keep improving every year. We want to have four or five pivotal albums every year, like this year we’ve got Daughter, Deerhunter, The National, and Grimes. If we can keep doing that for another five years, having as many records as possible that are defining of their genre of their time, we can hold our heads really high that we’re a great label. And that we’re a great label at a time when maybe labels mean less than they used to.

 

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The Hot Seat, Barry Hogan, Promoter, All Tomorrow’s Parties/I’ll Be Your Mirror

Published in The Music Network

Australia’s congested festivals market doesn’t scare Barry Hogan. The British promoter brought his boutique All Tomorrow’s Parties brand to Australia for a three-date trek in early 2009. Nick Cave curated those shows, which visited locations well-off the traditional festivals track. Though well received, ATP’s Australian leg lost money and the fest hasn’t been seen in these parts since. That will change in the near future. Britain’s MAMA Group last year bought a 50% stake in the company and ATP is again dipping its toes Down Under, this time via its sister event I’ll Be Your Mirror.

The Feb. 16-17 show at Melbourne’s Westgate Entertainment Centre and Grand Star Reception brings with it a killer-line-up that includes My Bloody Valentine, Einstuerzende Neubauten, the original line-up of Beasts of Bourbon, and the event co-curator, The Drones. TMN caught up with Hogan, who, with his Australian wife Deborah, runs the live events businesses and the label arm, ATP Recordings.

What’s the thinking behind the I’ll Be Your Mirror concept?

It’s basically the same format but it’s in a city and there’s no accommodation. It’s still ATP but we wanted to give it a different name because we didn’t want people to think it was a diluted version because there’s no accommodation. People can come in for just the day. It’s a sister event to ATP because when the Velvets released All Tomorrow’s Parties in 1966, the flip side was I’ll Be Your Mirror.

When you did those shows in 2009, did you get a sense that you were entering in a marketplace already rammed with festivals?

Well, it is. But the festivals that pay attention to detail with the line-up are the ones that will stand up. There will be things that fall away. There’s a lot of people there who think, “I bought a CD, I’m a promoter.” And they go out and hire a field and get a load of shit bands and wonder why it doesn’t do well. When you look at Meredith or Golden Plains who labour over their line-ups and they’ve got a loyal crowd, they’re the kind of festivals that will be around for a time to come.

Peats Ridge fest, which had a strong support base, has already fallen away.

It’s horrible when you see that. That’s a sign of the times. Festivals are falling down in Europe left, right and centre and it’s quite worrying. The key thing for us is that if we keep putting on quality line-ups, and people want to keep coming, then it’ll work out. But if we get sloppy, not that we ever would, people will see through that and they won’t take any interest.

Let’s talk about the Australian ATP shows in 2009.

It didn’t work out. We lost money. Quite a lot of money, actually. For various reasons. We learned a lot. Mount Buller is a very expensive place. It was a challenging spot to put on an event, as great as it was. They’ve since changed their management. We were keen to go back there and do it, but their quote at the time was, “the mountain isn’t ready to do anything in 2013.” When you’re already engaged with My Bloody Valentine, who obviously have a new album and haven’t toured in 21 years, you don’t want to miss out on that opportunity of having them as part of the bill so that people in Melbourne and Australia can get to see it.

When will you bring ATP back to Australia?

Maybe 2014. We’re looking around. We keep getting the question, why don’t you go back to Buller? I’ve actually discovered a number of other places. We’d like to do more stuff here. Australians embrace the music scene, especially in Melbourne. They’re so positive about everything. The problem with Britain is everyone is so jaded and cynical. If you think it’s congested here, my God, it’s much worse over there.

The ATP concept has always been sponsorship free. Will that continue?

Well, the costs are rising on festivals and expenses for suppliers all the time. You can’t keep putting up the ticket price because it’ll put the fans off. So with the changing times and the ways things are going with a saturated market, we are now quite open to having sponsorship. But we don’t want to turn it into the All Tomorrow’s Fanta Parties. We want it to be something that would align with the audience.

Are there plans to take ATP back to the States?

The market is quite soft there at the moment. We might just leave America for a while and wait for things to get a little better before returning. I’d rather look at South America and Europe, to be honest. Or doing more things in Australia.

 

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The Hot Seat: Mike Taylor, Island Records

Published in The Music Network

Five years ago, a new Island was created Down Under. Universal Music Group International and its key executives Max Hole (now Chairman and CEO) and George Ash (President of Universal Music Australasia) took the initiative to start investing heavily in Australian A&R. Part of that was to launch Island Records Australia. Half-a-decade on, a raft of Island artists have enjoyed their own slice of paradise, from Boy & Bear, Hilltop Hoods, Gin Wigmore and The McClymonts to Marvin Priest, Brian McFadden and Havana Brown.

The label is headed by Mike Taylor, who also serves as General Manager of A&R at UMA. Taylor has had A&R stints in the U.S. with Columbia Records and at Madonna’s Maverick Recording Company, and in Australia where he served as A&R Director/Head of A&R at Sony Music. At Sony, Taylor A&R’d Delta Goodrem’s Innocent Eyes, one of the biggest-selling albums in the history of Australia’s record industry.

What’s been the vision behind Island here?

Along with Island U.K. and U.S., Island Australia is the only other Island label brand in the world.  I saw it as such an exciting chance to be involved in the creation of the label, so I moved from New York to Sydney for the job. When we get it right, Island Australia is a home for artists who cut their own path, who start from the left, and who, in time, come into the mainstream on their own artistic terms.

Chris Blackwell is a legend of the music biz. Has he played any guiding role with the Aussie company?

Chris Blackwell sold Island to Polygram U.K. in 1989, when it was the world’s most successful indie label.  He stayed on as CEO of Island for another ten years but has since fully left the company. Today he’s mostly enjoying his actual island, in the Caribbean. And I hear he doesn’t leave Jamaica for much anymore.  I’ve not met him.  But his legacy is just incredible.  He brought the whole genre of reggae music to a wider world audience, and then U.K. folk, prog rock and beyond. It’s a staggeringly brilliant roster: Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Traffic, Grace Jones, Nick Drake, Free, Bad Company, Cat Stevens, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Pulp, Tricky, U2. The list goes on.

We’ve slipped into 2013. How’s the face of A&R changing?

It’s still about great songs and exciting, true talent.  However, you’re seeing a change in terms of how quickly things can happen now in the A&R world.  A song or video reacting online can overnight turn into an A&R signing frenzy, to a priority push at a major in a few days. Personally, I don’t chase trends as you’re then behind the curve. Rather, I look at what really excites me and what seems to be exciting those around me.

This year, Universal and EMI will be integrated here and elsewhere. How will that process change the way your company does A&R?

EMI has a successful roster of great Australian artists.  At Universal, all the labels–Island, Mercury, Dew Process, Modular–compete internally.  EMI will now be joining that list.  It’s a healthy competition which gives Universal a wider chance of success in the market.  For Island Australia, it’s business as usual.

You launched the Bali Songwriting Invitational back in 2009. Why?

Great songs are the key to success for an artist. I started this with Peter Coquillard, music publisher at Bill Silva Management, as something of an experiment. When there’s nothing to do but write songs and bond in an amazing setting–where mobile phone reception and Internet suck–the quality of songs can be incredible.  We bring together 21 artists and songwriters from around the world, put them in the jungle of Ubud, Bali at a recording studio and private villa resort, which we take over for ten days. Each day the writers break into groups of three: an artist, a track songwriter and a top line writer.  I get to know and work with “A List” writers and artists; that access benefits my artists immensely.  If a great song comes from it, myself and our A&R Manager Josh Kellett are the first to hear it, and possibly get it for one of my artists. Last year, 11 cuts came from the 39 songs.  That’s an amazing strike rate.  Last year APRA and Universal Music Publishing Australia came onboard as sponsors.  Our 4th annual Bali Songwriting Invitational is in May.

You’ve been in Australia five years. What are you impressions?

I loved it then, and love it now. I grew up in New York and lived in the city for years, so I wanted a change.  In terms of the music scene and industry in Australia, it’s really vibrant, and punches way above its weight class for its population size.

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