The Hot Seat: Lindy Morrison, Go-Betweens

Published in The Music Network

Those drummer jokes guitarists love to tell. Well, they don’t apply to Lindy Morrison. Morrison is a whole lot more than just a time-keeper. She’s one of the Australian music industry’s great all-rounders – an artist, a teacher, an advocate. Morrison got her break as drummer with the critically-revered Brisbane band the Go-Betweens.

Her work can be heard on Cattle and Cane, selected by APRA in 2001 as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. Lindy is the National Welfare Co-ordinator for Support Act Ltd, the benevolent society for musicians and workers in the music industry. She also teaches Music Business at Sydney Institute Ultimo, sits on the board of PPCA (representing recording artists) and in 2013 received an Order of Australia (OAM) medal, for services to the Australian music industry as a performer and an advocate.

You juggle so many roles. How do you describe yourself on that sheet of paper you hand to immigration?

I have no idea. I’m constantly amused by what occupation I have to put down when I’m filling out paperwork. I make a decision based on how I want them to treat me. The last time I was at a dentist, I wrote “social worker.” Because that’s how I wanted them to see me. If you want to be treated like you’re working in side-show alley, then put “musician”.

I’ve met many folks over the years who’ve been taught by yourself. What’s some of the best advice you give to music business students?

To understand how copyright works. To advocate on behalf of recording artists’ rights. And to take control of the contracts; you can understand the contract, you can understand the language in the contract. It’s not that hard. I love teaching music business and I love teaching copyright. I’ve the most extraordinary Powerpoint presentation on the history of copyright law which I’ve built up over ten years. That’s how obsessed I get. I went to the University of NSW a few years ago and got a Master’s in Legal Studies, and I really concentrated on the intellectual property subjects just so I could be more ‘conversent’ with people when it came to talking about copyright.

What drives you? You have an OAM. These things don’t just fall from trees.

What drove me to take an interest in the music business was when the Go-Betweens broke up in 1990, and I was completely unaware of how the royalty streams were operating, what contracts were in existence. And I slowly uncovered those contracts over the years and then began looking closely at accounting. Most labels will inadvertently make mistakes with accounting. People are often down on the majors, but for mine, it’s been the independents that I’ve had to really keep a track on, what licenses have occurred, whether or not the payments have been made, whether the deductions match up with the contract. By way of example, Beggars Banquet were taking a 25% deduction on packaging (with the Go-Betweens), before we got on top of it and realised the contract only said 20%. These little things add up. Particularly when the Beggars contract is 90% of a 100% anyway. To this day that figure is because of vinyl breakage.

What is your role with Support Act?

I have a social work degree, and I work part-time with them as a social worker. We provide grants to people who work in the industry, not just musicians but roadies and others, who become ill or fall on hard times. We pay bills, up to a certain amount of money each year. My job is to help people with their applications, to advocate on their behalf with other agencies, to help them decide which is the best way to spend their grant, then keep in contact with them during the time they get their grant from us.

One of my favourite jobs is working down at the Bondi Beach at the community center. There’s an intellectually disabled band I’ve worked with for many years, called the Junction House Band. They write and record all their own material, and have done for 20 years. I can do all this because I love the music industry. I’m not one of these people who bag it. The great thing about the music industry is that it attracts so many people who live on the margins. So many people couldn’t exist outside our industry and they’ve managed to have successful careers, or just made a living.

You’re on the board of the PPCA. We’ve seen an escalation in the simulcast situation with close to 200 stations pulling regional simulcasts.

It’s a shame they did that. I think they misunderstand the issue. Basically the full Federal Court and the High Court have said a simulcast in not a broadcast. A broadcast is a specific technology, a simulcast can reach a much wider audience. We’re just asking for compensation for the use of our recordings over the web, for streaming on simulcasts. I’m involved because the PPCA pays recording artists. And I want to see recording artists paid for the work they do in creating these unique pieces of copyright. We just want to negotiate with Commercial Radio Australia. Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister of Communications, has said the Government can’t legislate this. It has to be sorted out in the marketplace. It’s a commercial transaction, the independent arbitrator the Copyright Tribunal can make the decision on what the fee should be. Very learned people sit on that tribunal.

In your time with the Go-Betweens, did you know you were doing something important?

I knew that the work was brilliant and I thought the boys’ songwriting was brilliant, which is why I joined the band. As a three-piece we cut a fine figure as a group; the chemistry between members of the group is often underestimated. It’s what happens within a group that becomes fascinating and it comes out in the instrumentation and other finer details. And then getting Robert Vickers (bass) and Amanda Brown (violin, oboe, guitar, keyboards), it was such a unique group of individuals, a unique sound. We were very interested in culture, reading, film, galleries. Of course when we started we were very inexperienced on our instruments. And we grew together.

It’s curious that the Go-Betweens haven’t been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

There’s a reason for that. Robert won’t do it. He and Grant discussed it before Grant died, that they’d never want to be a part of that Hall of Fame stuff.

Do you think he can be swayed?

I wouldn’t try. That’s just how he feels. But they did accept an ARIA Award, post the “classic” period (laughs).

Incredibly, the band has a toll bridge named after them in Brisbane. But officials didn’t quite get the name right. It’s missing the hyphen, and the “S” at the end.

That was Campbell Newman, Queensland voted and that was the name they wanted. But then the politicians decided to have it go both ways by having a name that could mean two things. But it is a beautiful bridge. It’s so elegant. I went to the opening ceremony and it was the first time I’d seen Robert Forster for such a long time. It was truly amazing, walking over the bridge and catching up on 20 years. I’ve had Brisbane friends complain about the toll, and that people don’t use the bridge. I don’t care. I’m happy about the fact the bridge is named after the Go-Betweens.

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The Hot Seat: Lorne Padman, Vice President/Label Manager – Dim Mak

Published in The Music Network

 

For veteran dance music exec Lorne Padman, the beat goes on in another corner of the world. After nine years with Vicious Recordings, Padman last year made the leap across the Pacific and into an executive position at Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak. Now based in L.A., Padman reports to the label’s President Lee Kurisu and its owner/founder Steve Aoki, the high-profile deck-master who came in at No. 8 in DJ Magazine’s recent Top 100 DJs poll. At Melbourne-based Vicious, Padman served in various functions, from Label Manager, Radio & TV Plugger, and Artist Management, and was part of the initial development team for some major dance brands including Avicii, The Potbelleez, Dirty South & Angger Dimas. In this, his most extensive interview since taking the new job, Padman gives an insiders look into America’s exploding EDM business, and offers some words of advice.

Lorne, what does your job entail?

I primarily manage 14 staff and interns at our Hollywood office under direction from Founder Steve Aoki and President Lee Kurisu and travel a little for functions and festivals around the U.S. The main focus of my role requires me to apply my diplomacy and attention-to-detail skills to the staff whose tasks I manage. Though the opportunities are boundless in terms of the numerous people we interact with for events, branding, sponsorship, marketing and on recordings. Rolling with Steve Aoki has been eye-opening to say the least, as it’s customary to engage in down-to-Earth conversations with otherwise inaccessible celebrities and influencers. Even without Steve in tow, the Dim Mak “badge” is the biggest door opener I’ve ever known.

At the Electronic Music Conference in 2012, Tiesto said he employed a team of 35 fulltime staff. Will yours ever challenge that?

Yes, it’s part of the plan to bring in talent when the demand presents itself. Dim Mak has had the most successful quarter in the 17 year history of the label, so the trajectory is defiantly skywards.

How did your gig come about?

Dim Mak’s celebrated history has been driven by super motivated employees — many of whom have Dim Mak tattoos — whose first job here was as an intern. Aoki’s new vision is to capitalise on the worldwide rise of EDM by bringing in key staff with strong backgrounds that can support these über talented staff and take the label to the next level. That first started with the mastermind Lee Kurisu who ran Thrive Records for 11 years and one of the most respected, up-and-coming publicists in America, John Ochoa. Steve told me he’d spent 6 months searching globally, and appointed me as the “final puzzle piece”; there’s elements of being Dim Mak’s diplomatic leader and someone who has literally served every function in the building from artist signing and management to audio and video editing, legals and artwork. When he called me in Melbourne, I seriously thought he was asking me for someone I knew in L.A. who would be right for the role and I was quite surprised when he said “no man, I want you!”

You’ve been in the States for four months now. What are your thoughts on the “EDM” landscape over there?

“Bigger than Ben Hur!” It’s on a scale hard to mentally visualise until you are immersed in it. I feel the “DJ-as-a-rock-star culture” is heavily reinforced over here because if you think about it, years ago bands like The Beatles for example were “popular” music, which was shortened to “pop” music. What’s popular right now around the world is Dance music. So the Dance music creators being producers and the Dance music performers being DJs are now the new “pop-ular” stars. The EDM landscape here is serving as a platform for these popular producer and performers, and the demand is in the shape of hordes of fans switching on to an exciting new movement in their eyes.

Considering the EDM business got so big so quick, many observers are trying to predict when the “bubble will burst”. What are your thoughts?

No chance. The new generation of 15-year-olds over here are primarily listening to “entry level” commercial Dance music and the pre-drinking age 18-year-olds are listening to “cooler” Dance music, but its all Dance music, as opposed to Urban or Rock. So America is building a Dance Music “Army.” And with massive players like SFX investing so heavily, its only going to keep expanding

Is “EDM” a bad word?

No, it’s perfectly suited to categorise what it is. No one had a problem with Rhythm & Blues becoming R&B? We’ll look back on this era like we do on those of the rock n roll, disco and pop eras of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s as the era where Dance music had become so prevalent it demanded its own category.

There are few Aussies working in the U.S. music business, and likewise few Americans back here. Any tips on how an exec can make that leap Stateside.

Not discounting the amount work that needs to go into learning a whole new market, the similarities between our cultures are boundless so it really can be a smooth transition. And although the contacts and radio frequency on the dial changes, I believe it’s the underlying skill set of “systems and processes” that are critical to success. When I moved from Perth to Melbourne 10 years ago, I was told Melbourne is a big city, but if you know the right people, it’s a small city. I’m finding that the same for L.A. – it’s not as daunting as you’d think. So my biggest tip is that your chances of success are enhanced greatly if you have an outgoing personality, a genuinely engaging nature and are prepared to put yourself out there, as this is absolutely a networking-town filled with others who are willing to go the extra mile for you.

We’ve seen a handful of homegrown artists go and make a name for themselves in the U.S. — Tommy Trash, Stafford Brothers. Do you need to be based over there to make it happen? Do you need the right haircut and a “six-pack”?

Yes, most definitely. There’s no substitute for being on the ground, creating personal connections and vibing with other key influencers and players who can help your network. Even when you have a big song that cuts through, it can only be made much bigger by being in the faces of strategic amplifiers. Tommy is a great example of someone forming an amazing U.S. strong team around him, giving him the foundations for lift off. Dirty South is another being accepted as a bona fide U.S. player on the ground and the Stafford Brothers have made a name for themselves by networking their arses off and enjoy a well-deserved reputation of holding the most epic parties in L.A. Oh and as for the having the haircut and “six-pack” – yes, a good hair cut is mandatory, “six-pack” optional.

 

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The Hot Seat: Martin Goldschmidt, Founder, Cooking Vinyl

Published in The Music Network

 

When Martin Goldschmidt established Cooking Vinyl back in 1986, his label had a distinct lean towards folk music. Not any more. Yes, Billy Bragg remains one of Cooking Vinyl’s most iconic artists, having come on board in 1993. But the Bard of Barking slots into a roster alongside the likes of the Prodigy, Amanda Palmer, Underworld, Groove Armada, the Cranberries and Marilyn Manson.

When Goldschmidt began working with the Prodigy, predictably, a lot of noise was made. The London-based imprint partnered with Ingenious Media Investments to release the electronic punks’ fifth studio album Invaders Must Die back in 2009. The set went on to be one of the year’s biggest-selling independent records in Europe, and shifted more than a million worldwide. Cooking Vinyl got hot.

Goldschmidt is recognised as one of Europe’s savviest independent music chiefs, with an artist-centric strategy, whether his firm is functioning as a label proper or in a services-only capacity.

Cooking Vinyl Group, which also includes its sister company Essential Music & Marketing, landed a deal in 2011 to fund future projects through U.K. venture-capital company Icebreaker.

The British indie label recently opened for business in Australia, with an office in Melbourne led by two former Shock Records executives, Leigh Gruppetta and Stu Harvey. Cooking Vinyl Australia has since struck a partnership with PledgeMusic.

What has been the secret to the success of Cooking Vinyl?

Understanding what our job is. The old school vision of a record label is about amassing a bank of copyrights and exploiting them ruthlessly. Suing the public and paying the artist as little as possible. Hated by both. We see the job of a label is to sit between the artist and the public. The better we serve those two masters, the more successful the artist is. We live and die by our artists’ success.

The label began with folk origins. Clearly the label has changed. What’s been behind that radical evolution?

My personal taste were always very wide in terms of genre but always leaning to left-field, edgy music. Most people’s taste are cross genre. Strip out genre and focus on left-field, edgy – and Amanda Palmer, Billy Bragg, Prodigy, and Marilyn Manson on the same label make complete sense.

When I spoke with Billy Bragg recently, we talked about his long standing relationship with yourself. He said Pete Jenner had told him “the best record deals are the ones that only last seven years and that you get your rights back at the end of that.” Apparently that’s the type of deal you and Billy have and you’ve been going like that for more than 20 years. Is it dangerous to be too flexible?

At the time we signed Billy, it was a case of Pete saying “jump” and me saying “how high.” It took me years to appreciate what a great deal it was for both of us. Firstly, I don’t think CV would be here today without Billy.

Originally the deal was for 3 years. Billy has now stayed with us for twenty years and renewed the contract six times. He has not stayed through loyalty, and I have written to him several times and said that I believed we were the best option for him and what we could do for him, but that he should only stay if he also thought that. I don’t expect blind loyalty.

To my knowledge it was the first artist services deal and although there can be downsides to these deals they have big upsides which worked really well for Billy. His back catalogue sales are very strong. In these deals the artist gets the lion’s share of the money but has to pay all the costs from it. Before the costs are paid, their unrecouped balance can look like bad major label excesses but after the costs are paid then they earn far more money than a royalty deal. Billy has done very well. On top of this he has known and approved how we have spent his money. He knows exactly what he earns from Spotify and also every other piece of the pie by Spotify and business partners. So the artist and management have far more information and control than a standard record deal. Furthermore the fact the costs belong to the artist, not the label, creates a true business partnership with interests better aligned. Pete also taught me some other brilliant twists like letting the artists do official bootlegs to sell at shows and on their website only. It’s really hard for many of our artists to earn a living and selling 2,000 bootlegs without the record company taking a cut could mean they make $20,000 which can really square the income circle and get them through.

You’re launching in Australia. What’s the appeal with doing business Down Under?

The biggest appeal is the people. Our new team are all good friends and people we have worked with for many years. It’s a well-kept secret that my Mum was Australian and my wife is from Tassie. I’ve heard all the jokes. I have an Aussie passport. I have spent a lot of time in Oz. Finally you guys speak English – well, strine anyway – and that makes it easy culturally both to work with, and you get a lot of the music we do better than most places on the planet.

You also have a presence in the U.S. Where to next?

The U.S. is currently a publishing and A&R operation. We don’t use Erik Gilbert to oversee releases but instead we partner with local quarterbacks very successfully. For example last year we sold 120,000 Marilyn Manson records in the U.S. We are looking at other markets carefully. We strongly believe in finding the right people and until we do we will not set up in a country. So we have just taken on product management in Germany and are looking at a number of countries and opportunities.

 What’s the ultimate goal with the CV Group of Companies?

I wish I could talk about it, but there is no plan. I really admire the Beggars business model and success. There is a great synergy between our companies and for example owning our own distribution company, Essential Music, which strengthens both entities. That said Essential’s success this year — with Passenger and others — totally eclipses our own.

The Universal-EMI deal went through, the majors are still playing their game. What’s vexing you right now?

To be honest our business is growing every year. We are getting great artists to work with. We earn a decent living and we’re having a lot of fun. Nothing in the business arena right now.

You told Billboard your revenue target for 2012 was about £10 million. What’s your target for this year?

£12 million

Much has been said about the small royalty streams coming from streaming services. Where do you stand on the likes of Spotify?

Love ‘em. Recorded music is a niche product. Spotify and YouTube are the biggest weapons we have to seduce the public to pay for music and make it a mass market product. The concept of fighting piracy is a joke, the key is to seduce via a great business model. Spotify are getting a lot of heat right now. But it is interesting that their name is synonymous with streaming. It’s like becoming what a Hoover is to a vacuum cleaner. What I don’t get is why people take their stuff off Spotify but still use YouTube and Soundcloud and say nothing about Grooveshark. To me it is pure ignorance. Now if people want to shout about inadequate remuneration from streaming in major label record contracts then I have some sympathy.

The Hot Seat: Benji Rogers, CEO & Co-Founder, PledgeMusic

Record, release, promote. That’s the old way, reckons Benji Rogers. The future as he sees it is all about a deep engagement between musicians and their fans, where the recording process is part of the promotion. The PledgeMusic leader is confident that future is already here. Rogers and founding partner Jayce Varden launched PledgeMusic in 2009, with a plan to help artists bridge those direct-to-fan relationships. To date, the company has worked on campaigns including ABBA, Slash, Bring Me The Horizon, Ben Folds Five and Killing Joke; the likes of homegrown artists Kate Miller-Heidke and Pseudo Echo have launched campaigns on its global platform. As at October, the company had boasted its campaigns had resulted in ten top 40 albums, with top 5 chart placings in the U.K., Europe, Canada and Australia.

Rogers, a guest speaker at Bigsound 2012, has a keen eye on Australia where the average Pledge is $75 — well up on the U.S. ($55) and U.K (£35) average. According to the company, the average Australian campaign success rate tips 93%, and data from its campaigns count toward the ARIA charts. PledgeMusic bolstered its business Down Under earlier this year when it hired former Shock Entertainment executive GM Scot Crawford as GM for the Australian and New Zealand territories.

What’s the mantra behind Pledge?

One of the missions for Pledge is that it has to work for the artist to survive. Because there is no viable alternative at this point due to the sheer lack of sales and the sheer lack of financial income at the smallest-and mid level, to move through. I don’t see a viable strategy. If we keep putting “buy” buttons or “donate” buttons in front of people we’ll start to turn them off. I’m passionate about this because it has to work. In two years’ time we’ll look back and say, “do you remember when people used to just put ‘buy’ buttons up on websites and people used to ask for ‘donations’ on crowd funding platforms?” We’ve just lifted the lid on the last frontier in recorded music, which is the process by which it’s made. And the fundamental belief is, that the more fans that are involved in it, the more fans are brought into that process, the more the music means to them. If you’re confronted with an option as a customer, and you can stream it an infinite number of times for a small fee, buy a download or compact disc, or watch it being made and be a part of the process and share with all my friends as its happening. Which is better for everybody involved? It has to be No. 3. There’s a reinvention going on in the music industry. This is how it will look. The New York Times writer Nick Bilton said, “the fans of yesterday aren’t coming back, so why are we selling to them like it was yesterday?” With the ascendancy of Facebook and Twitter, there’s a participation element to this. The idea of holding everything back and a record label reveals the product is kinda dead, because everybody knows about it through social media anyway.

A recent Nielsen study found consumers would pay extra for exclusive content during that process of recording an album. You were involved in that study. What did you make of the results from it?

Well, the first was that the U.S. alone leaves $2.6 billion on the table because fans want access to the process as its being made. The second thing I took away was that when we asked the consumers who do they want to see going into this process and sharing direct-to-fans, they said, “all of the big guns” – Coldplay, Rihanna, Kings of Leon, Beyonce. They want all the big bands to offer this experience. But instead, all the big bands offer is that blanket cover-all. The third thing was, when they pooled the marketplace and asked “who is interested and aware” or “interested and unaware” of this process that $2.6 billion figure goes up to $9 billion. What that’s saying is that if fans are exposed to it, they would get involved. But the problem is, we’re not exposing it. All we’re doing is exposing the existing music fans to more and more ways to buy, and fewer and fewer reasons to buy. If you purchase a Rickie Lee Jones album now, you get to watch it as it goes through its paces. It’s not for everybody, but the fact is you shouldn’t treat superfans just like they’re everybody. Because their ability to spend is absolutely huge in comparison to what they’re able to spend on traditional direct-to-consumer sites. The industry is leaving not just $2.6 billion but $9 billion in the U.S. alone. That’s kind of crazy.

This model is targeted at the super-fan. How will you get this to the mainstream?

That’s the point; most fans are not able to become super-fans. There’s no way for them to express that loyalty. You can go on Facebook and Twitter and you can go to shows, and you can buy multiple copies of the CD. But how can you express it? How do you become an influencer? The average Australian Pledger spends $75 per transaction, beaten only fractionally by Canada. You think to yourself, how do you spend $75 on the release of a Beyonce album? Nine times of out 10 those big bands don’t offer the general consumers a way to do that. I’m not saying you’ll get all (the consumers). The majority just want to hit play on a streaming service, and that’s fine. But what you don’t want to do is to lose the ones that do want to spend that because they’ve simply no interaction with the artist or their team. Ed Sheeran is going to be in a studio and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t interact, I can’t be involved, I can’t watch. Ed’s making an album, and he’s going to emerge once the album is made and try sell it to me. Ed as an artist is a phenomenal thing to watch. Ed Sheeran as a salesman, maybe not so much. When the artist is doing their art, I can be a part of that. I can feel I’m a part of that, even if I’m just giving updates in the studio. When the artist is a salesman, that’s a one-way street – buy my shit, come to my show. A lot of artists aren’t comfortable being a salesman or woman, whereas if you offer the making of the art, the process behind it, that’s what fans are responding to and they’re willing to pay for it if it’s offered.

Your Australian business has been running for a while. What are you have you learned from the Australian projects?

The Australians are an incredibly high spending, loyal fanbase. You have to give them a way to show and prove that. Kate Miller-Heidke’s fans have been going crazy with the way they’ve been sharing it, because we’ve got technology that allows you to. The data we’re seeing from the U.S. is $55. The average in Australia is $75, even with conversation that’s pretty amazing. For us it’s just about telling the story. We have to get better with telling that story in Australia to those centres of influence, those artists and managers who we are a logical step for. And we’re also seeing the emergence of Aussie fans within our system who want to be involved in more campaigns.

So how will improve on telling of the story?

It’s through on-the-ground, meeting with people, artist by artist. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is a lot of work. But it’s worth it. We did a partnership with Moshcam, which was very much led out of Australia.

Is crowdfunding becoming a cluttered space?

I view us as stuck between crowdfunding and direct-to-consumer as the true definition of direct-to-fan. Crowdfunding is essentially a simple thing. It’s “please give me money and then I will go do something.” Direct-to-consumer is, “we’ve already made something, here’s six ways to buy it on our website.” Direct-to-fan is in the middle. What Kickstarter and Pozible and Indiegogo and the hundreds of other straight-up crowdfunding campaigns do well, is they do a proof-of-concept model. I don’t believe music should be proof-of-concept. If you’re going to make a record and you want to involve your fans in it, you can offer them all these multiple ways to do it, why should it just be around a short time period? Albums can take three-six months to make, so why not run a campaign for that length of time?

You don’t play with Marwood any longer?

Sadly no. But I’m glad I don’t have to carry my amp anymore. When I launched Pledge I had a dream, and I was still playing the odd show. I had this dream I’d be able to do both. We got the band together, I had this moment of, “I’ve got 400 emails on my inbox” and I got straight off stage to do product stuff. I figured, this isn’t going to work. As much as it breaks my heart to not be playing music again, I realize the gift given to me has been transferred to be able to help artists.

When I spoke to you at Midem earlier this year, you mentioned expansion into Asia was on the cards. How’s that coming along?

It’s been very interesting. I’m returning to Japan. Let’s wait and see. Our commitment to Australia and Canada is really strong at this point, because we’re seeing incredible, off-the-charts fan reaction. It kills me when a band is just doing a traditional release and not augmenting with this process.

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