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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