The Hot Seat: Ashley Sellers

Published in The Music Network

 

British-born Ashley Sellers spotted a gap in the market for cutting-edge music. With a passion for dance and electronic music, Sellers set about filling that gap with Inertia. The Sydney-based music company launched in March 2000, sourcing international recordings that didn’t already have representation Down Under. Now employing 35 staff across various units, the company is enjoying a decade in the game. TMN caught up with the Inertia Founder and CEO.

 

Ashley, congratulations on the 10-year milestone. What’s been the winning formula?

We are fundamentally a music company. We’ve set our own benchmarks and we exist in a bandwidth we like to call our own. And we have maintained a fairly strict signing policy. While we’ve branched-out, we are a service company and have maintained that service ethic. We can pick and pack records or do a fully-fledged deal which possibly involves touring. What we like to be perceived as is a relevant 21st century music company. It’s always been organic. That goes from the first 20 cents I put into the bank to open the account, which I’m sure I still have a record of somewhere? I’m a fairly heart-on-sleeve kind of boss, the team here is very close knit and the culture is really strong.

 

How’s business been of late?

We’ve had more gold records this year, and we’ve got more to come. We’ve doubled our marketshare in the last 12 months. It’s a self-contained indie record company and its 100% Australian-owned. We still have our warehouse in the same premises. Our biggest client is the Beggars Group. They have an amazingly big catalogue and a number of labels that consistently put out an album a month. We probably (distribute) 40-50 core labels that are consistent with their output and we do a number of one-off deals. From the start, we’ve maintained a fairly strict signing policy. We’re very careful about what we take on. It’s essential our capacities are managed within the departments.

 

Are there other business opportunities might Inertia move into?

We’re the best part a distribution company, but we’re looking to develop in new areas. We have aspirations to get involved with publishing and we’ve talked to a number of people. Management is an opportunity in front of us. It seems like a nice, natural progression for the services we offer. The Civil Society live division we started five years ago has been a major business for us. It was a fairly organic and reactionary process to support our clients, but it’s done really well. We’re bringing in anywhere up to 30 tours a year, like the XX, Grizzly Bear, The National, Metric and Dandy Warhols. We did that again because of the flexible base that is Inertia. We also co-ordinate merchandise for partners and touring acts, and we distribute merch.

 

Is there a negative perception of Australian indie distributors following the collapse of Shock and Stomp?

No, it is very specific. It’s a shame what’s happened. I wouldn’t want that on my worst enemy. There are still at least two really strong indies in Australia and opportunities will come to those companies based on the shake-up. It’s a natural cycle of things. There’s going to be opportunities to grow in the next couple of years. Already in the last month we’ve picked-up Sub Pop (from Stomp) which is a label very dear to us.

 

Is life particularly tough for the indies at large?

As far as the changes in the climate, the indies are in a much better position to adapt and change. It’s the analogy of a great big oil tanker trying to move versus a speed boat. The indies are the speed boat, or they should be. If we’re acting like the oil tanker, then something is going wrong. The physical side of everyone’s business is not what it was 5 years ago. You’ve got to manage that. The market is the driving factor there. I can only see on the horizon mergers with the majors in the next few years.

 

Do you often receive offers to sell Inertia?

There’s been interest over the years. The most important thing that I’ve always wanted to maintain is our brand and not have that diluted or affected, and also maintain the staff and reputation that we have. I would start to lose sleep at night if those things didn’t remain intact.

 

So how will Inertia celebrate its 10th anniversary?

We have a logo for the 10th and we’re going to have a knees-up in late November to celebrate. We’ll have a few acts playing and enjoy a night we can lock in our minds. It’s been a good year, we’re really happy with what we’ve achieved.