The Hot Seat: Ben Preece, Mucho Bravado

Published in The Music Network

 

Ben Preece is a bona-fide scene-builder in Brisbane. The 33-year-old owns and operates the Mucho Bravado artist management and PR firm, which this year celebrates its fifth anniversary. With his partner in the business, Angela Kohler, Mucho manages a string of Triple J-favourites, including Ball Park Music and Hungry Kids Of Hungary, and handles publicity for the likes of Emma Louise. He’s also behind Club BAM, a newly-created invite-only page on Facebook, where artist managers can “bond, connect, support, teach and learn,” Preece tells TMN. Preece still juggles events organizing and writing. In years past, he was bookings manager with The Troubadour, and served as Music and Programming Manager with Nightlife Music.

Has building your business in Brisbane been an impediment?
The short answer is no. There is still an old-school perception that to be a good business, you have to be based in Sydney. I certainly travel enough to bridge that distance. Our clients are now starting to transcend states, which is a first for us.

Are both sides of the business equal?
When we started, we didn’t know any better. Ange and I were made redundant in 2007, and we didn’t want to work for ‘The Man’ again. So we started taking on PR clients. We felt we could make this as big or as little as we wanted it to be. We grew into management really quickly, but we were naturally publicists. Publicity was started out of necessity; it’s one of those things which carries us through the quiet times financially. Management typically doesn’t pay off for about three years with any one band, obviously if they’re walking the right path. I still feel management is foremost what we are right now.

That must be awkward, to be working with your former partner in life?
It’s not easy, but she’s amazing at what she does and we have a great chemistry. I don’t know if it’ll work forever, but it works for now and it has for the last few years.

Is it a growing business?
Yeah, very much so. We’ve had a great couple of years. Hungry Kids of Hungary were probably the first great client we took on. Before that we had small bands. We leapt straight into The Basics, which was a massive learning curve for me. My first job with them was to book a 52-date national tour within schools and malls and anywhere the band could play. They didn’t have a booking agent, they couldn’t understand the concept of a booking agent. “It’s what managers do, isn’t it?” Well, it isn’t the case.

What are you looking for in a band?
I’m a big song guy. I’m not the guy who’s looking for the tragically cool looking bands upfront, or the amazing live show – though I know that’s a necessity, particularly in Australia. I was young and naïve enough when I took on Hungry Kids and Ball Park Music to not even think about that other stuff. Now if we’re taking on a client we look at everything. Bands these days need to be 100% together to turn anybody’s head. When I’m managing a band, I throw my life and soul into those bands. Hungry Kids and Ball Park I’m particularly proud of, because I feel like there was some discovery involved. I found both those bands on their second or third gig. Our A&R skills set us apart at the moment. We apply those skills to management as well as publicity and we’ll do so with whatever we do in future. One day, we woke up and wiped our slate clean and started again with a good, promising A&R ethic.

Are there plans to add any units to the business?
Yeah, I always thought Mucho was a platform for many ideas. We’ve tried a few things which haven’t quite worked, not because they were a bad idea but perhaps the wrong people. I’m still very interested in the programming and event side of things. I grew up in the music industry programming music. I feel like it’s an untapped talent I’d like to indulge once in a while.

What’s the state of the independent music biz right now?
It’s in a good place. Labels are going to hate me for saying this, but they’re becoming more and more redundant in a way, particularly in Australia. I can certainly understand signing to a label overseas, it’s a much bigger picture and scene over there. In Australia we have a nice grasp of everything. I feel we can almost do a lot of these bits and pieces ourselves.

If you were to start in this business now, how would you build from the bottom up?
I’d definitely be more savvy with my business sense and structure. I struggled with the financial side of things for a long time. Ange had more of a business brain than me. Initially, I didn’t see myself as worthy of getting paid. Now, I’m very protective of a lot of young managers I talk to. I encourage them to try get paid up front. You should set your ambitions high enough to make some money.

 

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