The Hot Seat: Graham Ashton, BigSound

Published in The Music Network

 

Graham Ashton has worn many hats in the music business. A former artist, Ashton has accumulated two decades of independent and major-label experience, working across positions in A&R, marketing, promotions, publicity, international licensing and sales. These days “Asho” wears just two hats. He’s the founder of Brisbane-based Footstomp Music, and this year marks his second in the role as Executive Programmer for the BigSound conference.

Asho, this year marks the 10th anniversary of BigSound. What will be the overarching theme this time around?

If we have a theme, it’s a focus on relevance and the artist community. We strongly believe that if you get the music right, the rest will follow.

What will be different about this year’s show?

The key difference will be with BigSound live. We have extended from six to eight stages and therefore from 60 to 80 acts. Seventy of the performers are Australian with the remaining ten made up of Kiwis and Canadians. The good news is that all eight stages are still incredibly close. We have been ruthless with proximity.

What’s the best part of the job in programming BigSound?

The team for sure. I moved back to Queensland about five years ago and watched BigSound grow in my label role. Since joining the team, I now get the passion and sense of pride that everyone has in the event. I happily describe the BigSound team as a “wanker-free zone”.

And the worst? How are the stress- levels in the days leading up to the big week?

Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t run smoothly and there will always be fires to put out. The BigSound team have a great attitude about smiling through the madness and I try to emulate their style.

The launch for BigSound was held April 14 in Sydney, not in Brisbane as it has every other year. Why the move?

The one thing that really stood out for me last year was that BigSound has truly become a proper gathering of the tribe for the Australian music community. That, along with the fact that having it in Brisbane again would have been preaching to the converted. That’s really what motivated the decision. It was a brilliant night and I hope we can take it to Melbourne in 2012.

How do you see BigSound growing in the next five years? Is there any scope to raise the capacity for the daytime conference element?

Right now it feels like the sky is the limit. Last year, we significantly increased attendances in both the conference and BigSound Live showcase. This year we hope for a bigger jump. It’s all about balance now. To grow where necessary, but tenaciously hold on to what is unique about the event.

Asho, you also juggle the job with your Footstomp company. What exactly does Footstomp do?

I started Footstomp a year and a half ago and we are proudly doing a little better than surviving. We are a music services company specialising in artist, project and event management and artist mentoring and we work with artists from all over the world. BigSound is the marquee event that we manage. We have also recently started our record abel, Footstomp Records.

Has Footstomp kicked any goals yet, and what are its ultimate ambitions?

The quality of events and artists best describe our achievements – BigSound 2010, King Cannons, Busby Marou, You Am I, The Naked And Famous, Glenn Richards and many, many more. The ultimate ambition is terminal adolescence.

You recently moved into new offices with Warner Music Australia. What’s Footstomp’s relationship with Warner Music?

Footstomp Records is an indie label imprint for Warner Music Australia. Our first signing, stomper001 are our mates Busby Marou and we hope to announce stomper002 in the very near future.

Being based in Brisbane, does it create another challenge to operating in this industry?

I’m fortunate that i spent a decade in Sydney. I still spend a lot of time in the major music centres, especially Sydney. I may be old- fashioned, but I like to meet face-to-face with people as much as possible and therefore spend plenty of time on planes.

This year’s September 7-9 BigSound event will again be held in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley live music precinct. For more visit: bigsound.org.au


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