The Hot Seat: Jon Satterley

Published in The Music Network


When Jon Satterley cuts himself, he bleeds metal. His veins are filled with Amon Amarth, Fear Factory and Rainbow, the hard-edged tip of music which rarely finds its way onto Australia’s airwaves. Back in 1995, Satterley found a suitable outlet for his passion when left a promising career in retail to join the ranks of Roadrunner Australia as general manager. Two years later he rose to managing director. In the 12 years that followed, Satterley played a role in shaping the careers of Roadrunner acts including Nickelback, Machine Head and Soulfly, and displayed a deft ability with the machinery of new media. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the top brass at Warner Music-owned Roadrunner Records.  In October 2007, Satterley shipped Stateside where he assumed his current N.Y.-based post as Roadrunner’s senior VP of new media and global business development. The Aussie executive will return to familiar ground this August when he delivers a keynote speech at the AMBC conference, which will run Aug. 20-22 at Sydney’s Acer Arena.


Jon, you’re something of an arch nemesis to ‘indie’ bands. What did they ever do wrong to you?

Metal and hard rock is my background in music appreciation. They are the standing giants in the room and, for me, ‘indie’ rock and punk are the pretenders. Our biggest band, Nickelback, who I really cherish and admire were the butt of jokes for a long time. The more popular they became, the more they were an object of hatred and ridicule among the ‘indie mafia’. Through most of this current decade, there seems to have been this reaction against traditional rock and metal. You’ve come to this insane situation where there wasn’t a single station left in the country which was a strict rock format. I would tell that to my colleagues in America or England, who have hundreds of options on radio to take new rock bands

You’ve got a law degree with honours, an arts degree and an MBA. How critical is further education to carving out a music industry career?

Formal education is invaluable, but it’s too often not part of the language of the company, whether it’s a record label or whatever. The failing of the industry is that that sort of thing isn’t encouraged. If you want to grow in any job — especially in the music biz — you should be doing some formal training to sharpen your skills. Being able to pick a hit song is still important, and there’s still a huge role for emotion and gut feeling and prediction. But perhaps the needle needs to shift a little more to the cool and calculated strategic analysis of the business.

What are your tips on how artists and execs should embrace new media?

They should carefully manage the constant assault of concepts, ideas and things that are being presented as the future. It’s important to ignore a lot of the noise, and figure out what are the things that you’re able to manage, what they are and managing them really well. And not worrying about the person next door who is blowing a gasket over some new thing which captured the social zeitgeist. There’s a herd mentality that when something like Twitter arrives, every band is worried they’ll fuck up their career if they’re not on it. That’s ridiculous. There are so many other things you should be doing to get your house in order in terms of new media. You shouldn’t be blowing in the winds of whatever the latest fads are. Twitter will probably be a bedrock of new media strategies, but you need to be very clear of what that strategy is.

It’s been nearly two years since you headed to N.Y. What have you learned from the experience?

It started off pretty tough but that would be the case for anyone moving their family and lives to another country. I was grateful because there was a lot of respect afforded to me as a person coming from the Australian industry. It wasn’t like, ‘we’ll teach this kid some tricks’.  It was much more, ‘let’s find out what you guys have been learning in Australia.’ There’s always an open channel to offer views and diverse opinions, and that’s refreshing. When I’m back in Australia, I may pick-up many things which I could apply in the U.S.