The Hot Seat: Mark Poston, Chairman, EMI

Published in The Music Network

 

Mark, your team at EMI Australia has moved into a new space. Has this anything to do with the activity going- on with EMI’s owners on the other side of the world?

One of my goals when I started as chairman was for our HQ to be a creative hub that represented who we are. It’s a workplace that exudes and encourages creativity and innovation from our staff. It’s a short walk to (VP of A&R) Scott Horscroft’s infamous BJB studios and it’s strolling distance to various venues. I had this idea to make two of the street-facing windows — named the EMI Art Project — as art installations that showcase local talent. I really believe in the synergies between music and other aesthetic disciplines like design, fashion and art. The move has nothing to do with Citigroup. It speaks volumes about the Australian business that we have a million dollar investment in our new office. No job losses have occurred, we just moved across the bridge. We are planning for growth for the overall business.

You’re the youngest head of the four majors’ affiliates Down Under. What steps do you take to improve yourself?

I try to listen and learn from other people. It’s really important to surround yourself with high-calibre, talented people who aren’t afraid to express a different point- of-view. If you’re in this business, you need to have young people with new ideas and energies around you. On a personal level, I took up Bikram yoga again on January 4. I love the physical challenge and the meditation angle of it to help switch-off my brain. Third year as chairman I really had to find a better work-life balance. And you need to practice what you preach, otherwise you lose credibility with your team.

You spent some years with EMI in the U.K. What did you learn from the experience?

Much more than I could ever articulate into words. I really worked hard to prove myself quickly. Suddenly I was representing EMI with some very successful managers and execs. Working in global marketing gave me great experience in what’s required to have a successful worldwide campaign as a part of the team for Coldplay and Gorillaz. You need to be on top of your game, understand the issues, deliver on what offers solutions and win people’s trust. I found myself travelling the world and sometimes presenting to whole EMI companies. And of course I found myself in all kinds of ridiculous situations like meeting Paul McCartney, taking high tea — and late night calls — with Diana Ross, having Damon Albarn sing to you at his studio and seeing hundreds of incredible gigs. My time there made me realize how much I love Australia and how much more optimistic we are as a culture.

When you spoke at One Movement last year, you called for greater support from the ISPs and Labor government. What’s stopping the music business and the ISPs from hammering out a mutual deal?

We all remain optimistic on working on an industry-led solution with ISPs in order to achieve an outcome that addresses the issue of illegal-file sharing. The government will be a key stakeholder in helping to drive this process. Yes, I’d like to see things move faster and more collaboration with all creative industries. It’s high on the agenda of ARIA and it’s also very complex.

The ownership of EMI has rarely been out of the news in the past four years. We recently learned that Citibank is shopping the company. Is it all a drag on team morale?

It’s great to finally shake off all the speculation about our ownership and move into a new chapter. The sale is no surprise to me or my team. We all think it will happen quickly. It’s not in anyone’s best interest we lose another major and I don’t believe that will happen. I have faith in (EMI Music Group CEO) Roger Faxon and in what we’ve done to re-engineer the company to the successful creative and commercial — and very profitable — entity we are now. My team is unshakable at this point. And between me and Faxon, they’re constantly kept up-to-date with the latest news and the issues. As a consequence, they don’t buy into the bullshit.

The Australian company has made some interesting entrepreneurial deals. The TheInSound is one, the arrangement with AAPT is another. What’s next?

You’ll see us continuing to innovate especially in the new-deals space. You’ve got to keep testing and trying new ways to connect music with people. We’re excited about the calibre of talent in our “She Can DJ” national female DJ competition. Rimmel just came on board as one of the sponsors and there are conversations to take it globally. As part of our partnership with Stop/Start and John O’Donnell we have one of the tours of the year which you will hear about any minute now.

We all feel “that magic stuff” around Papa Vs Pretty as one of the breakthrough acts of the year and we’re making plans for overseas. Musically we’ve got an impressive line of new albums on the way including Faker, 360, Coldplay, David Guetta, Laura Marling, The Kooks, Pink Floyd, King Cannons and Goldfrapp, just to name a few. I caught up with Luke Steele in LA where he’s working with Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West) which obviously will be a big album internationally. I’m incredibly excited about Gold Fields and Bleeding Knees Club. And then there are the ones I can’t tell you about yet.

 

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