The Hot Seat: Michael Gudinski

Published in The Music Network


Michael, the Foo Fighters flood and earthquake benefit concerts are happening this week. How did you manage such a quick turnaround?

I made a promise, and I wanted to keep it. I came to Brisbane when the disaster started, and I made a commitment with (Queensland Premier) Anna Bligh to do something. Then we started talking about doing ‘Sound Relief.’ But as things got worse and worse, in the end (the concept) was way too big a show. A couple of people concerned were getting really nervous about it, which is fair enough because there are so many big shows going on.

I’d been talking with Dave Grohl and (Foo Fighters manager) John Silva immediately as this disaster happened. Dave Grohl rises so far above the rock star image. He’s obviously one of the great rock stars and he’s always been very passionate and concerned. Dave jumped at the opportunity to help. They added the shows on to their promo trip, and it’s cost them a bit of money to do it. They’ve picked the bands on the bill, and they chose the Riverstage venue which had been part of the Brisbane floods. You Am I and Cloud Control will be on the bill and there will be a “vote-a- thon” for a local Brisbane band. To top it off, they’re doing the show in Auckland on the way through.

They’ve done it all on such short notice. It’s unbelievable. Brisbane and Auckland will get some special show this week that no-one else will get to see. Its something we’re very proud to be doing, and we’ve all been doing some extra work on it.

What have been the big challenges to getting this thing off the ground?
We moved from one venue to another and another, because we all had different ideas. I promised Dave we’d reduce all costs to a complete minimum. Everyone was very impressed with the way “Sound Relief” was done, the way it was accounted. “Sound Relief” has now raised more than $10 million with the DVD sales. None of it ever touched Frontier Touring. There will be a couple of surprises on the night. I’m sure you’ll see a lot from the new Foo Fighters album (Wasting Light, due April 8).

We were anticipating a ‘Sound Relief Mk 2’ event, involving shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Is that ever going to happen?
At this stage, there are so many disasters in the world. And from a musical point of view, we’ve delivered the commitment. I continue to work on it. But at the moment, I can’t see it (happening) in the distant future. But that’s not to say it won’t happen. (Sound Relief) was all done with Mark Pope, Michael Chugg and Joe Segreto. Everyone’s fine about what’s happening, it made sense and there’s been no break-up. I’m just happy to stand by the Queensland and New Zealand communities and give them support. We’ll raise as much money as we can.

What’s the state of the live business down under?
I’m feeling pretty good at the moment. Look at the shows we’ve got.

OK. Let’s talk about radio.Chugg has been vocal of-late about Aussie commercial radio’s lack of support for new Australian content. Can the industry do anything about this?
It’s a big issue. It’s disgusting, and it needs to be looked at. It’s very important the radio quota stays in place, which I know radio would like to move. Triple J continues to have huge support for Australian music. The most important thing is that the Government doesn’t bail out (on local content quotas).

Is there still a lot of money to be made from music?
Absolutely. But it’s not what it was. For me, I was at the start of something. I was on the wave. There isn’t going to be another Steve Jobs out of the music business. The music business isn’t as “sexy” as it used to be. It’s a job. It’s a great job if you know what you’re doing. If you’re passionate, you’ll find success in it. It’s never really been about the amount of money to me. It’s about sustainment. It’s nice to be able to pay the bills. It’s hard, but I talk openly about the time when we couldn’t pay our bills.

The most important thing for people is to try and find something you love and do it. There’s plenty of room, you’ve just got to be able to adapt, and have patience. And have the right people. And obviously, the most important thing is to have the right artists.

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Click here for Lars Brandle’s “Bigsound” interview with Michael Gudinski.