The Hot Seat, Stephen Wade, Select

Published in The Music Network


Select Music started life seven years ago with a staff of three and a small roster. Now, the booking agency employs seven staff and represents more than 60 artists – including Boy & Bear, Bluejuice, Midnight Juggernauts, Josh Pyke, Emma Louise and Ball Park Music. In that time, Select’s business model has evolved for the changing times. Wade admits his company has always been a “behind the scenes, stay-out-of-the-limelight” type company. That’s about to change, as Select gets into party mode to celebrate with five parties on June 21. Seven year itch? Hardly.

How has Select gone about its business?
We’re passionate and hard working. We’ve certainly had great success with our agency. Our acts had nine of the songs on Triple J’s Hottest 100, and 19 out of the next 100 hottest acts. The old-school way approach of agencies was, “if your acts don’t play you don’t make any money.” We were the other way. The act should play when it’s right for them to play. If you do that and you do it right, of course you’ll make money in the end. You’ll be doing better shows at the right time rather than a lot of shows where many don’t seem to matter. When we started, we couldn’t compete with big agencies. It literally came from having a good ear for music and passionately going in. We always wanted to build it along a family type of line, so that being part of the Select Music family was that acts would play together and get to know each other and feel that is meant something to be represented by us. I’ve also had the luxury of managing Something With Numbers, a band signed to a major label. So when we represent and act, we’re involved. We help them with everything from giving them connections on the right poster company to put up their posters, the printers, where they can get the cheapest deals. We look at all the artwork for our acts. It’s about attention to detail right from the start. The old thing of, “hey, we book a show.” Well, that’s the last thing we do.

All bands want an agent. What are you looking for in an act?
We always look for a band that is committed to a long-term approach for their career. A ten-year career. We firmly believe those first 18 months are the set-up for their whole live career. Regardless of whether they’ve had huge buzz and success or not, it’s all about setting up the initial plot so people perceive that act as a viable ticket to go see. Obviously the talent is the thing that comes first. Just as important is the drive of that act knowing that they want that long term career and they’re prepared to work hard and wait for those opportunities. When an act isn’t at a certain level, it’s a mistake to push them to something where they could end up being uncomfortable or not reach their potential.

What should an artist look for in an agent?
Agents now have had to take bands on a lot earlier than they did in the past. it can break open so quickly for acts. Acts need to be looking for someone they can have a connection with. The agent’s role is so integral to their career. And the artists need to know who is representing them. Most of the agents in Australia are incredibly experienced and know their game pretty well. You don’t have a lot of venues and options to chose from. You look at a place like Brisbane; venues close and don’t get a replaced a lot of the time. You’re hampered. The agent’s role is more about knowing when and where to play at the strategic time. When to push the button, when to underplay. It’s more about decisions than venues these days.

You launched the Stop Start label in late 2009 with Andy Bryan and Rob Giovannoni. Why?
It was about being an indie music company, which we are. A lot of the artists we were dealing with were asking how they could release product and where to release it. They didn’t all have access at those appropriate ties. We were A&Ring a lot of these acts quite early in their careers. We’re so early at the coalface, we wanted to give these guys a full indie label experience where they’re exposed to just a small group of people who are committed to their band but have all the accessibility as a major label. [Stop Start has a distribution partnership with EMI Music Australia, and its signings include Hungry Kids of Hungary, Maniac, Pluto Jonze, Northeast Party House and Old Man River.]

Are there too many booking agents and promoters?
No. The market will regulate itself. There are only so many acts that can go out there and play the venues that are out there. The venues, they want acts they think can sell them tickets. If you don’t succeed as an agent or a promoter, it’s because you don’t have the ability to work with the right acts. We just feel growth and more opportunities as we go along. You get the opportunities that you work for.

Select Music will host parties at OAF and OAF Gallery, Phoenix Bar, The Standard and Upstairs Beresford on Thursday, June 21. Funds raised will benefit the Beyond Blue charity.

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