The Hot Seat: David Boyle

Published in The Music Network

David Boyle
is an expert at making sense of numbers. Vast numbers. The London-based EMI Vice President of Global Consumer Insight at EMI Music is an authority on consumer segmentation, using evidence and research data of consumers’ music habits to make some big decisions on everything from signing new artists, to product development and marketing plans for Beatles releases.

A former consultant for British supermarkets giant Tesco, Boyle has also worked in politics for the Labour Party in London and with the Democrats in New York. TMN caught up with Boyle on a recent visit to EMI’s Australian offices.

Hello David, you’ve been coordinating EMI’s research globally for the past 18 months. So what has the industry been doing wrong?

The music business hasn’t been focused on its current customer – its most engaged current customers. One of the biggest opportunities on the table right now is how to engage all those people who aren’t currently buying music. We think 50% of all people are what we call ‘lessengaged’. We need to help them to find products and opportunities that really meet their ideas. Most people care about music and it plays some role in their life. It plays a role in 99% of people’s lives, according to our Australian research.

So what’s EMI’s plan?

It’s not about trying to get people to do things differently, or persuade people to come and find music and it’s not about trying to make them jump through hoops. It’s about going after people where they are. It’s about taking music to them, whether it’s physical retail stores, drug stores, clothing stores or garages. It’s about getting simple products that are cheap into those channels, otherwise we’re just writing off half of all music consumers.

Where are the untapped areas to sell music?

We’ve looked at where people spend their time, whether it’s coffee shops, or bookstores, or chemists or clothing stores or garage forecourts. Why aren’t there opportunities in those places to buy music in one shape or another? A CD in a jewel case isn’t the right proposition; it totally wouldn’t work there, not with the price being charged now. So how can we strip the product down, make it really simple and have people buy music in those places. We need to be really creative about that. Right now, we make that very difficult for fans. It is about growing and maintaining people who are engaged. But again, half of the people are ‘lessengaged’ consumers. That’s the really important message for the industry.

What outcomes have you seen?

We’ve helped some of our biggest artists to understand how we need to engage fans much more than just producing CDs with bonus content. We’re trying to produce these “experience editions,” whether it’s Gorillaz or Kylie. We’re saying to the artist, “music is the core.” But it’s not just about the music, it’s to engage the consumer. They want much more, they want experiences. How do we take those experiences and package them up and make them available in a product? We’ve helped artists to understand that, and give consumers what they want. Whenever we talk to retailers, or our biggest artists or our biggest radio station colleagues, and we share our research in those conversations, the resounding response is always, ‘you should have done this 10 years ago.’

Are you just a numbers guy or a music man?

I love music. I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t love music. I’m many things, a with David Boyle music guy, a data guy, a retailer from my Tesco days. You have to have passion in this game. You can’t do it with numbers alone.

It’s been a big period of change for EMI in general. Does the court case involving Citibank and Terra Firma drag on yourself and other colleagues?

God no. There are two totally separate stories about EMI right now. One is about the day-to-day operations of the business. My job is to help us connect our artist with their fans, and help our people do that. But we’re totally removed from the balance sheet issues. I don’t read those stories, to be honest. That’s for them to deal with.

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Farewelling The Finger

Published in The Music Network


After 20 years and millions of sales, Powderfinger are pulling the pin, but not without one last look back. So what is next for the band? And what do they leave behind?

Powderfinger has achieved most things in a remarkable 20-year career. Multimillion album sales, #1 records and fans on the top rung of rock ‘n roll’s pecking order. Though international fame eluded them, the rockers did it their way and they’re finishing on a high note. As they complete one last lap of the country, they speak to TMN about the life ahead after being in Australia’s “biggest rock band.”

Check out photos from Powderfinger’s first farewell show in Newcastle

“We’ve been playing in Brisbane for 20 years,” Powderfinger’s frontman Bernard Fanning tells a packed homecoming show at the city’s Riverstage. He points to the front row, marking-out a female fan who “was minus 13 when we started.” At this show, the first of five hometown gigs for their Sunsets tour, the crowd are indeed a spread of all ages – from minus-13 all the way up to baby boomers. Many have grown with the band. One father is carrying his sleeping toddler, and no doubt hundreds of others are paying for babysitters back home. Including the five men on stage – Bernard Fanning, Ian Haug, Darren Middleton, John Collins and Jon Coghill.

Much has changed since the band first arrived on the scene via a Battle of the Bands contest two decades ago. The core of Powderfinger met in the late 1980s while studying at the University of Queensland. The spectre of former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen was still lingering on Queensland’s cultural landscape. The band signed their first record deal in the early 1990s, at a time when it was “really uncool to be on a major label,” recalls frontman Bernard Fanning.

With seven studio albums to their credit, Powderfinger emerged as Australia’s preeminent rock group of the noughties, selling more than two million albums in Australia, and scooping a career total of 16 ARIA Awards.

And now, it’s time to move on. Their latest album Golden Rule was the last under their contract with Universal Music Australia, and it will be the last for the group.

“Powderfinger are doing what most bands fail to do. They’re going out on top,” Go-Betweens great Robert Forster tells TMN. For Powderfinger, there’ll be no tears but perhaps a touch of sadness when it’s all done. For Fanning, there’s no unfinished business to tend to. “Everybody was ready to step away after we’d made a record that we felt was that good. Musically, with Golden Rule, we don’t feel the need among the five of us to go into battle and try to make a record better than that,” Fanning tells TMN two weeks later, just hours before their Adelaide show.

After 20 years, band life has boiled down to “five people with vaguely correlating ideas that we have to squash onto a record,” notes Fanning. Powderfinger’s battle is up. “But we’ve got a pretty good record of having cooperated pretty well.”

Golden Rule opened at #1 on the ARIA albums chart on its release in last November, completing a streak of five successive studio albums to top the charts dating back to 1998’s Internationalist.

“I don’t know how long that streak would have continued,” continues Fanning. “It’s probably our best record but it’s certainly not our most popular or most commercially successful record. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that only half as many people are buying records as they used to.”

Golden Rule is no dud. The album is certified double-platinum, and has shifted upwards of 140,000 copies. But that figure pales in comparison to the 300,000 tickets shifted for the aptly titled Sunsets tour, which winds up November 13 at the Riverstage. The five members’ decision to go separate ways was mulled over for a period of time, and it became a focal point when the band completed their headline run at the 2010 Big Day Out.

“It feels right. For me, the closer we get to it, the more it feels like the right thing. Part of me is already out the door,” explains guitarist Darren Middleton. “To do more, we’d have been forced to do it. And that’s never been the attitude amongst us. None of us have ever been forced to do anything. It’s always been a team decision.”

Life after Powderfinger will carry the five members on surprisingly similar paths. The band members are all keen to take time off with family and travel in the New Year. After that, they’ll each hunker down to create music with new collaborators.

“It’s been a phenomenal career,” muses Village SoundsJessica Ducrou, the band’s long-time booking agent. “I don’t think in my lifetime I’ll see a band develop like that again. I can’t think of any Australian band who have decided to move on to other projects at this point of their career. What an amazing way to hang up your gloves.”

Middleton is keen to produce new, rising artists, but there’s no talk yet of a follow-up for his side-project Drag. Guitarist Ian Haug too has been busy. He’s been knocking about with Forster and there are ambitions for his project The Predators, which includes Powderfinger’s bass player John Collins and the group’s original drummer Steven Bishop. An EP has been cut, and an album should come. “I want to play in a folk band, a metal band, a rockabilly band,” says Haug. “I want to see what sticks and what I enjoy the most.”

Fanning will spend a large chunk of 2011 in Spain, the home of his wife. While over there, he’ll undertake Spanish language lessons, and will continue writing a follow-up to his 2005 solo album Tea & Sympathy.

“It’s tempting to reinvent myself, have some kind of radical change. Maybe I’ll play with some Spanish musicians. It could be really interesting and a fun thing to do, or it might be a total failure and I’ll come back to Australia and do it by myself,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t have concrete plans, and I don’t intend to make them. I just want to let it happen.” Says Middleton, “It’s a whole new world of music out there, playing with different people. It’s really inspiring.”

And what will Fanning feel when he takes his last bow after the final Sunsets show? “Probably relief first. Relief that it’s actually all happened and done, and that it’s all come to fruition. Then all of us will feel some sadness, eventually. I can see why there’s sadness attached to it, but for me it’s more of a triumph that a band can be together for 20 years and be able to say, you know what we’re stopping. Thanks. Bye. Instead of being told, ‘fuck off’.”

And when will the Powderfinger reunion gig happen? “That’s certainly not what we’re planning,” explains Fanning. “Unless Kevin Rudd becomes the leader of the Liberal Party. So, no. It’s not going to happen.”

Sourced from:


Tokyo Rose

Published in Billboard Magazine


After three independent album releases, Australian alt-rock quartet Birds of Tokyo has been flying high at its new major-label home, EMI Australia. The band’s self-titled fourth album debuted at No. 2 on the Australian Recording Industry Assn. albums chart in early August, held off from the top spot by Eminem’s “Recovery” (Interscope).

Now international release plans are shaping up, with the album’s release in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States “imminent,” EMI Australia VP of A&R labels for Australasia Craig Hawker says.

Streaming the album through Facebook three days ahead of release “created massive excitement and chatter among the fans,” Hawker says. Those fans then “spread that message far and wide.”

Strong support has come from commercial radio networks Nova, Sea FM and Austereo, along with influential state-owned broadcaster Triple J.

Birds of Tokyo’s fans have also been involved in promoting the band, with 40 who attended a June showcase being invited to film it with hand-held cameras. The edited results appear on a bonus DVD with the deluxe version of the CD.

A national tour will kick off Sept. 22, booked by No Dice. U.S. bookings are through the Primary Agency. The band is published by Mushroom Music.

The Hot Seat: Willard Ahdritz

Published in The Music Network


We chat to Willard Ahdritz, Founder and CEO of Kobalt Music Group about setting up an Australian branch, their deal with Mushroom and new revenue streams.

Willard, why have you set-up an affiliate Down Under?
We’ve been looking at Australia for a couple of years. We have quite a strong Anglo-US catalogue, and Australia is high up there on that list. We took a strategic decision at Kobalt to go from 30 to 40 direct territories in the world. We set the company up 10 years ago and we now collect money from 100 territories and reach 90 employees, but we felt it was a natural expansion for Kobalt to continue pushing on.

It makes sense for us to invest in the Australian market, to expand our local representation, and to develop new creative opportunities and revenue streams. It’s part of a big strategic expansion plan for us.

And you’ll be active in the New Zealand market?
New Zealand is definitely a big focus. We’re excited about the New Zealand market, and what can be achieved there for the current international roster, as well as the potential there is with the artists and writers there. We’ll be putting in place staff and key alliances which will enable us to offer a full-service publishing company in Australia and New Zealand.

What shape will the new Sydney office take?
Simon Moor (managing director of Kobalt Music Publishing Australia and New Zealand) will have the key creative and certain licensing and functions. He’ll be finding sync opportunities for our global clients, and developing new opportunities for all our writers and artists and working with Kobalt’s international roster. We already have eight people working across the Australian business, rolling out our centralised technology. I want people on my team who are passionate, people who like change, who are curious about Kobalt.

We waited to find the right person to lead that expansion, and we were introduced to Simon through a mutual colleague. Simon, I felt, is that person and we pushed the button. When it comes to our creative signings, we have a very boutique approach to it. And when a writer or an artist or a publishing catalogue is brought into the Kobalt system, it has a global team behind it. We have a global approach.

What does Kobalt bring to the Australian market?
Simon (Moor) will launch the next generation of our Digital 3.0 digital collection platform. Songwriters and publishers will now have a simple matrix, which enables them to see what they will receive on each song from each digital service provider in each territory.

The portal provides unprecedented data on global digital music revenue streams, data on products tracked and audiovideo performance royalties collected from licensed content in global film and TV productions.

It’s an enormous step forward in transparency. It’s a model that wasn’t present in Australia. I saw a real opportunity for Kobalt not only bring more to the writers and artists we’ve signed already internationally, but to bring these opportunities to the local artists and writers. Our system and business model is transparent and efficient, and it increases writer revenues. We’ve revolutionised the entire music publishing industry.

And where does this leave your longterm sub-publishing arrangement with Mushroom Music Publishing?
Mushroom has given us great service with will iard ahdritz over the past nine years. I know (Mushroom Music Publishing) MD Ian James and (Mushroom Group Chairman) Michael Gudinski very well, but we both understand that this is a natural evolution for Kobalt. (Our arrangement) concludes at the end of the year.

Simon became MD of the Australasian company on September 1. Are there any new signings?
Not yet, but it is in the pipe. Australia and NZ are very exciting markets for us. There’s something in Australia that makes people positive. The people are friendly and the music is great.

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