The Hot Seat: Michael Coppel

Published in The Music Network


Michael Coppel, one the biggest promoters in the game, got a whole lot bigger in 2012. Back in April, the global concerts giant Live Nation bought the Melbourne-based Michael Coppel Presents, coinciding with Coppel becoming President and CEO of LN’s Australasian interests. LN in these parts now has a distinct advantage; it’s a union with unrivalled talent-buying power, and it can tap into a global promoter network which can share resources and intelligence on artists.

And of course, Coppel brings his own bulging contacts book to the table. One of those contacts is artist manager Roger Davies and his artist Pink, who will tour Australia next June for LN. At deadline, Pink’s The Truth About Love tour has now grown to 42 dates and more than 400,000 tickets sold – remarkable business in a tricky business climate. When Coppel brought Pink out here in 2009, the U.S. pop singer did 58 arena shows and generated $90 million in ticket sales and merch. Other LN shows include an upcoming national tour teaming Neil Finn and Paul Kelly.

Last time Pink toured here she criss-crossed the country, returning to the metros. You’re not doing that again?

No. A lot of artists like the momentum of being on tour and travelling. So that was a factor that changed the 2008 itinerary. After the basic itinerary of about 24 shows, that tour exploded. Every time we played a city, the demand would escalate. We could have played another 10 or 20 shows above the 58 that we played. This time round its not going to be possible because we’ve got a more limited and fixed timeframe with U.S. and European dates. If we get to 44 shows, that’ll be as many as we end up getting. That’s a phenomenal number.

Is the Aussie market losing a bit of steam? Or is it “full steam ahead?
It’s definitely softening in a way that’s not uniform. It’s not 20% down across everything. The really strong attractions, the “triple-As,” are doing great business, business no-one would consider as being inferior to what they were doing 18 months to three years ago. A lot of the “B” and “C” tours are struggling because people are being really selective. Every promoter is aware that if you don’t have a Pink, Radiohead or Coldplay, or a Soundwave or Stereosonic on the festival side of things, you’re really not going to see what you would have counted on 12 months ago or two years ago.

When we last chatted, you were looking at getting back into the festivals game having split with V Fest. Any developments there?

Only if we can define a competitive point which makes sense for us to come into the market. There’s so many festivals now and it seems the only way you get a (different) line-up is to pay more money than the other guy. That’s not a basis of doing a festival. The festivals that have strength are the ones that kept a connection with the key idea, whether it’s Stereosonic with dance music, or Soundwave with hard rock and heavy metal. Regional festivals like Splendour or Falls, they have a bedrock idea that they’ve kept faith with. They’re the ones that have built organically.

What is the ambition of Live Nation Australia with you at the helm?

Our ambition is to grow and be the best promoter in the country. When I was running my own company, we were the major promoter for one or two years in every three years, depending on how our clients were working. With Live Nation now, because of the big products which come through the company worldwide, we’re destined to become the biggest promoter. And I want to maintain the standards in doing that. I want to be able to develop and build the marketplace, and not just be an output for acts that are signed to the company worldwide. We are growing. We’ve maintained everyone from both companies and taken three people on. There’s a lot of developments in marketing, particularly in online and digital, that we’re working on.

Is there a downside? Are you finding acts not wanting to be a part of the mega-machine?

I’ve never come across a band that doesn’t want to tour with Live Nation because we’re Live Nation. I’ve come across some acts that say “we aren’t big enough for you to consider,” and I say, “you’re wrong.” As an active goal at the company we want to be involved in artist development. We recognize you can’t just rely on the same crop of headliners, because they’ll age, go out of favour. You need to have new artists coming through all the time.


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The Hot Seat: Will Osland, WJO Distribution

Published in The Music Network


Four years ago, childhood friends Will Osland and Drew Doran spotted an opportunity in the music retail market, and with $100, the pair established WJO Distribution. Nowadays, the label and distribution network represents almost 300 country titles. WJO claims to have paid out $1.7 million over the past year to its artists, which includes Tania Kernaghan, Graeme Connors, Melinda Schneider, Jetty Road, The Sunny Cowgirls and a handful of mainstream acts including Suzi Quatro. “We have grown it to the point that we now own all our operations with no debt,” explains Osland, a former artist. Those operations are staffed by five and include a bespoke radio delivery service. The new year could get off to a cracking start for WJO. Its artists are up for 24 Golden Guitars at the 2013 CMAA Country Music Awards of Australia on January 26.

Are you just a sales platform or are you involved in the A&R process?

We like to be involved from the very start. We don’t give money to record; it’s not a label deal in that sense. Once the artist enters the studio we’re getting the demos, and we get to advise. We send them to who we think will work best in regards to promotion and management. We’ve taken on those label roles but we don’t own their music. We like to have a say as to whether it’s right for us and our model. We used to do around 800 titles, but culled it back. We want to be that boutique label that can concentrate on each product and artist we represent.

You’ve launched a custom-built radio delivery service. Why?

We felt if we we’re only getting a report once a week or fortnight, we were dropping the ball. We wanted 24-hour statistics. Now, when we release a single to radio, we’ve got all the data and we can follow-up straight away. It’s improved our sales by 15% for the months that we’ve used that service. We just added a back-end system so the artist can log-in and track the movements of their music. The first quarter of 2013 will be big for us. We’ve a few artists coming over from major deals to become independent.

What’s been the secret to your success?

The biggest key is not having a credit card. And only spending what we’re making. We don’t plan 12 months ahead and hope our finances catch up. We’re big savers. But we don’t let anything slide that needs to be done. We don’t have anyone on our roster who just wants to be there and make us do the work. Everyone’s in it to make this model a success. We’re in such a fickle marketplace retail-wise, not just music. We’re both under 30 and we love to take risks. But we’re very careful. We both have to agree 100% on something. We’re building our new offices and warehouses. We own everything we do. We don’t rent. We focus on having absolutely no debt. So we can represent everyone without being challenged by the monthly bills.

Are country fans moving toward digital?
It’s in a transition. Our digital sales are definitely up. We’re using the streaming services, but we tend to hold our releases off a few months so iTunes and Bigpond–who have supported us–can get the best results they can. We’re finding a definite shift as we take on younger artists. Their fans are younger; some only buy digital, because they’re working in the mines or sheep and cattle stations. Country fans are different, in the way that they’ll spend money on product and shows. If they’re a big fan, they’re normally a fan for life.

What’s the physical verses digital split?

It’s 40% digital, 60% physical at the moment. In the first quarter of 2013, it’ll be 50/50.

What do you take away from the huge sales success of Taylor Swift’s new album in the US?

Big Machine Records’ business model is as 100% as you’re going to get in this climate. Australia still carries the stigma where there are three divisions – the ‘country’ that has always been around, like Slim Dusty, the country where it’s a little diverse and rockier, and the new style, like Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift. There’s still a stigma as to what’s country or not. It’s something we need to move past in the next 12 months.

Country is strong in the US, Canada and Australia. But will it ever expand elsewhere?

We’re seeing fantastic results in digital and export-wise in Europe. They’re loving the Australian country at the moment, but we’re finding it’s more of the ‘traditional’. They’re still catching up with what was happening five years ago. In Asia we’re seeing a big increase in digital sales.


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Hot Seat: Harley Evans, CEO, News Ticketing (Moshtix & Foxtix)

Published in The Music Network


Back in 2010, Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited aggressively targeted Australia’s ticketing industry when it launched Foxtix. At the time, the media group’s then CEO John Hartigan boldly declared his aim to “break-up the cosy duopoly in ticketing,” namely Ticketmaster and Ticketek. Fast forward two years, and the duopoly is still cosy. Though there’s been some tech and personnel changes at Murdoch’s Moshtix and Foxtix agencies, which now come under the News Ticketing banner and are led by Harley Evans.

The New Zealander was promoted from Chief Operating Officer to Chief Executive of News Ticketing in June 2012. Evans joined Moshtix in 2010 as Commercial Director, and he’s had stints at Ticketek, at Dainty Consolidated Entertainment and with the London-based Fulham Football Club in ticketing and management capacities.

Hartigan’s big statement about busting the “cosy duopoly” hasn’t quite happened yet. What’s the ambition and how are you getting there?

Both businesses are going very well. Moshtix is a highly-recognised and respected brand in its space. Most people would feel that Foxtix has done better than had been expected. The priority in the Moshtix space is to build on the platform that we’ve had going back to 2003, when the business started. We invested in the business 18 months ago by bringing on board experts from the ticketing business.

Hartigan, of course, isn’t there any more. Is that just a pipedream, to think you might compete with the two big boys?

Not at all. There’s a real appetite in the market and we’re more often being invited to participate and pitch.

I don’t really get a sense that Moshtix is significantly boosting its game at the moment. What’s the plan there?

We spent the last 18 months building on the underlying technology. We’ve just relaunched our website which gives customers a much better search and buying experience, and we’ve introduced music news and reviews. We’ve just integrated with Apple’s Passbook, which makes the mobile ticketing capability easier and the process smoother for customers. With Splendour selling-out in record time this year, we’re at the point where we can deal with on-sales of any size through cloud technology. We feel like we’re one of the–if not the–dominant ticketing provider in that space.

Most of the main venues are tied into exclusive arrangements. Do you have to look elsewhere to make activity happen?

There are the large stadia of the world, the MCGs. And then you have arenas. But there’s an awful lot of venues that don’t have that high-profile nature, who are absolutely interested in different ticketing options. We’ll be participating in all of those larger-scale tenders when those come up. We’re finding our involvement in the market is changing how those tender processes are working.

Do you see a time when the Moshtix and Foxtix brands are absorbed into one other?

They tend to operate fairly independent of one another. We have specific staff on the different brands. There’s no plans to integrate as such. There’d be no clear benefit in doing that.

Is the live biz growing?

It’s a tough market. We always see price as a key factor when it comes to attracting a good crowd. Promoters are really trying to build a stronger relationship with their fans. We’re always looking at ways to provide those tools.

Does the live music industry have anything to learn from the sports business?

Yeah, it’s about understanding your customers as best as possible. Certainly you see a crossover with the festivals and venues that essentially are looking to engage a similar audience. The ability to talk to those customers in the right way is crucial these days.

How would you define Australia’s ticketing space?

In the UK, there’s a more allocation-based model. But that brings its own complexities, when it gets to the entry on event-day, and reporting to clients. Australia is a cleaner market in that sense, and more consolidated. Though we do have a number of ticketing service providers. You do find a cross section of venues and promoters who really want ticketing to be done by someone else, and done safely and securely. You’ll also find venues and promoters who’ll want to have as much control over their ticketing as possible. You’ll continue to see those extreme ends of that market – of wanting lots of control, and wanting a ticketing agency to do it for them.

Are ticketing companies becoming promoters?

Those sorts of things can happen and probably have happened in the past. It’s a different model because of the risk-profile attached and ticketing companies have the opportunity to look at those opportunities on a case-by-case basis. We want to be seen as ticketing experts. We’re here to serve with our promoters, rather than compete with them.

INXS Split

INXS is finally calling it a day.

During a performance Sunday at the new Perth Arena, drummer Jon Farriss made the call that they would disband. Roughly 40 hours later, the group confirmed the split by means of a statement.

At their peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Australian outfit enjoyed a reputation as “stadium rockers” and were regularly in the conversation of ranking the “biggest bands on the planet.”

But all that came crashing down in 1997, when the group lost its charismatic singer of 20 years Michael Hutchence, who was aged just 37. The surviving band members pushed on, but the second part of INXS’ career would never reach the same heights.

Originally formed in 1977 in the Western Australian capital of Perth, INXS’ body of work has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, scored six UK Top 10 albums and five US Top 20 albums.

Their biggest commercial success came in 1987, when INXS released “Kick,” an album which sold more than 10 million copies and yielded the tracks “Need You Tonight,” “Devil Inside,” “New Sensation,” “Never Tear Us Apart” and “Mystify.”  “Need you Tonight” topped the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 2 in Britain, and its accompanying video went on to win five MTV Awards. In 1991, INXS won the BRIT Award for best international group.

“We never took a soft option, it was the adversity, the challenge and the struggle that forged us into the live working band we became. And this was as big as it could possibly get when it came to a challenge” said founding member Andrew Farriss in the statement issued today, “and in the end we decided for a whole bunch of reasons to march forward. To us there was no other option, families always move forward.”

The group reunited in recent years, and in 2004 turned to a TV talent series “Rock Star” to find a new frontman – to the ire of its fanbase. Canadian J.D Fortune temporary won the gig, and there have been others at the mic, including Jon Stevens, Terence Trent D’Arby and the band’s current frontman, Irishman Ciaran Gribbin.

In the past five years, the band’s inspirational manager Chris Murphy had returned to the fold, and began mapping out the band’s future. An album of reinterpreted INXS arrived in last year, the track “Original Sin” with Rob Thomas on vocals reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

In a conversation with this reporter in 2010, Murphy said, “What I’m doing for INXS today is not trying to solve an issue or problem today. I’m setting up a strategy that will last 20 years.” That strategy now won’t take shape.

“They believed unconditionally in each other and they also believed unconditionally in the music,” Murphy said in today’s statement. “People fade, sometimes way too early… that is life whether we like it or not. To live to 80 plus is a life well lived. To lose Michael so young was a tragedy for all of us. But with this band, their legacy, their music was just so damn good, it was always destined to live beyond all of us.”

The band’s recorded legacy will live on through a long-term agreement struck last year with Universal Music Group.