The Hot Seat: Sudeep Gohil

Published in The Music Network


Sudeep Gohil knows brands. He knows music. And, importantly, he has ideas on how both can get together and play much nicer. A former DJ and promoter, Gohil is chief executive of Droga5, an ad agency whose clients include blue-chip businesses Woolworths, Telstra and Qantas. Gohil has had stints with ad powerhouses BBH and W+K, and packs a lot of international experience into his CV. TMN sat down with Gohil to chat about how music can make a bigger noise in the advertising world.

How does having a DJ and promoter background shape your work?
I don’t know if it shapes me. Many years ago I had to make a choice. I was doing events until about ten years ago–Ministry, Cream, Renaissance–and I had to make a decision. The advertising thing has worked out alright (laughs). The biggest thing for me is to have a genuine understanding and empathy for people on both sides of the fence. That’s the biggest piece of advocacy that exists.

What are brands looking for in music?

There’s been this full circle. It’s not just about whacking a logo on a page anymore. That whole authenticity and genuine connection piece is important. You have to ask yourself, what does your brand stand for? And start from there. We’re all brands. Artists in particular are brands, so they have to think first and foremost what do I stand for, what am I interested in and can I find someone with a similar shared interest or goal and build something progressively from there? The worst way of doing it is to say, “Who’s got the most money?” and chase them down. Big brands aren’t big just because they’ve got a lot of money. They’re smart and they’re even more ruthless than the little brands who will take a punt on someone.

Where’s the reality about being an artist involved in a big campaign?

The real opportunities are to find some overlap, some common ground. Knowing what you have as an artist is where the real opportunity is. The sync deal is probably the icing on the cake. But if you can do something really deep and meaningful, with a brand, that infuses everything they do, it’s a lot more interesting. We do Woolies and they do a lot of stuff with music, and they’re involved in TV shows with music and stores that play music and sell music. You have to look at their entire portfolio. As a retailer that has something like a million customers a day, you’ve got to think what do they have that you don’t have, and what do you have that they don’t have. How can you finish each other’s sentences?

For better or worse, Coles has that “Down Down” campaign. Is that the sort of deep campaign we’ll see more of?

Absolutely. That is a bad example of what a good campaign could look like. But obviously there’s an audience that it works for with, right? The smart thing about that campaign is it’s pretty committed, to the extent there’s even a joke in the ad where the band is saying, “Do you think that’s annoying?”

So what could a good campaign look like?

Coldplay’s deal recently with the mobile phone manufacturer (Huawei) is one. It’s interesting when you can find a brand who wants to do something above and beyond the norm. Take a brand like Woolies. They have big aspirations to do interesting stuff with different people, where it’ll appear on TV, but it’s also in-store, it’s being part of their distribution points. Brands run out of road in terms of stuff they can tell people. So they want to engage and do something more interesting. That’s where artists have a huge advantage because their content is inherently interesting to a number of people.

How do you find the music?

We work with sync agencies when we have to. We have good relationships with the record labels. If we’re after a particular type of thing, we’ll send a brief out. Our creative guys often have in their head a view of what it might sound like. We’ve got a good network that surrounds us.

Are brands actually keen to have artists front their campaigns?

The music industry doesn’t do itself any favours. I’m sure some of the bigger brands have had worse experiences working with the music industry than they’ve had good experiences. The sporting industry is way more sophisticated in terms of locking down a strategy and marketing plan, whereas the record industry will say, “I might have something happening next year.” That’s where the music industry can learn from sports. They understand and they speak in the same language, which is the big challenge.


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The Hot Seat: Michael Newton, A Day on The Green

Published in The Music Network


There’s something quintessentially “Australian” about A Day On The Green. It’s an outdoors summer experience which combines picnics, wine and live music. And it’s built within Australia’s winery circuit. A Day On The Green was inaugurated on Australia Day back in 2001. This Saturday, again on Australia Day, the event will celebrate show No. 300 when Elvis Costello, Sunnyboys, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, Tex Perkins and Stephen Cummings play at Rochford Wines in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

To date, more than two million punters have streamed through its 19 sites, and the likes of Leonard Cohen, Simple Minds, Tom Jones and Alicia Keys have treaded A Day On The Green’s boards. The site capacities typically range from 4,000-10,000, none are greater than 12,000. Mushroom Group Chairman Michael Gudinski is a co-partner of the business, which expanded into New Zealand in 2008. TMN caught up with Roundhouse Entertainment’s owner Mick Newton, who with his wife Anthea promotes the shows.

What’s pulling the artists to A Day On The Green, apart from going simply to where the audience is?

A lot of the older artists don’t often play in outdoor environments any more. Particularly if you look at the Australian bands we’ve had on the bills, most of these guys are playing 500-1,000 capacity clubs, but they’re getting to play in front of 8,000 people on a big stage with good production. Offering that sort of (multi-band) format gets them excited. We make it as easy for our artists as we can. For the audience, we try to offer good fun solid line- ups for the best ticket price. That’s the philosophy behind the business. We’ve been getting groups of 20-40 people privately hiring a bus and going into the Yarra Valley and doing other things in the morning, like wine tastings and having a look around then coming to the show.

Promoters constantly tell me business is “tough”. Is that your experience?

It is tough. We started very slowly, organically. In the first year we did two shows, in the second we did five shows. When we started there was nowhere near the scrutiny – the council, the police, insurance, work-cover. The first shows we might have let the council know but we certainly didn’t have to get approval and jump through the hoops we do now. There’s not only the competitive side of securing the acts, there’s also the logistics and the level of detail you need to cover with those sorts of regulatory bodies. It’s pretty heavy. But because we’ve grown up with it, we understand it.

Is this a growing business for you?

The last three years we’ve done between 40-50 shows. That’s about as many as we’ll get because there’s not enough time from October to March. Before that it was between 30-35. It’s definitely grown in the last four or five years. We’ve added a couple of new venues on to the schedule this year.

The weather must be such a powerful element.

It’s a massive issue. We’re obviously fully insured over the season. If we have to cancel because of the site or the venue’s not safe, we will do it and we have done it. We just lock in our insurance cover each year for whatever happens, whether it’s artist-non appearance or weather or fire, whatever the case is.

You’d expect an older demographic.
It depends on the artist. It’s surprising how many younger people are coming to our shows. There’s always a camping ground. It’s not all about a high-end ticket or staying in a nice hotel. It’s not like you have to spend $300 a night on accommodation. You can camp and get a bus to a show and pay under $100 for a general admission ticket.

Do the wineries carry some of the costs?
No. We deliver the show in its entirety. The winery doesn’t take any risk. But of course they still have a lot of equity in the show in terms of the retail side of the bars and the food and it’s important for them in terms of branding to deliver a good show.

Are you looking to branch into more cutting-edge genres?

Sure, that’s definitely on the cards for the next 12 month.

And what about expanding into other markets with a winery circuit?
We’ve looked at it, we’ve got a few irons in the fire. But we just want to get Australia and New Zealand as good as it could be before we go spread ourselves too thin and start doing things overseas. I’m happy being in Australia and I don’t want to be travelling all the time. I’m happy that we’ve got a good business and a good reputation. Those are the two things I want to keep intact.

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Hot Seat: Tim Worton, AEG Ogden

Published in The Music Network


The Perth Arena finally opened for business last November, giving W.A. a sorely-needed international venue – and a strategic bridge into Asia. The 15,500-capacity site was a decade in the making, replacing the Perth Entertainment Centre, which was closed in 2002. Though its arrival didn’t come without an extraordinary run of incidents. The arena’s construction costs swelled to $540 million: more than triple the original forecast of $160 million.

Opening night didn’t go quite as planned with George Michael–booked to play the first show on Nov. 10–cancelled his tour citing “major anxiety”. And tragically, the venue’s General Manager David Humphreys passed away just weeks prior. With those troubles behind it, promoters are warmly welcoming the venue, which can boast a solid bank of bookings for the months ahead, including dates from Pink, One Direction, Weezer and Bryan Adams.

TMN caught up with Tim Worton, Group Director Of Arenas for AEG Ogden, which manages the venue and a portfolio of more than a dozen others throughout the Asia Pacific region.

What does the arena mean for the touring market in this part of the world?

Perth is a gateway to Asia given that it’s the closest Australian city to the major Asian cities by air. The Asian market has become an increasingly important one and the Australian market always has been. So there’s now even more incentive for acts to tour the Asia Pacific region, even more so with the arrival of Perth Arena.

How are you marketing this venue?

The increasing size of shows and associated cost to get productions over to Perth from the east coast is something all venues in that city have had to contend with. It’s no different for Perth Arena. We will market this arena as being state-of-the-art and unique. And fortunately the Perth market is a strong one, buoyed by the most robust economy in the nation. It’s a market in Australasia that generally delivers the third or fourth best ticket sales on a national tour; it’s usually a viable addition to a tour itinerary, if there is sufficient time on the run to play it. We think that Western Australians will love the venue and that will only help to build ticket sales. We are marketing the arena as being at the gateway to and from Asia.

How’s business across the AEG Ogden sites in Australia and the greater industry for large venues here?

Business continues to be strong and our venues are still experiencing very strong annual ticket sales. 2012 was a little softer than 2011, and you would say that the market has been a bit soft or fragile. But 2013 is shaping up as being bigger than both those years with plenty of bookings and sold out tours. So it can all change, as is so often the case in this cyclical industry. Ticket prices have always been of critical importance to the success of tours. But it’s fair to say that it’s even more important right now as the public seems to be pretty discerning about spending their discretionary income – as the retail industry has found over the last few years. Price points are vital and some shows have underperformed because of price resistance. When there are hot acts to go on sale, tickets fly. The Brisbane market suffered for a short time early in 2011 after the floods, but it recovered quickly and in 2012 the Brisbane Entertainment Centre (BEC) sat at No. 17 globally in the Pollstar chart for Top Arenas for ticket sales and at No. 1 in the Billboard chart for arenas in the 10,001 to 15,000 capacity category. The BEC and the Brisbane market generally punch well-above their weight.

Have you ever known a venue to have such drama surrounding it before it had opened its doors for business?

The venue certainly had it challenges. Over budget, delivered late, and our staff only had a couple of weeks in the building prior to opening. None of that was ideal. George Michael cancelling as our opening act was an unwanted problem which we fortunately overcame in spectacular fashion, with Sir Elton John stepping in. The passing of David Humphreys was the biggest shock of all. Having said that, every venue ever opened has stories like this. Rather than bemoaning the lack of good fortune, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to generate revenue for the promoter, venue and act.

Has a replacement for David been found?

We are lucky to have had Steve Hevern as an AEG Ogden staffer, who was able to go to Perth in an interim GM role. Steve has overseen three previous venue openings: Sydney SuperDome (now Allphones Arena), Vector Arena in Auckland and Mastercard Center in Beijing. He’s seeing an awesome result.


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Max Hole Upped At UMGI

Max Hole has risen from COO to chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International.

The new  role essentially confirms Hole’s standing as the top record exec outside the U.S., and it comes at the start of what promises to be an engrossing year for Universal’s top brass as it integrates its operations with EMI Music.

The latest promotion is effective from Jan. 1, 2013 and was announced today by Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge, to whom Hole reports.

Hole is now elevated to the same title Grainge had vacated in July 2010, when he relocated from the U.K. to the U.S. to take leadership of UMG as its chairman and CEO.

Hole continues to be based in London, where he’s tasked with responsibilities for all of the company’s operations in the world outside the United States. He also oversees the music major’s worldwide classical music business, which include the Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Classics labels.

“Max has played an invaluable part in the evolution and success of our international business,” Grainge comments in a statement. “And now with our historic acquisition of EMI, there is no one better to lead our efforts outside the United States. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for more than three decades, and not only is he one of the most experienced, accomplished executives in our business, he is also a true music man.”

Adds Hole, “The future for the music industry is looking brighter than it has for some time, and there’s no shortage of energy, innovation and creativity in Universal’s companies around the world. I’m looking forward to working with new colleagues and artists from EMI, and integrating our two great companies successfully.  2013 will be an exciting year for all of us.”

Formerly executive VP of UMGI and president of the company’s Asia Pacific region, Hole joined the company in 1998 from Warner Music U.K. to become senior VP of marketing and A&R. He was promoted to executive VP in 2004 and became COO in July 2010, a role which saw him tasked with Universal’s operations outside of North America, the United Kingdom and France.

Hole’s promotion is reward for the exec’s big playmaking role for Universal’s international business. Hole was central to Universal’s worldwide recording and artist services agreement for “The Voice” TV franchise and he’s been instrumental in bringing to Universal Music the likes of Taylor Swift, Queen and the Eagles. Also, Hole played a key role in shepherding the Songs for JapanITAL charity album and Chinese search engine Baidu’s landmark licensing agreement with One-Stop China, a joint venture established by Universal, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group.