The music industry is a complete mystery to many music fans, while many people mistakenly think that it’s a glamorous business to work in. At Tone Deaf we like to always remember the quote attributed to Hunter S. Thompson: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Let’s get your tips and tricks on the business.
Who are you and what do you do?
How did you get in to the music business? Why are you still in what Ian Brown of The Stone Roses called ‘the filthiest business in the universe”?
I went to see bands in Melbourne in the 70’s and early 80’s. Huge fan of The Reels. Went to work in Perth (as a computer programmer). Went to see Simple Minds, walked into Ken West (BDO) and he was looking for a promoter for John Cooper Clarke and New Order. I started as never having done a show before.
Promoted lots of gigs in Perth, Laughing Clowns, Go Betweens, Lou Reed, Violent Femmes, Pel Mel, The Models, Hunters and Collectors, Hoodoo Gurus and more. Managed The Stems and The Bamboos. I love it. Music makes people happy. The change in people when they go to a concert is like nothing else.
The internet changed the music business fundamentally. What future developments in it can you see in your crystal ball?
People will start to pay something for music. In return they will end up with access to all the music in the world. It may only be a cent at a time, but they will pay. Live music will prosper, but bands will not always be the focus. It will be about the experience of going out.
Is it true that everyone in the music industry is a raging alcoholic with a drug problem?
Not any more. Bands can’t afford to be fucked up all the time. And people won’t work with people who have huge problems, as it means that stuff doesn’t get done.
What is the greatest gig you’ve ever been to?
Parliament at the Metro. George Clinton and the crew lifted the roof off the sucker.
What are your top tips for artists hoping to make a living out of the music business? How can they make themselves stand out?
It’s a business. Act professionally.
Treat people as you would expect to be treated yourself.
The manager works for you, not the other way round.
It’s your money, take control of it.
Have the songs, if they aren’t quite good enough get a professional involved to help you.
Network like crazy. See how other successful people do it.
You have to have the songs. You can have the performance, but to be successful over a period of time, you must have the songs.
What is the greatest album ever released? Tell us why?
Too difficult. Nevermind (Nirvana) touched off a great era.
Sergeant Pepper (The Beatles).
What advice would you have for someone thinking of working in the music business?
Do the apprenticeship. Get a mentor, work for free if you have to. You need to network and meet people, see how it works. Working for credible people, gives you credibility. People are really helpful in the business, it’s a small community.
Everyone in the music business has an ‘I saw them back when/I knew them back when’ story. What’s yours?
Jet in front of 40 people and 20 of them were record company people. Seeing British India play their first gig. Blew my mind. The Drones first Melbourne show at the Espy for the Indie Initiative. Hadn’t seen the whammy bar used like that since Kim Salmon. Jason Mraz at The Empress.