In March 1990, I had this super weird dream that simply haunted me for days. Without the influence of any illegal substance, I dreamed of myself walking in a forest under a waning moon, stumbling across a large dog standing on its hind legs happily pissing on a grand piano. A tall olive tree beside me slowly shedded its perfect leaves while a delicious autumn breeze gently teased my hair. I couldn’t stop thinking about what this insane scene actually meant for me.
Time on stage, in a studio, on the road, back stage, in front of a microphone or booking gigs on the phone had revealed certain patterns in my experience of the music industry that kept cycling and recycling. And honestly, my vision was for a much higher standard for myself and for everyone who worked in this industry – Artists and Venues alike. This naïve utopian fantasy inspired by my loopy dream was enough fuel to start the ball rolling with the issue of my Agent’s licence on 17 July 1990. With our first logo featuring the dog, the piano, the tree and the moon. (what was I thinking). ?
Since 1990, we’ve seen trends come and go. Giants in the industry have fallen while stars rose. Artists followed their dreams and Venues spectacularly went broke. Hospitality chains came and went, built, forged and wove their way through a variety of brand identities. We have witnessed carnage and destruction of some careers while others danced in growth and success. And we have built the foundation of our business from the many bricks that have been thrown at us over the past 27 years. ?
If you ask me today in 2017 what was the greatest challenge and the biggest lesson, I would say the total separation of who I thought I was from the real job at hand. Business is about customers, suppliers, team members, partners, community and the market. You are one tiny little molecule in a much bigger machine. None of it is about you. You have to dig deep, find your courage, step into several versions of yourself, follow your heart and dedicate yourself to your vision in spite of all the noise around you. It is impossible to keep everyone happy and really, at the end of the day, that’s not your responsibility. Being in business forces you to raise your standards and create the best outcome for each client no matter what. And this means making the tough decisions that have to be made to provide the best service possible – not easy or popular but absolutely necessary in order to best serve the customer.
That crazy dream I had all those years ago helped me to unpack my purpose (my big fish as Manny calls it). This big fish is the reason why we get up every morning and go into that same office, working with those same people and dealing with those same challenges day after day year after year. Since 1990, my vision is for Music to mean Business. Therefore, our biggest focus is Ticket Sales and Bums on Seats. For the community of professionals that we work with day after day and year after year to survive, they have had to maintain that very same focus. Without ticket sales and bums on seats, there is no gig. Without ticket sales and bums on seats, there is no market for music. Without ticket sales and bums on seats, there is no business. Every single decision that we all make, every action that we all take, every Artist that is booked, every supplier that we engage, every marketer that we employ, every cent that we spend is, yes even every breath we take ? is focused on Ticket Sales and Bums on Seats.
Sounds great right? Mmmmm… Nothing in life can ever be a straight forward one size fits all blanket approach. Business is a personal development journey with the paradox being that while It’s All About You it’s also Not About You. We are working with human beings not machines, who are each in their own time processing a variety of emotional experiences and invariably this is at times reflected at the box office or over the bar. The psychology of the journey is an important part of the business process. In the arc of a career, music and business ebb and flow in a unique pattern specific to each individual story, with the dichotomy being, that while pure talent is a given, for music to have value, it must mean business.
When I was gigging a gazillion years ago, I was periodically regaled with tales of the “reviled agent” from other musos. When I look back at those agents now, I marvel at their incredible contributions to our industry over decades and value their raw beautiful humanity as they navigated through the kind of infinite vicious trolling that would send most people into an endless depressive spiral. That they didn’t truly amazes me. When I speak to local musos, these agents are spoken of with such vitriolic nastiness. In contrast, when I speak with Labels, Promoters, Producers, Music Lawyers, Media and Major Touring Artists, these same individuals are highly valued and lauded.
Here we are, 27 years later, often swimming between these same flags of vitriol and applause like those before us. This chasm between the music and the business is both a glorious space for expression and creation as well as a hollow stagnant void where nothing grows. The psychology of our industry’s culture, past and present, is endlessly fascinating for me as it is clear that those patterns, I wanted so badly to fix originally, are necessary aspects of a healthy creative industry.
To those customers who still include live music as part of their business plan, (the Label, the Artist Management company, The Promoter, the Venue Manager, the Event Producer, the Functions Co-Ordinator, the Corporate client and the person holding the party) we salute and thank you. Without you there is no industry.
To those artists who are tuned into the market, delivering high quality music week in and week out while engaging their fans on stage and on line, building their brand and setting hearts on fire with their exceptional talent, we love and appreciate your work. It’s a massive thing to do and it takes balls of steel and it’s been such a privilege for us to work with so many talented individuals over the past 27 years. Without you there is no energy.
To those whose only power in this business is to troll, we sincerely are so grateful for you. You are the reason why we started this business in the first place. Without you there is no fuel for our vision.
To our Pushworth team, we simply couldn’t do it without you. There is nothing about production, performance, the market, promotion, business and hospitality that you are not all over. We feel so honored to be sharing this adventure with you. Without you there is no event.
To the children we grew while growing this business, where weekends were spent replacing Artists at the last minute, managing Festivals on public holidays, assisting Artists on tour and Xmas Day being inevitably about replacing a hungover Santa – thank you. You are the reason we kept going. Your childhood was influenced and punctuated by our business just as much as the careers and businesses of the Artists and Promoters we have worked with. Sorry and You Are Welcome. ?
To everyone who has taken this journey with us so far we say “Wow, What A Ride! Thanks for sharing it with us!” Cannot wait for the next 27 years!