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News November 26, 2019

ARIA Masterclass 2019: Artist managers talk risk, reward and mental health

Senior Journalist, B2B
ARIA Masterclass 2019: Artist managers talk risk, reward and mental health

Fortune favours the brave. It’s true for life, and the music industry.

Guests at the ARIA Masterclass in Sydney on Tuesday (Nov. 26) heard tales of ambition, reinvention, risk and international success.

Speaking on the midday panel ‘Managing success in 2019,’ Los Angeles-based Private Idaho Management director Jen Fontaine told the story of how, a little over ten years ago, Human Nature took a punt and relocated to Las Vegas via a stint in Atlantic City, with no fall-back.

“Artists have to reinvest in themselves, and their business and management, all the time. There’s not a constant availability of cash,” she said. “For the guys they knew that they wanted and needed to break away from Australia. I honestly believe if they hadn’t started that next chapter, I would question whether they’d still be together as a group.”

Lars Brandle, Jen Fontaine and Regan Lethbridge

Lars Brandle, Jen Fontaine and Regan Lethbridge

When the four-piece decided to overhaul their game-plan and jumped into the world of covers, they “sat down with their wives, they decided to reinvest in themselves, and pretty much put everything in their savings for an opportunity to go to America,” Fontaine explained.

It wasn’t an open door. They started in Atlantic City and put in a “lot of money” to do a week of shows there, got an agent and started at small theatre in Vegas, the Imperial Palace. They were signed on for six nights a week, 35 weeks a year. “Can you imagine doing that? They turned into greyhounds, they were so lean, they’d lost so much weight,” Fontaine recounted. “But I’d never heard the boys singing better.”

Today, they’re a success story with a multi-million-dollar contract and induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame awaits Wednesday night during the ARIA Awards.

Another artist going places, fast, is Tones And I. The ‘Dance Monkey’ star was represented on the panel by her co-manager Regan Lethbridge, co-founder of Lemon Tree Music.

It’s been a dream start for Tones and her hit, which has ruled sales charts in 19 countries, including the U.K., where it’s on track for a ninth cycle at No. 1. In Australia, the song has owned the ARIA Singles Chart for a record 17 weeks, and counting.

Lethbridge admitted, “we haven’t had a chance to sit down and debrief and talk about (her success). We’re still in the midst of it all. There’s a huge team around it but it all comes from her incredible vision and art and songs.

“We just try to join the dots globally and bring it to life. we always try to plan two years ahead but also put in brakes. Enforced brakes, something that’s often overlooked. Mental health is hugely important. You’ve got to take that super serious.”

Another Lemon Tree artist Tash Sultana is five years into a successful international career. The manager’s job, he says, is to “hang in there with them. It’s a rollercoaster. There are tough times that no one sees on socials, no one reads about.”

Association of Artist Managers executive director Catherine Haridy and Applejack Music manager Jeremy Furze, who guides the career of the Teskey Brothers, also spoke.

Michael Chugg and Ruuben van den Heuvel

Michael Chugg and Ruuben van den Heuvel at the 2019 ARIA Masterclass

Earlier in the day, the audience was treated to a keynote address by Tuma Basa, director of urban music for YouTube Music, followed by a Q&A with Michael Chugg and Ruuben van den Heuvel, Head of Music Content Partnerships, YouTube & Google Play (ANZ & SEA).

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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