“It’ll definitely grow the market”: TEG Live boss Tim McGregor on inaugural Country to Country
The rapid growth of Australias’s $574 million country music sector has seen more events, awards, festivals, radio shows and independent record labels emerged to fill the gap.
But streaming is creating demand by music fans for emerging acts, both Australian and from overseas, many of which remain under the mainstream radar.
The Country Music Association of Australia’s 2018 report – The Economic and Cultural Value of Country Music in Australia – showed high adoption of streaming services.
Spotify reported Australia is the third-largest country music territory after the US and Canada, and the world’s fastest-growing country market.
This month sees the arrival in Australia of the UK/European Country to Country (C2C) festival brand.
“Country to Country single-handedly developed the country music market in the UK and Europe – that’s what it was designed to do,” says Tim McGregor, managing director of TEG Live.
TEG Live has been working the country music sector with tours by Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, and figures it’s time to take the next step by partnering with the world’s second-largest promoter AEG Presents to bring C2C here.
Tapping the greater urban and millennial interest in country music, it recreates a 10-hour festival atmosphere in a city arena.
In its first year, there’ll only be shows in Sydney (Qudos Bank Arena, September 28) and Brisbane (Brisbane Entertainment Centre, September 29).
The action takes place inside and outside the venues, with multi-stages, meet and greets, US food stalls and bars, merch stands and other activations.
Both shows are heading for a sell-out, with McGregor confidently forecasting 20,000 for both.
That’ll double next year with both cities to switch to two days, and a slow expansion over the next few years to other cities.
Similarly, C2C began in London in 2013 as a one-day event, drawing 17,000 in its first year.
Now it runs over three days concurrently in London, Dublin, Glasgow, Amsterdam and Berlin with a total draw of 80,000 punters.
The Australian shows have a similar format: A major US superstar (Tim MGraw), North American names (Kelsea Ballerini, Midland), social media sensations (Blanco Brown), Aussie top draws (The McClymonts, Andrew Swift, Adam Eckersley Band, Casey Barnes, Kaylee Bell) and through the CMA Songwriters Series with Eric Paslay, Travis Collins, Jess Moskaluke, Lacy Cavalier, Raelynn and Sinead Burgess.
“It’ll definitely grow the market”, McGregor says. “It’s all incremental.
“It’s crossed over to mainstream radio, there are collaborations and the genres are mixing it up.”
But it’s about finding and growing new talent to keep the market dynamic. “They’ve been discovered through Spotify but would never be able to come and play here if not for a festival like C2C.”
Similarly, there’s nothing like experiencing a big-time country music show for more music fans to come under its sway.
“You go see a Tim McGraw, or a Keith Urban or a Carrie Underwood performance, see their incredible chops and knowing how to deliver great stories to an audience and you can’t help but gravitate towards them.”
McGregor pays tribute to the late Rob Potts for the growth of country music festivals in the past five years.
“It’s developed really rapidly,” he says. “Hats off to Rob Potts, he did an incredible job with CMC Rocks.
“It’s such a pity he’s not with us to see the fruits of his labour.
“CMC Rocks allowed a number of Tier One country music artists not just to play the festival but to tour through arenas.
“So he’s really was a pioneer in many respects of large scale country music festivals.”
C2C is deliberately staged in the second part of the year.
Major international acts can play events like CMC Rocks in the first half, hit the northern hemisphere’s summer circuit, and then head back down to Australia in the second half.
“It’s a natural progression in developing the Australian country music market, not only to create a festival experience but to extend that interest into another time of year. That’s how C2C was created in the UK.
“The interest in new acts has grown exponentially and the UK has certainly been a platform for all those new artists to find an audience for the very first time.”
An entertainment lawyer by profession, McGregor’s experience with festivals goes back to 1997, when he was among a group of friends who set up Falls Festival in Lorne, Victoria.
He left after a few years for the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation before joining Dainty Group.
He moved to TEG with Paul Dainty when it was acquired.
As one who started out as one himself in his early 20s, what would he say to today’s independent promoters who’re getting nervous they might be squeezed out of the market with US powerhouses as Live Nation and AEG moving in?
“That concern is somewhat overstated. There’s always corporate entertainment or live entertainment and there’s always the new kids that come through with ideas.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be the great ideas that have traction.
“Agents and managers and brand owners, people who might be targets for those ideas, will be open to people who offer them opportunities
“The disruption is embraced ad encouraged, so I would say that anyone who has an idea about what the next big thing is, should have confidence there’ll always be an opportunity.
“You’ll probably find some want to work with alternative promoter if they’re first in with a great idea. It’s always been like that.”