May 25, 2020

Chris O’Brien on Destroy All Lines’ newly expanded booking agency

Chris O’Brien on Destroy All Lines’ newly expanded booking agency

Tour and festival promoter Destroy All Lines has officially launched its agency division.

The agency was established three years ago, but in the wake of Chris O’Brien’s arrival as general manager of touring, the focus was on its Good Things Festival.

In the early days when the agency was still in beta, it was looking after acts like Polaris, Alpha Wolf, Thornhill and Justice For The Damned.

This morning it officially launches with 20 acts and plans for three more team members to join the 14 over its various divisions in months ahead.

TMN spoke with O’Brien over the weekend about the agency and growth plans.

So it’s a good time to set up an agency in earnest for the expected big explosion of Australian music this summer?

“As we site here there are job cuts across the major agencies globally (including Australia) whether it be agents themselves or administration and marketing.

“At the moment there is a lot of doom and gloom but we will come out of this at some point and we need to come out of this strong.

“It’s critical the next batch of artists are nurtured and prepared to pounce when we see the back end of this not just domestically but globally.

“We already had a handful of artists we represented that we have taken from 200 capacity level from 3 years ago up into 1000 to 3,000 cap levels next year.

“The conversation was very organic about reaching out to a number of artists we saw potential in to see if they were interested in the idea.

“The response was overwhelming and we are thrilled so many young acts are putting their trust in us.

“We are not a traditional agency as we are primarily promoters. We don’t come at it from the mindset as a normal agency would.

“We have strategic long term visions for our acts and work very closely with them, their labels and managers about how we position them and the right moves to make.

“No one promotes in the alternative space better than us and our results back that up whether it be Destroy All Lines as a touring company or Good Things Festival.

“So it’s not as much thinking about early summer but long term well into 2021 and onwards.”

What do you think the agency scene will look like on the other side of CVOD-19?

“I would certainly hope it will be a lot more open and transparent.

“The agents that actually reach out to promoters and want to have an open and honest dialogue about the future of their artists will be the ones to shape the future.

“We have always had a very strong relationship with our artists but there are certain agents out there that just wanted the quick dollar.

“No vision, no discussion just whoever pays them the most and there has to be a tipping point of that from a bidding was perspective.

“We have built our business on respect and delivering incredible results for our artists and have never dealt with those people.

“In most cases, we end up making our artists more money on the backend anyway.”

What’s your take on when international tours might start again?

“You can ask 100 promoters this question and get 100 different answers and ask them again tomorrow and get 100 different answers again.

“It’s certainly looking like 2021 at the earliest and no one knows exactly when. It’s impossible to plan for but we have strategies in place for whatever comes our way.

“The unknown is why we started back in March to launch our new agency to heavily focus on our Australian artists.

“Not only to build their careers here but to help guide and build their careers globally.”

Will it be particularly strong for alt-roc acts, which DAL focuses on?

“Our core focus is on indie, rock, metal, punk and alt-rock for the interim, that is where we shine.

“No one in Australia promotes in these spaces better than us and we have the track record to back that up whether it be Destroy All Lines as a touring company or Good Things Festival.

“We have established an incredible team of promoters, marketing and social media guns that love the music and have a passion to keep building the business.”

What different kinds of marketing are open to the agency?

“We have the most powerful database in the country promoting to alternative artists.

“It’s not just about the raw numbers (over 360,000 e-mail subscribers and 100,000 on social media), it’s the engagement we get.

“Our dedicated marketing team know how to push a message and when to do it.

“As an example, we sold out an entire Australian tour for The Offspring this year (rescheduled to next year) in 3 hours and spent well under 1/3 of our marketing budget.

“We view every artist differently and don’t apply a cookie-cutter approach.

“The fact we have developed our agency bands on shoestring budgets in a few short years from 200 capacity levels up to 1000 to 3,000 cap levels is testament to that.”

In what different ways did you build up Polaris, Alpha Wolf, Thornhill and Justice For The Damned?

“They all follow the same path. We build them step by step.

“We started off with all of them in 200 cap rooms and sold them out. We then moved up rooms, made sure the support packages were strong and the ticket price was reasonable.

“We work incredibly closely with the bands, management and their labels to work through their next steps. It’s all done by design and having everyone on board.

“Our marketing budgets are still very small even for Polaris who are heading into big rooms out here next year.

“We have just done the deal with the international supports on that run and we have a plan for those supports to.

“The direct support for that tour will come back on a headline basis with internationals under them in 2022 and then play Good Things after that.

“We are constantly planning years down the track which is why we can’t work with agents who are only in it for the biggest payday from a promoter.”

What were you looking for in the 20 new signings?

“Artists that were excited at the opportunity at working with us.

“We were looking for different sounds that we thought could reach deep into overseas markets and bands that want this to be their careers.

“Every single artist we approached said yes instantly which we were thrilled about but we had to cap it.”

Anything else you want to add?

“Every day our news feed is littered with job layoffs and festivals and tours either cancelling or rescheduling and we have felt that pain along with the everyone.

“The industry needs to be progressive and, yes, people may be astounded we are launching this, as no one else is doing this domestically or globally.

“But our team couldn’t be more excited about what we are building.”