Features July 19, 2019

Hot Seat: Michael Parisi & Charlotte Ried

Hot Seat: Michael Parisi & Charlotte Ried

(MPM) was set up by label executive and artist manager Michael Parisi in 2008 as a full-service management and consultancy company.

During stints in various record companies – from managing director to PR – Parisi made his name as one of the great A&R execs.

Among those he signed were future platinum-spinners The Superjesus, Regurgitator, The Whitlams, 28 Days, Gabriella Cilmi and Motor Ace.

Charlotte Ried, new general manager of MPM’s division Right Hand Management, followed up a Bachelor of Music Industry degree with a stint at stage-managing before joining multi-division Ralph Carr Management.

“I definitely jumped in headfirst when I started there,” she admits.

MPM manages Vera Blue, Dan Sultan, Polish Club, Kesmar, Sam Perry, Andy Hopkins, Msquared, Jan Skubiszewski, and the Sunshine & Disco Faith Choir.

This month the company launched Left Hand Publishing, in partnership with Universal Music Publishing Group, with first signing, Perth singer-songwriter Andy Hopkins/Hauskey.

Management, Parisi says, “is about having 20 balls in the air sometimes they land, sometimes they don’t. It’s OK to make mistakes because you learn from them.

“Every day presents its own issues, its fresh challenges. We’re pretty much across everything at any given time.”

On the afternoon TMN dials up, Ried is working on the logistics for a new Vera Blue video and reapplying for a new passport as she heads back overseas again in a few weeks.

Also coming up is Dan Sultan’s first kids show in Sydney, to accompany his kids album Nali & Friends, and they’re sorting out its visuals.

“We’ve never done a kids show before, which is making me nervous, but it gets us out of our comfort zone,” Parisi relays.

Q: Your new publishing company gets you back into A&R. How has the role of A&R changed since the days you signed The Superjesus, the ‘Gurg and Whitlams? What’s different in what you’re looking for?

MP: Let me preface that by saying you never stop A&R. Even as a manager, because you’re looking for acts to manage. That process has never stopped for me.

A&R has changed through technology. Back then there was no social media, no real time testing, no real time research.

You relied on gut instinct, you relied on going to the show to see the direction the artists were going.

Now, in a lot of cases, it’s become very much a science, how many Facebook likes they have, how many Instagram followers.

Labels are looking for a meaningful media presence, to be frank.

In a lot of cases, not all, the music is almost secondary. You’ve got a social media presence, great, let’s make music.

Q: Is that healthy?

MP: It’s neither good nor bad, it’s different to the way it used to be.

It’s a natural process, one that is always going to change because of technology.

But it’s as exciting as it was, and the industry is as exciting as it was 30 years ago.

Peoples’ passion for music is still there, they wan to see live music, they want to consume it.

It’s just the way it’s discovered that has changed.”

Q: What’s the standard of A&R in Australia, and are local A&R execs to blame for Australia’s relatively low strike rate in breaking the global market?

MP: The standard of Australian A&R is quite good, the quality has gone up, if anything.

With only three majors left, you get all these indie artists springing up.

You have to compete, with the globalisation of the music industry, and I think we’re creating some fantastic acts in Australia.

We’ve adapted to the need for diversification, and there are so many young sharp entrepreneurs signing exciting acts.

In terms of the strike rate in breaking an act overseas, it’s really difficult. It always has been.

We’re so far from the rest of the world. Unless you’re prepared to do the hard work or base yourself over there and be in people’s faces, it’s really difficult.

If you are serious about breaking an overseas territory, go and spend a lot more time there.

You don’t need a massive hit record to stay afloat during your career. That’s gone.

But in terms of making inroads, it depends on what your definition of success is.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard can go overseas and sell 20,000 tickets, that’s a success to them.

Q: You were the first in the world to sign Muse. How did that come about?

MP: Their lawyer, David King, moved to Australia and started working at Mushroom the same day I did.

He said I’ve been peddling this little band in the UK, will you pass it around your people and tell me what they think of it.

I heard the record, thought it was incredible, and rang my counterpart in the UK, Korda Marshall, of Mushroom UK, and said, ‘Why don’t you sign Muse?’

He thought they sounded like Radiohead with big guitars. I said, Yeah, so? What’s your fucking problem? Just sign them.

I picked up their first two EPs and their first album, I took it to radio. Arnold Frolows was running triple j then. He put it straight to air, and it reacted.

Australia was the first territory in the world where Muse started going off, and triple j broke them.

I didn’t think it was going to happen, and I certainly didn’t think they’d become such a massive act.

I just knew I liked it, and I thought I’d roll the dice and take it to triple j.

Q: Do they still keep in touch with you?

MP: I go and see them every time they tour. When they last came out, they asked Warner if I could present them a platinum record although I had nothing to do with that particular record.

They said they felt more comfortable with me giving it to them. They’re very nice guys.”

Q: Would your next division be, around touring or artificial intelligence?

CR: If we were ever to set up a touring division, it’d be focusing on creating the plan, strategy and logistics around tours.

We always work very closely with our acts’ booking agents to create their domestic and international touring plots, and will then create and execute the marketing and promotion strategy for the tour, organise budgets, merchandise, band/crew/production, advance shows and festivals, and more.

Depending on the artist they may have publicists and tour managers or production managers that we also work closely with.

The tour that I’ve worked on that’s been the most rewarding to date was Vera Blue’s Lady Powers Tour.

After five months of hard work and little sleep, creating her biggest shows to date we sold out the tour, with over 10,000 tickets sold across seven cap city shows.

There are some international work permits I will process myself, but for US visas, I will always outsource to an entertainment visa company.

For Vera Blue and Polish Club we’ve used Badlands Group who are able to turn them around in great time and make the process much less stressful!

Q: What was one recent example of you standing in a crowd going crazy for your artist and you thinking “I helped build that from scratch!”

MP: It would be Vera Blue for us right now. She was a contestant on The Voice, finished third, and wanted to be a Joni Mitchell cover artist when I first met her.

Now she’s a major artist with her own songs, 6 x platinum singles, playing to massive crowds screaming their lungs out, singing to every one of her lines. That is so rewarding.

At Big Pineapple Music Festival (Sunshine Coast), I was there with some American A&R people, and looking around hearing the huge crowd sing along to all her songs.

CR: Two moments that stand out for me were Vera Blue’s Splendour in the Grass set in 2017.

Her album had been out for only half a day before her set, yet the packed out tent were already so passionately singing back her songs which was crazy to watch.

A few months later that year in London, (she) played a sold out debut London show at Hoxton Square Bar, and it was the first time I’d seen an international audience actually screaming every word of her songs back to her.

That’s when I knew that her music really had an affect on people and was connecting globally.

Another artist that I’ve felt this with recently is KESMAR. Nathan Hawes had been working on his new project KESMAR for two years before we announced his new project late last year, and seeing a full audience dancing and reacting to his music at for his debut EP show at The Vanguard (Sydney) was incredible to see.

When you watch that kind of reaction after months or years of hard work, it makes you remember why this 24/7 job is so worthwhile.

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