MGM’s Michael Chase talks introducing Like a Version to the US and ‘bridging the gap’ for Aussie artists
‘Like A Version’, the chart-topping, sometimes quirky Australian institution, is heading to America. A 21-track compilation of classic covers by Tame Impala, Flume, DMA’S and others will drop Sept. 22 in North America via Metropolitan Groove Merchants (MGM), through the company’s creative relationship with Australia’s ABC Music, forged in 2016.
MGM set up an operational base in Nashville near the end of 2014 and is led by Michael Chase, son of Seb Chase, the legendary founder of MGM Distribution, member of the ARIA board and recipient of last year’s ARIA Industry Icon Award.
Since its launch, the US company has provided digital and physical distribution solution for such Aussie acts as The Church, The Drones, Dr G Yunupingu, The Vines, San Cisco, The Jezabels, Sticky Fingers and C.W. Stoneking. TIO caught up with Michael Chase to discuss the new arrival.
Is there an appetite for ‘Like a Version’ in the U.S.?
Yeah, it’s going to be a learning process. The first release is about introducing it and teaching Americans and creating awareness around ‘Like a Version’. From our side, we’re obviously really passionate about it.
That’s the first thing we really identified with the ABC, we thought that’s a great opportunity to promote Australian music as well as just bands, and bring awareness to Triple J and ‘Like a Version’ and how important the station is. [That’s] over this release, and the next one we’ll start to create some good awareness about the station.
So you’ve an interest in bringing international attention to Triple J? Why?
That’s a big part of it. Growing up in Australia and working in the music industry for 10 years and being part of the landscape, it’s such an important part of Australian bands getting some traction Tastemakers globally to keep an eye on Triple J and what’s happening.
From my side, a distributor, label or whatever role we take here, it’s the equivalent of an alt station in the US. It’s our big community radio station.
If we get some traction there, it definitely starts to paint a picture for us so we can get some traction overseas. MGM has always developed and worked with management companies and bands to develop their careers. [Triple J] is an important part of the development process in Australia which aids what we’re doing here, and it tells us if something can work in the market.
Presumably you won’t have access to the artists to promote this album? So how will you work it?
Yeah [laughs], that’s a funny one. We’ve put a plan together to promote it on social media through each acts’ social pages. The publishers, the management companies, we’ve got a letter going out to each songwriter or band to help promote it.
Obviously some will want to get involved, some won’t. I doubt Mumford & Sons, for instance would want to, obviously they’re welcome to. It’s up to the artists, acts like John Butler, hopefully San Cisco – who are touring the US soon – and Cub Sport are going to want to be among the bands helping promote it.
The office here has a full in house label services team, some of it will be working on this project. We’re offering instant grat tracks. The conversations have started and I think we should get some good support from the digital service providers in North America.
I don’t want to say “covers”, but it’s a good time because people are more accepting of them, and artists are doing them more often. It’s quite a cool thing right now.
All of this came about through a creative partnership MGM struck last year for the distribution of ABC Music releases in North America. This isn’t the first or last release through that arrangement.
This is like a milestone. We want to get it to roll out with Australia every year. When we first spoke to them, we wanted to get an “introducing” or “best of” [Like a Version] to start creating awareness then start getting it to line up with Australia each year.
This isn’t only Like a Version. We’re going through the ABC catalogue and trying to take off bite-sized pieces. It’s such a deep catalogue that goes back so far. There’s some great stuff in the archive obviously I’d love to get my hands on that.
We’re also working with the Wiggles, who have sold 55,000 ticket sales for their Canadian shows this October. Hopefully they’ll make another run in North America next year
So what’s the ambition for this release and others in the pipeline?
Hopefully we get some attention on the Australian artists. MGM has always been about local music, bringing Australian music to the world. Setting up here was about bridging the gap, the tyranny of distance between here and the US.
Dad [Seb] and I both feel, Cold Chisel would have been as big as any American band if they were in America. The songs were just incredible. There have been so many Australian bands who’ve come through that if they were in the American market they’d have been as big as Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan.
We’ve so many great acts, it’s just been the tyranny of distance and the expense. That’s part of why we put an office here in the US, to start bridging that gap.
When this [project] popped up, we thought it was another part of the jigsaw puzzle that can help brand Australian music in the market and give it more of a voice and also promote the fact that Australia has this great radio station Triple J that has birthed so much great music over the years. Hopefully it’s another piece in that jigsaw puzzle.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.