What Michael Chugg Told Mushroom Staff at Michael Gudinski’s Funeral
Michael Chugg is never short of a word, and never afraid to speak his mind. It’s these qualities that have positioned Chuggi as one of Australia’s prominent concert promoters, an ambassador for Aussie music at home and away.
Watch the full Fear at the Top episode with Susan Heymann and Michael Chugg below:
A proud Tasmanian and one of a small handful of ARIA Icons, Chuggi isn’t limited by what comes out of his mouth.
With 50-plus years’ experience waving the flag for homegrown acts and producing shows at every level, Chuggi knows a thing or two. He can spot a good deal, a bad situation, the long game and understands when to enter the fray.
When Michael Gudinski died in 2021, leaving a crater in the Australian music industry and a gaping wound in Mushroom Group, the company he founded, Chuggi knew it was a bad situation. So he piped up.
Speaking on The Brag’s Media’s “Fear At The Top” podcast, Chuggi recounts how he used the occasion of Gudinski’s funeral at Ormond Hall to assuage the Mushroom team’s fears.
“I got up and told them they had nothing to worry about. That was the truth of it all,” he tells Luke Girgis, CEO of The Brag Media, and editor-in-chief Poppy Reid.
“And I know that he would have agreed 100% with what I did. Everybody was so freaked out that it was all over, it was never going to be all over.”
Chugg knew “it had to be said,” and he ruffled some feathers in doing so. “I got in trouble for speaking three minutes longer than other people. It had to be done.”
Chuggi wasn’t speaking purely as a wise soul on hand, but as a veteran leader of the independent music powerhouse.
Back in April 2019, well before the pandemic swept the planet, MG and Chuggi reunited, forming an exclusive joint venture between their respective companies, Frontier Touring and Chugg Entertainment.
“There’s love in the air,” Gudinski told this reporter at the time. “We have the greatest respect for each other.”
Finally, the old band was back together, and this time, Chugg Entertainment managing director Susan Heymann, now Frontier Touring COO, was an integral part of the line-up.
“The reason why we did the JV,” explains Chuggi, “forget the fact he really only did it to get Susan. It’s all about the legacy. It always was.”
Heymann is now part of a four-strong leadership setup at Frontier, announced in March, and Chugg is a member of the senior leadership team.
Did Chugg shop his company around prior to the JV? Was TEG on its wishlist? Chuggi was blunt in his assessment.
“Why would I go with those arseholes? They’re destroying our business those people. No,” he insists. “It was never shopped around. It was something Michael and I had been talking about.”
When Chugg split with Frontier and set up his own company at the turn of the millennium, he never burned his bridges with his younger colleague. “Michael and I were always friends. We always talked, we never went after each other’s acts like other people do. We’ve been talking for a few years about this. So it finally happened.”
And, apparently, it happened during the witching hour.
The first meeting, Heymann recounts, took place at 1am at the Olsen Penthouse, following Sia’s stadium show at AAMI Park.
Those talks were productive, she admits, putting to bed the argument that nothing good ever happens after midnight.
“We went through until about 4am and had a lot of conversations about whether we were on the same page. At the core of it, our values were the same, and our ways of working. Both Chugg and Frontier have always wanted to put an artist in front of an audience, not a product with a buyer. That’s really the philosophy that brought us back together.”
Gudinski didn’t attend those meetings alone. He proudly brought with him the Melbourne Cup, which he won for the second consecutive year, as co-owner of Rekindling.
Thinking of the mighty MG today. Michael texted me this pic one day, and I've kept it on my desktop ever since. It's the most #MichaelGudinski thing ever: the Melbourne Cup with a Kylie CD in it, and proud pappa in the background. pic.twitter.com/xtBompYKqi— Lars Brandle (@larsbrandle) March 2, 2022
Chugg has the last word, paying tribute to his late friend and business partner, and for his tireless work in keeping the business he built afloat during the pandemic.
Gudinski “was magnificent,” Chugg remembers. “Everybody survived because of Michael, he kept paying everybody. Incredible.”
Stream the full interview here and below.