The Brag Media ▼
News April 26, 2023

Michael McMartin: The Man, The Myth, The Manager Talks AAM Legacy Award, Hoodoo Gurus and More

Senior Journalist, B2B
Michael McMartin: The Man, The Myth, The Manager Talks AAM Legacy Award, Hoodoo Gurus and More

When Australia’s community of artist managers gathers Thursday (April 27) for the AAM Awards, a special toast will be raised for Michael McMartin, a champion of Australian artists and their managers, with countless runs notched on the board.

Without McMartin’s input, there would be no AAM Awards and perhaps no trade body behind the annual celebration.

During its lunchtime ceremony at Crowbar, on Gadigal land in Sydney, the veteran artist manager and label chief will be lauded with the association’s Legacy Award, becoming just the second industry professional to be presented with the trophy, following The Cat Empire manager Correne Wilkie.

It’s not his first big honor, and given his impression on the Australian music scene, its industry and the pathway abroad, most likely won’t be his last.

McMartin left his homeland Canada in 1971, for another, vast, mostly uninhabited country, Australia, starting a journey that helped launch a string of music careers, and, later, the Association of Artist Managers.

“I had married an Australian girl, so it was ‘let’s go to Australia for a year’. It was an adventure,” McMartin tells The Music Network.

“We had sort of nothing between us in the in the way of money. Unemployment was like a half a percent.” The youngster finished his degree in political science at Loyola College in Montreal, and made the long haul.

“That time sure flew.”

McMartin didn’t waste that time. With Charles Fisher, a studio professional, he set up Trafalgar Records, the iconic independent recording and publishing entity, signing and recording artists such as Radio Birdman, Robyn Archer, 1927 and Gyan.

His business partner would go on to produce records for the likes of 1927, Savage Garden and Air Supply — the kings of MOR, heavyweights on U.S. charts and radio.

McMartin put the word out, “I need to find a band that’s as far away from Air Supply as it can possibly be. Not that I didn’t like Air Supply, but it wasn’t my sort of music.”

He found what he was looking for with the Hoodoo Gurus, who were then managed by Stuart Coupe.

Three weeks later after catching a Gurus gig, “we signed them to a recording and a publishing contract. It was an extremely exciting time,” says McMartin, his north American accent still up front.

Hoodoo Gurus

Frontman Dave Faulkner, however, would have himself “a hard time in the studio, going ‘hold on this person’s doing weird things to our songs.’ A lot of artists do. And especially someone like Dave who has such an incredible idea of what he wants out of his out of his writing.”

Their debut Stoneage Romeos is a stone-cold classic, earning a spot in Rolling Stone Australia’s list of 200 greatest Australian albums.

In 1985, McMartin formed Melody Management signed the future ARIA Hall of Famers as his first clients. He manages the Gurus to this day, and guides the careers of several producers, including Fisher and Wayne Connolly.

The more artist management changes, he reflects, the more it stays the same.

“We have different means of exploiting, exposing and publicising our artists and our material.” But in some ways, “it’s easier. You can obviously reach a huge audience now, where you couldn’t quite so much before. With streaming, it was a huge learning curve. The biggest difference between management then and now is that, you would never have gone up and said to another manager, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing what you know. What’s this about?’ Nowadays, you’re on the phone going, ‘how do I affect the algorithms on Spotify?’ There’s 100 other people that you can call. And that’s the biggest difference.”

The AAM and other sister bodies around the world were established for just that reason – a formal support structure and a place for sharing knowledge.

McMartin was a founding member of the Music Managers’ Forum in Australia, formed and launched in 2007.

Today, the peak body represents more than 300 active managers, who in turn represent over 1,000 artists in contemporary music.

Also, he served as chairman and then executive director of the International Music Managers’ Forum (IMMF), the umbrella organisation for managers from at least two dozen countries which has NGO status at WIPO, the United Nations agency dealing with worldwide copyright issues.

Artist management is about “problem solving,” he explains. “I’m blessed with having a band who are so creative. So it’s not up to me to go, ‘okay, here’s the next big step’. You know, they do that. I set up a philosophy, I set them up a company, they get wages, I run their company and try to implement what they want to have done. And that’s probably the best way to explain it. And there just aren’t any fields or parameters that aren’t included. It’s all encompassing.”

Over time, he received Lifetime membership of the Music Managers Forum Australia and Patron of Association of Artist Managers (Aust); in 2007 he received the Ted Albert Award for his lifetime contribution to Australian Music; and in 2015 was awarded the Medal of the Order Of Australia (OAM) for “services to the performing arts, especially music.”

At McMartin’s suggestion, the Patrons Gift will be awarded for the first time at the 2023 AAM Awards — a monetary prize given to an emerging manager to assist them in building their career.

The gift is about paying it forward, and playing the long game that is artist management.

“That are so many really superb, younger managers. Some may not have the money to join the organisation, or to go up to pitch.” The bursary “will really help their career. I have yet to go to see managers for a meeting without coming away saying ‘holy smokes, I never would have thought of doing it that way.”


Powered by
Looking to hire? List your vacancy today!

Related articles