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News April 2, 2024

Michael McMartin Remembered: ‘An Unbelievably Kind Mentor to Hundreds of People’

Senior Journalist, B2B
Michael McMartin Remembered: ‘An Unbelievably Kind Mentor to Hundreds of People’

Michael McMartin, the veteran artist manager and music man who died on the weekend following a lengthy battle with cancer, is being remembered as a remarkable person, a generous mentor and for his “selfless spirit.”

The Canada-born artist manager and entrepreneur moved to Australia in 1971 and within a few years joined forces with producer Charles Fisher and launched Trafalgar Records, the iconic independent recording and publishing business which signed and recorded artists as diverse as Radio Birdman, Robyn Archer, 1927 and Gyan.

His relationship with the Hoodoo Gurus is the stuff of legend. McMartin signed the band’s first record deal in 1982 and took on their management in 1985, signing them to Melody Management; the Gurus were his first client. It was a bond that continued until earlier this year when he handed the reins to Mick Mazzone of Mighty Management, citing poor health.

That four-decade alliance spanned countless gigs in Australia and around the world, multiple platinum albums and awards, and the Hoodoo Gurus were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2007.

The awards flowed for McMartin, too. He was the recipient of APRA’s Ted Albert Award (2007) and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for “services to the performing arts, especially music” in 2015 and he’s the reigning Legacy Award winner at the AAM Awards.

“When someone passes it’s easy to list what they did but it’s much harder to explain how they did it. In an era where far too many men acted badly, Michael proved that nice guys don’t have to finish last,” comments John Watson, another great of artist management who counts the late McMartin as a mentor and friend.

“He was an unbelievably kind mentor to hundreds of people, including me, and his political advocacy for the industry as a whole – and managers in particular – was an inspiration across decades. Without him there would not be an AAM and Support Act would be nowhere near the force that it has become.”

It was Watson who presented McMartin with the Legacy Award last year. Later that evening, during the 2023 APRA Music Awards, Colin Hay gave a shout-out to McMartin as he accepted his very own Ted Albert Award.

“Michael gave me some great advice in 1991 when I called him up, complaining about something. He said, ‘you’re wallowing in self-pity.’ He said, ‘if you try a little harder you can become your better person.’ And he was right,” Hay remarked. “So I thank you for that.”

McMartin lost his battle with cancer on Sunday (March 31), but left his mark with countless industry professionals who learned the ropes from the entrepreneur.

“Michael left an indelible mark on the Australian music industry, and his loss is acutely felt within our management community which he supported and uplifted so generously,” reads a statement from the AAM, which he helped establish in 2007.

In recent years, the organisation points out, McMartin formalised his vision to lift-up developing managers by spearheading the Patron’s Gift, a fund that would enable opportunities to bring in diverse communities, POC and First Nations emerging managers.

“This was a testament to Michael’s character. He was a man who achieved so much in his career and paved the way for managers in Australia, NZ and all over the world, through his truly selfless spirit.”

Author, broadcaster and former artist manager Stuart Coupe described McMartin as “one of life’s truly wonderful human beings.” When the pair met, it was Coupe who was managing the Gurus. McMartin took over and “did a magnificent job of guiding and looking after them for four decades,” he remarks. “Michael was one of the good guys. The REALLY good guys.”

McMartin was a founding member of the Music Managers’ Forum in Australia and was made an honorary lifetime member of the MMF (Australia) in 2002 for his contribution to management.

He was a co-founder of the International Music Managers’ Forum (IMMF), the umbrella organisation for managers from some 26 countries which has NGO status at WIPO, the United Nations agency dealing with worldwide copyright issues and served as its chairman and then executive director for 10 years.

“Relationships like that are very rare and we are extremely grateful for everything we shared and built together,” reads a statement posted on the Hoodoo Gurus’ socials. “More like a close family member than a friend or business associate, the history we share and the connection we have will be everpresent in our lives.”

Watson has the last word on his late friend. “Dedicated husband to Saskia and father to Hamish. Keen trout fisherman, skilled woodworker, Blue Jays tragic, music lover, and dear, dear friend to many of us. Michael left a lifetime of quiet footprints we should all aspire to follow.”

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