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News October 27, 2015

Q&A: AIR’s new CEO Dan Nevin

Former Editor

Almost five months after Nick O’Byrne announced he would step down as General Manager of the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR), the trade body announced Dan Nevin as its CEO. Nevin is the first to hold the position since Stuart Watters exited in 2009, suggesting a new direction for AIR. Nevin, who commences in the role next month, chats to TMN about AIR’s restructure, the current role of independent labels and whether he’d consider adding a Best Video category to the Independent Music Awards.

AIR hasn’t had a CEO since Stuart Watters, who left in 2009, why has AIR made the choice to revive the role?
When Nick O’Byrne left AIR, the board used the opportunity to conduct a member survey and also undergo a full strategic review as part of the normal review process. The outcome of those discussions ultimately led to restructuring to allow for growth of the organisation and they chose to re-instate the CEO title, extend the current CFO’s role to include Commercial Management, undertaken by Maria Amato, and implement a new consultant role for Industry Advocacy and Government Relations, for which Stu Watters was recruited, given his experience in the area and with the organisation. And of course both Jo Cameron (Membership and Charts) and Ellen Kirk (Administration) are still handling the ever important day to day duties. The CEO role was deemed to oversee all of this and work closely with the board and management to implement the new strategic plan.

Because of this, will your role differ from O’Byrne’s, if at all?
In some ways it will differ due to the strategic direction of the organisation but there will of course still be some aspects of the job that will remain unchanged.

What’s your view of the current local independent music sector?
From purely a musical perspective, it’s a hugely exciting time for independent music in Australia. You just need to look at the big winners at the Carlton Dry Independent Music Awards last week – Remi, Courtney Barnett, Violent Soho, Sheppard, to name a few. Such a varied bunch of artists that are all deservedly gaining worldwide attention. There are also fantastic labels that are leading the way in building communities, listening to fans and giving them what they want. In many ways, it’s the brave decisions being made at the local independent level that are helping pave the way for the future of music in Australia.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in taking on the role and what plans do you have to navigate it?
I think the biggest challenge for all of us in the music industry is to ensure that all music retains its rightful value. It’s going to require an ongoing collective effort by the entire industry, and a determination to work through the challenges that come from an evolving industry.

With so much experience in music retail, what’s your view on how social experiential services like Spotify and Rdio are affecting the music industry?
I understand how the ever accelerating rate of technology can leave us less time to adapt than ever before and can leave some questioning progress. But ultimately the onus is on how we harness new technologies and use them to create new opportunities and experiences and services like JB HI-FI NOW, Spotify and Rdio are great examples of this. They give music fans another option for consuming music but they can also help create a pathway to a purchase.

Do you see the role of independent labels changing nation-wide, in terms of how they seek revenue? Unified is a good example with its Unify Gathering and merchandise store 24 Hundred…
Alongside labels, there is also definitely a growing trend towards independent music companies. We’ve seen the development of a number of independent music companies in recent years that have shown what can be achieved with a strong vision and a focus on building a loyal community. That said, there will also always be a place for stand-alone labels to continue to discover and develop artists.

Lastly, would you consider adding a Best Video category to the Independent Music Awards?
Even though it’s early days, we’re open to new categories and reviewing old categories. There are already plenty of people lining up to share their views on the awards and the organisation and I’m sure there’ll be more once I’ve formally started. Having an abundance of feedback is not a bad problem to have.


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