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News October 27, 2015

Q&A: Artist manager Rae Harvey on The Living End, Spotify and U2

Former Editor

From cutting her teeth promoting shows for the likes of Fugazi, Hole and The Offspring to launching her own record label, to managing arguably one of Australia’s best live acts, Rae Harvey’s career is so closely woven within the local music industry that it’s only apposite she should be called upon to guide Face The Music’s inaugural in-depth conversation with an artist – the group she took from support act to mainstage hero.

TMN chats to Harvey about the Spotify debate, U2’s deal with Apple, and how the industry wasn’t too supportive of The Living End during their formative years.

Your working relationship with The Living End was, in a way, serendipitous. What was your first impression of them in 1994?
My first impression was ‘who the hell are these wankers and how did they get the Green Day support’, my second impression at Falls Festival 1996 was “I HAVE to work with these guys – great songs and they’re putting on a stellar performance for a couple of hundred people, playing like they’re in front of several hundred thousand”.

What can you remember of your negotiations with the band pre-signing? Were they very clear on what they wanted?
From memory, they wanted to tour overseas and they wanted to headline Festival Hall one day. I can’t remember much else… it was a long time ago!

How supportive was the music industry during The Living End’s formative years?
I don’t think they were, other than Wally Meanie and a few other inner Melbourne identities. Community radio definitely supported them on the first couple of EPs, as did Melbourne based labels like Shock and MDS. triple j picked up a track on their 2nd EP called From Here on In.

The third EP featured Prisoner of Society and was written in a hurry to have new product out for an upcoming tour they had supporting Bodyjar. Fans really drove that track requesting it on triple j initially. Commercial radio played it more because it was charting than because they supported the band back then. It wasn’t considered a radio friendly song at the time.

The Living End have won nine Jack Awards for their live show and they’ve sat comfortably on Big Day Out and Soundwave festivals. Because of the live appeal, do you think their two parallel careers – one live and one on record – are equal?
Their live career usurps their recording career, but partially that’s because songs from every album have been well supported at radio. Even if you’re not a fan of the band, chances are you’ll be able to sing along with a bunch of their songs live.

Which of their shows stand out to you the most?
Pushover in Melbourne, November 1997. Prisoner of Society had been at radio for about six weeks and was just beginning to break. I remember standing next to John O’Donnell while they played and watching the crowd and you just knew things were about to change for the band in a big way.

Splendour in the Grass a couple of years back. Just a stellar show. It sounded amazing out front and the crowd were incredible.

White Noise was a catapulting moment for The Living End, did it feel that way at the time?
I have to admit that it did. It was one of about 10 songs written at the 11th hour before the band were to head into the studio to record, and was the only song pulled out of the live rehearsal recording to take further. It was the first track mixed by Brendan O’Brien, and as soon as we heard the finished product, the entire plan changed and it was brought forward as the first official single (having not been considered prior).

Guy Oseary is one manager interested in monetising his acts and presenting them as brands. As an artist manager yourself, what’s your view on U2’s deal with Apple to release their latest LP?
I’m all for it. If people don’t value paying for music, and artists can get their music out there in unique ways, why wouldn’t you? My only criticism is that it should have been more optional for iTunes users. As I understand it, everyone ended up with it whether they wanted it or not.

With legitimate digital streaming on the rise, where do you sit on the Artists Vs. Spotify debate?
I don’t mind streaming like Rdio, but I don’t like Spotify. I have an issue with major labels having shares in it. Where’s their incentive to push for a higher royalty for their artists, who were used as collateral to get their shares in the first place?

Rae Harvey is joining The Living End onstage at next week’s Face The Music conference for ‘APRA AMCOS Focus On The Living End’, an in-depth conversation with all three members of the band on Friday November 14.

Details of the session can be found at www.facethemusic.com.au.

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