Sarah Donelly talks Mushroom Management: ‘We’re looking at the entertainment industry as a whole’
With the creation of a talent management division, Mushroom Group returns to its roots.
Late February 2022, the indie music juggernaut formally launched Mushroom Management, a specialist management arm with an initial roster of nearly 50 artists, producers, musicians, songwriters and content creators.
Artist management is in the bones of Mushroom.
Its founder, the late Michael Gudinski had guided the careers of ARIA Hall of Fame-inducted acts Skyhooks, Jimmy Barnes and others, and cut his teeth in the cut-and-thrust of artist management.
Spearheaded by Group CEO Matt Gudinski and company veteran Sarah Donelly, who serves as the new division’s Director, Mushroom Management incorporates the business’s existing management agencies Converge Management, Foreign Echo and Andy Kelly’s roster of artists.
Its stable includes Tkay Maidza, Bliss n Eso, Rolling Blackouts C.F., merci, mercy and The Living End, plus top-notch producers Konstantin Kersting and Scott Horscroft.
Mushroom Management has “been in the works for some time now,” Donelly tells TMN.
“We were talking about it early last year, and redefining what management is for Mushroom. We have been doing it for some time but we’re looking into the future, and converging.”
The new arm, one of 20-something companies that form Mushroom Group, is already fully formed, with a team of managers including Barna Nemeth, Cara McDonald, Kirsty Kassabis, Marc Scarborough, Missy Scheinberg, Summer King and Donelly.
Joining them are Johann Ponniah and Scott Armstrong of Converge Management alongside Callum Wallace, Cameron McKinnon, Sasha Chifura and Shelley Liu of Foreign Echo, and Andy Kelly.
Have a prior connection with any of those businesses, however, isn’t a prerequisite.
Nor is being a musician.
“We are very artist-first focused and want to make sure that whoever we’re working with, we’re making the right decisions for the artist,” says Donelly, “whether its label, publishing, booking agent, promoter. We’re definitely not just locking anyone in for Mushroom businesses across the board. If we find someone we love and we want to manage them, that’s the formula for what we want to do. That’s who we are.”
Among the launch roster is a collection of content creators, including experts playing in the social media world.
“We’re looking at the entertainment industry as a whole,” explains Donelly.
“We want to bring down some of those barriers, and be able to move forward and look after anyone we see as being an extraordinary talent.”
One suspects the late Gudinski would approve.
MG, who last March at the age of 68, had a mantra of getting involved only in businesses he knew inside out or had the horses with the know-how (a dalliance with the British Basketball League was one mistake).
Opportunities weren’t restricted to music.
Mushroom Group’s Frontier Touring produced the Titanic “Artefact Exhibition” at Melbourne Museum back in 2010, a show that proved so successful, it enjoyed an extended run.
The sprawling indie has also worked across a raft of film and TV projects which fell well outside of music, including the award-winning 2000 drama Chopper.
Management is a cornerstone of the empire Gudinski built.
Back in the ‘60s, a teenage, still-shy MG was promoting dance parties throughout Melbourne, booking alternative acts such as Chain and the Aztecs, and managing several acts.
Gudinski caught the attention of AMBO founder Bill Joseph, one of the biggest promoters, agents, and artist managers in Australia at the time. Joseph made the youngster an offer he couldn’t refuse, one that enabled him stay to connected with all areas of the live business.
“I said I didn’t want to give up my bands,” Gudinski told this reporter in an interview in late 2009. “I was still under 20. They basically made a change to the rules so as an agent I could be a manager of a couple of acts.”
Gudinski would drop out of school, learn the ropes and change the independent music community.
Fast forward to 2022, with Matt Gudinski at the helm, Mushroom makes its entry into management a formal one.
Its ambition, says Donelly, is to the change the game once again for its clients — the artists — through shared knowledge and good, old-fashioned drive.
“Michael was such an amazing leader and such a real motivator,” she recounts. “It’s a special moment for me to be a part of this new chapter at Mushroom and working alongside Matt. I feel very, very lucky to be in the position that I am to take this to the next level.
“We have a little Michael Gudinski feather in our hat. We can really go forward and do anything if we see it as appropriate. I think he’d be really pleased.”