TMN Tinnies Spotlight: Mardi Caught on building The Annex
Last month The Music Network announced the winners of its annual business awards, TMN Tinnies. This week TMN’s contributing editor, Christie Eliezer, shines a spotlight on five of the winners. Up first is Music Marketing Business Of The Year, won by Mardi Caught’s The Annex. The 2021 TMN Tinnies were supported by Humm Events, iHeartRadio Australia, Ingrooves, TikTok and Vevo.
Mardi Caught’s background in major label marketing in Australia and the UK instilled a point of difference when she set up her music marketing business The Annex in 2018 in Sydney.
Her leadership stints at EMI Music, MTV, Sony Music and seven years at Warner Music, have allowed Caught to see first-hand the sea change in music marketing.
“Labels were moving towards a venture capitalist business model, looking at acts which were already gaining momentum and funding them,” Caught recalls.
“The biggest difference was we saw an opportunity to look at developing artists, doing a bit of work before that to get momentum. That’s the space we started to play in.”
Early clients such as Illy, Chugg Music, City Pop Records, Ourness (Genesis Owusu), Passenger, UNIFIED (Didirri and Kota Banks) and TMRW (PNAU) all took a chance on the new company.
The Annex coordinated #1 album rollouts for Sheppard, Violent Soho, Illy and Lime Cordiale, as well as localised plans for Hiatus Kaiyote, Adam Lambert, Porter Robinson and Tai Verdes.
Other artists, managers, agents, publicists and labels – including label Central Station Records, Sweat It Out and RVR – followed as word spread.
Breaking domestic acts was difficult, and they needed campaigns to tailor and deliver marketing strategies through community management, content creation and planning, scheduling and production, DSP strategy, media buying and management support.
Five years later, music marketing has shifted goalposts.
“You have to be way more flexible in your thinking,” notes Caught, who got a BA in Journalism from the University of South Australia and started by proofreading Rip It Up magazine before a record company poached her.
“One thing that holds true is to read audiences and see how they’re shifting their behaviour, like NFTs for instance and lean towards that.”
Caught nominates The Annex’s three stand-out campaigns of 2021 – Genesis Owusu’s debut Smiling With No Teeth, The Screaming Jets’ 30th-anniversary edition of All For One and Client Liaison’s Divine Intervention.
The firm had begun with Owusu to set up his first EP.
“Getting in at the start helped us understand Kofi’s ambitions and also his business associate and producer Andrew Klippel and his company Ourness.”
By the time of Smiling With No Teeth, the Canberra rapper/poet had impressed with his live shows and was supported by triple j and community radio.
Of his next step Caught outlines: “He’s an amazing artist and he made a great album. All we did was to amplify that to different audiences.”
The album campaign, coming in the middle of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, meant that live shows were replaced with a greater focus on streaming and triple j support.
The diversity of the tracks meant being in a multitude of global playlists – leading to US streams being equal to, or more, than Australia’s.
Smiling With No Teeth won four ARIAs (album, hip hop, independent and producer) and the J Awards’ Australian album of the year.
To mark the 30th-anniversary of their debut album All For One, which hit #2 and went gold, the current Jets lineup re-recorded it in its entirety, overseen by original producer Steve James.
Issued in October, it entered the ARIA Albums Chart at an impressive #4.
An accompanying tour kept rescheduling; with no Jets’ fierce live performances to rely on, The Annex pivoted to streaming and social media.
“They were a band who would do whatever was needed to be done in terms of content.”
There were ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, competitions around Father’s Day and the NRL grand final and a Zoom Q&A.
Particularly successful was a drive for fans to send in photos of themselves with the band.
“They’re really engaged, people who love the Jets really love them. We had so many responses in the first 24 hours, it was awesome.”
The Jets ended with a younger demo discovering their back catalogue for the first time.
Pictured: Client Liaison’/ Source: Facebook
Melbourne duo Client Liaison’s Divine Intervention had a three year gestation period, with its lead-off single dropping two years ago.
The planned roll-out got derailed by COVID, and with it the strongest marketing angle.
Caught explains: “They were always an amazing live experience, with an amazing live following.
“Without touring a key element of their personality wasn’t available.”
Working with label Warner and managers UNIFIED, The Annex engaged social platforms.
The duo got a $35,000 grant from the Victorian government for a livestream, but TikTok was the medium that captured their personality.
“Where we started at the first lockdown and where we ended up at the backend of the last lockdown were two different places.”
Released in October, Divine Intervention was Client Liaison’s first Top 10, entering at #7.
An album that set a firecracker right throughout with energy and imaginative arrangements, the band is taking the album on the road.
In 2021, The Annex was one of few Aussie companies to expand during the pandemic.
More artists were recording music but needed more promo options as touring was a non-start.
With no festivals for international labels as a quick way to break their emerging acts in the Australian market, the likes of Good Soldier and Mom + Pop took on The Annex as a key partner with which to access the market in a new model to gain support without assigning rights.
It also set up a Melbourne office in September.
TMN 30 Under 30 alumni from 2021, Elinor Williams, joined as client strategy director from TMRW Music as a senior marketing strategist, with Hannah Heyen (Netflix, Spotify) as label strategy manager, singer-songwriter Casey Logemann as client services lead and Isabelle Galet-Lalande (Spotify, Warner Music) in specialised project management.
Further expansion is not a priority for Caught.
“The Annex has its ambitions, but we don’t want to be so large we can’t service our clients.
“They come to us because they want to be seen as a priority, and all our clients are a priority so we just focus on developing and breaking acts.”