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Titans unite to create Oz country music agency

Artist manager Dan Biddle has inked a partnership deal with Chugg Music and Select Music to launch Wheelhouse Agency – a new specialist booking enterprise focused on Australasia’s growing market for Americana and country music.

The new company will see Dan Biddle Management combine its expertise with the extensive live touring and country music market knowledge sets of Chugg’s Andrew Stone and Michael Chugg, and that of Select’s Stephen Wade and Rob Giovannoni to provide a premium agency service for artists in the country and Americana genres.

Giovannoni and Biddle will take on the roles of agency co-heads continuing in their existing roles – Giovannoni as senior agent at Select, and Biddle as special projects manager for Chugg Music and Dan Biddle Management. Katie Krollig, who has been part of the Select Music setup for over six years, joins the Wheelhouse team as lead agent while continuing to service her roster of Select clients.

“It was clear that the market needed a new agency to service the many great new artists coming through, along with the established artists who are kicking major goals”

“The growth of country music in Australia over the last few years has been well documented and it was clear that the market needed a new agency to service the many great new artists coming through, along with the established artists who are kicking major goals,” says Chugg. “With our many decades of experience across all facets of live touring, combined with our knowledge of the country music industry, there is no better team in Australia to help artists develop their live careers and grow their audiences.”

The agency is launching with an impressive roster of award winning and best-selling artists combined with some of the most exciting emerging acts in the genre. The Wheelhouse roster includes Amy Sheppard, Andrew Farriss, Bud Rokesky, Casey Barnes, Henry Wagons, James Blundell, Kingswood, Lane Pittman, Leroy Macqueen, Loren Ryan, McAlister Kemp, Sara Berki, Sara Storer, Shannon Noll, Sweet Talk, Taylor Moss, The Paper Kites, Travis Collins, and Wagons.

Artist Henry Wagons comments: “I’m excited to be in the sublime twangy company Wheelhouse have corralled. What a great broad ranging stable for live country music of all shapes and sizes.”


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Up and Down Under: Australia/NZ market report

IQ’s Brisbane-based correspondent, Lars Brandle, speaks with the leading players to get a feel for the billion-dollar-plus Australasian industry that never fails to impress

First, the bad news. Although there are no disasters to speak of. Business is solid, live professionals say, though dotted with hurdles and frustrations. The touring cycle has been in a trough in recent years, according to data published by Live Performance Australia (LPA), which reports that attendance is up, ticket prices are down and the business has cooled from its lava-hot peak years.

The numbers tell just part of the evolving picture. Running shows in Australia and New Zealand has always had its myriad challenges, along with some new ones. But, depending on who you speak with, it also involves some serious rewards.

Data published by LPA in October 2017 suggests the business for contemporary music concerts, which include rock, pop and hip-hop shows, has been well down from the banner years earlier in the decade. Contemporary music remains, by far, the biggest category, and is “always the engine room of the live performance industry,” says LPA’s director of policy and governance, Kim Tran, accounting for more than 30% of all revenue. During 2016, the segment experienced a 7.9% dip to AU$440 million (€284m), as attendance grew slightly by 1.9% to 5.7m. Those numbers don’t include box office data from 2017 stadium tours by Justin Bieber or Adele.

With a slew of huge tours booked for 2018, and a “golden generation” of Aussie and Kiwi acts crossing borders, many live industry professionals polled by IQ are confident that the industry is in good shape. Business right now is “the strongest I have ever seen for the local artists we represent,” says Stephen Wade, CEO of the Sydney-based Select Music agency, which has Aussie artists the Amity Affliction, the Temper Trap and Boy & Bear, and Kiwi singers Gin Wigmore, Tim Finn and Ladyhawke, on its books.

“All of the major promoters were, and are, epic businesses… It’s led us to skip a generation of concert promoters”

“Many of them have forged paths overseas, so this takes pressure off potentially overplaying the Australian market and diminishing their crowds,” explains Wade, who won Booking Agent of the Year at the inaugural Industry Observer Awards on 27 March this year.

Australia has scored a flurry of goals in the past five years, led by the likes of Sia, Vance Joy, Tame Impala, Flume, Alison Wonderland, 5 Seconds of Summer, Courtney Barnett and more, owhile the DMA’s, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Tash Sultana and others are coming through. New Zealand’s music scene is also on the up, with its best-known export Lorde snagging a no1 on the Billboard 200 in 2017 with her second album, Melodrama.

The concert landscape of the Great Southern Land is still dominated by “the big four”: Michael Chugg (founder of Chugg Entertainment), Michael Coppel (who was promoted from CEO to chairman of Live Nation Australasia in 2017), Michael Gudinski (chairman of Mushroom Group and head of Frontier Touring) and Paul Dainty (president and CEO of TEG Dainty). That elite circle is proving tough to crack, though the young guard is making its move in a different way.

“The Australian festival culture was born out of people trying to find their way into the business without necessarily having to compete with those big businesses,” notes Live Nation’s Roger Field, who stepped up from COO to CEO in 2017. “All of the major promoters were, and are, epic businesses when you look at the turnover. It’s led us to skip a generation of concert promoters, per se, but we’ve got that mid-tier generation in festival producers.”


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 77, or subscribe to the magazine here