Musicadium Q&A: Graham Ashton

July 22, 2009

The Musicadium kids were lucky enough to get an exclusive question and answer session with Graham Ashton this evening. For the non-musically orientated, Ashton is head of Marketing at Dew Process Records, an Aussie independant record label based in Bris, who are responsible for the likes of Powderfinger, The Living End, The Grates, Sarah Blasko, Yves Klein Blue and a whole range more. Impressive, I know. I pretty much want to be him right now.

In all seriousness though, it was such an insightful couple of hours. Musicadium are great in their casual approach to the way they do things, and this was no different. Pizza, beer and sitting around the office spearheaded a really intriguing evening from a guy who had more musical experience then everyone else in the room combined, and them some. Ashton has worked in a whole manner of jobs and companies in the 20+ years or so he’s been in the industry. And oh, did he have the stories to boot (the one about Lear jets and Robbie Williams particularly sticks in mind). But he also had some great answers to the questions we’d prepared.

For me, my questions surrounded trying to work out where I want to go in the music industry. I’ve never been particularly skilled in the performing side of things, so I’ve always looked at the ‘business’ aspects (well, for the entire 3 months since I decided this is the career I want). So if nothing else, Ashton was a great insight into how record companies run. He’s worked with both Big Music and independent labels, and it was really interesting to see the differences between to do. In response to my question if DP have trouble competing with the bigger companies, he (diplomatically, perhaps) responded by saying the two are very different beasts, and by focusing on a niche audience DP have managed to eliminate most of that competition. Except with Modular Records, their biggest competitor. But hey, a little competition is healthy, right?

He also had some great views on music piracy, which seems to be flavour of the month for me. Dew Process are doing a lot of things to combat the perceived loss of value that the Internet-savvy have towards music, including package deals with live music (which I think is a wonderful idea), as well as emphasis on the entire experience of buying a CD- Sarah Blasko’s new album As Day Follows Night, is especially well marketed in these fields.

Ever since I began the Media and Communication degree, the census amongst everyone at uni seems to be along the lines of ‘I’m-gonna-move-to-Melbourne/Sydney-once-I-graduate-because-it’s-the-only-place-I’ll-get-a-job’. As I’ve kind of always agreed with this, it was one of my burning questions for Graham, who has worked all over the country. It was interesting to hear his response that while there may be more actual jobs in the southern capitals per se, the atmosphere is very different. According to him while they both have scenes, Brisbane has a music community. I really took to this idea, because it’s one I’ve felt a lot since I moved down at the beginning of 2008, and not just in the music industry. I really like Brisbane’s small-town while still being a city feel, and it’s kind of encouraging me to stay.

I know I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I was by far the youngest in that room, and probably the least musically-orientated. I’ve noticed it quite a bit since i’ve been interning there, but I’m seeing it as a good thing. What better way than an internship at a great digital distribution company to dive head first into this amazing underground music culture that Brisbane proudly sports? Sure, I don’t as many live bands as I probably should, but if anything tonight has motivated me to really step into this scene (as much as I hate that word). He also said to try and write as much as you can. So, dedicated audience of 3, expect plenty of more blogs in the future! As cliche and cheesy as it sounds, the biggest thing I’m going to take from Ashton was his big advice of the night: Don’t wait for an oppotunity to come to you….come to it, and that’s when you’ll find success.

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