Getting Over Down Under: Michael Gudinski Finds New Ways To Reach Aussie Music Fans

Michael Gudinski
– Michael Gudinski
Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group, including flagship Frontier Touring, was a “360º company” 30 years before it was a biz buzz word. And today, despite vast uncharted territory for the live industry and so many others, the Australian promoter at age 67 is blazing new and exciting trails for his company and Oceana’s music fans. 
Starting in Melbourne as a label and publisher in the early ‘60s, Mushroom Group expanded to tour companies, booking agencies, festivals, winery shows, half a dozen record imprints, and divisions focused on TV and film productions, marketing, merchandise and event management.
In Pollstar’s Q1 2020 report, Frontier Touring ranked at No. 5 globally, after shifting 907,012 tickets and grossing US$94.3 million. Mushroom Group was further represented with Michael Chugg’s Chugg Entertainment, with which it joined forces in 2019, at No. 7 after a turnover of $55.7 million from sales of 454,034 tickets, and group executive director Matt Gudinski’s Illusive Presents at No. 43 after a $6.1 million turnover and 87,359 seats.
When COVID-19 turned off the Australian live music scene, Gudinski quickly shifted his 200-strong team to other projects.
These included planning for the group’s 50th anniversary gala celebrations in 2023 as well as six TV productions.“They could be on Netflix or free to air, there are one or two that involve music, some comedy, drama,” Gudinski told Pollstar. “We got some great people; they’re leaders, not followers.”
However, Mushroom Group’s two biggest achievements during the pandemic shutdown came out of left field. Both aimed at putting Australian music squarely in front of housebound audiences – and both were pulled together in a week.
“Music From The Home Front” staged April 25 to coincide with the veterans remembrance ANZAC Day public holiday commemorating Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations,” and to serve as a thank you to COVID-19 frontline workers.
Broadcast over three hours on the live-to-air Nine Network in Australia and Three in New Zealand (and their streaming operations), the 50 acts mixed the long-established (Jimmy Barnes, Crowded House, Paul Kelly, James Reyne, Archie Roach, Colin Hay, Delta Goodrem, Diesel, Kate Ceberano), more recent breakthroughs (Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Vance Joy, Tones & I, Missy Higgins, Sheppard, Dean Lewis, Marlon Williams and Courtney Barnett) and the next generation (G Flip, Ruel, Vera Blue, The Rubens, Kings and Jack River).
It was a massive ratings success: in Australia, it peaked at 1.419 million and topped most demos. It also exceeded the local numbers for “One World: Together At Home.” “Home Front” became a sentimental celebration of the way contemporary music from both countries soundtracked fans’ lives.
“It was very moving and uplifting at a time it was needed,” Gudinski agreed. “More importantly, it showed there was a definite prime time TV demand for Australian music.”
Michael Gudinski
– Michael Gudinski
with Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews, practicing social-political distancing.

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) noted that seven albums by artists involved jumped up or re-entered its official chart as a result. Rock band Birds of Tokyo, who’d appeared with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, debuted at the top spot with their Human Design album.
On the Monday after the “Home Front” screening, Gudinski got a call from Victoria’s state premier Daniel Andrews. The two had been discussing for eight weeks the idea of Mushroom curating and producing a weekly Sunday night primetime livestreamed show called “State Of Music” with performances, interviews and interactive chats.
Andrews was excited by what he saw on “Home Front” and decided “State Of Music” should debut that week, and Mushroom Group  scrambled to get the first episode together in six days. The music show was part of the government’s new Victoria Together website, which put aside $2.3 million (US$1.48 million) for original content from music, entertainment, sports and exercise, children, well-being, film and cinema, arts exhibition and design, comedy, games and theatre.
It streams on the Victoria Together YouTube, Facebook and website:
“Victorians have done the right thing by staying at home, and we’re thanking them by bringing them the best of Victoria’s creative talents to their living rooms,” Andrews said in a statement. 
“We’re proudly the cultural capital of Australia and we’ll do everything we can to support our creative industries through this pandemic, so they’re in the best position to support the many thousands of jobs that rely on this sector.”
 “The ‘State Of Music’ title is a double entendre, Gudinski added, “it signifies Victoria as the capital of Australian live music, and the dismal situation the music industry is facing.” The inaugural episode featured Gudinski along with Birds of Tokyo, Reyne, Diesel and G Flip, their latest releases and favorite music venues. All performers were paid.

Violent Soho
Sean Pyke
– Violent Soho
Violent Soho, the No. 1 band in Australia right now, is part of Gudinski’s Mushroom Group label.
Gudinski predicted, “I can see it providing global trajectory to artists.
“It’s initially for six weeks but it’s a totally different kind of music show, so I believe it will continue on after, because there’s obviously a need for a show like this and in prime time.”
Ironically, the day after its debut, Foxtel announced from June 30 it was losing its home-grown music channels MAX, CMC and [V] after 25 years in favor of a new partnership with ViacomCBS. In the wake of the pandemic, however, these shows had actually increased Australian content.
Meanwhile, the Mushroom Group continues its label success despite the shutdown. In mid-April, Queensland rock band Violent Soho debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA chart with its fifth studio album, Everything Is A-OK. It was Mushroom Group’s 33rd album chart-topper since 1975, including those by Jimmy Barnes, Kylie Minogue, Vance Joy, The Temper Trap, Kasey Chambers, Cold Chisel, Bliss n Eso, Split Enz, and Skyhooks. Gudinski managed some of these acts but no longer takes on these duties. 
He says, “If young managers want some advice, I’ll be there for them.” He adds, “I’m going into sports: not promoting sports, but a couple of people who work for me come from a sports background, and maybe we’ll end up managing a few sports people.”
Looking forward, Mushroom Group’s international plans include setting up bases in Los Angeles, New York and London “and signing more acts for the world and delivering them to the world.” 
While in Australia, the strategy is to challenge the multi-level cashed-up expansion of Live Nation and TEG.
“I’m not ready to put my feet up, I’ve still got an eye on the brand’s legacy,” Gudinski emphasised. 
The inaugural “State Of Music”
– The inaugural “State Of Music”
livestream series episode featured Gudinski, Birds of Tokyo, Reyne, Diesel and G Flip, with all performers paid.