Michael Gudinski To Get State Funeral

– Michael Gudinski
Gudinski in his study during a livestream
The late Mushroom Group founder Michael Gudinski spent his 50+ year career talking up Melbourne as a music hub and as a great city to live in. Now it’s returning the favor.

Daniel Andrews, premier of the state of Victoria, announced March 3 that the music entrepreneur would be given a state funeral. 

“I don’t know many people who love Melbourne and Victoria more than Michael did, and we loved him too,” Andrews said. “Few people – if any – have shaped the Australian music industry more than Michael Gudinski. His was the beating heart of the Victorian scene, and his irrepressible spark entertained our state for 50 years. 

“Treasured friend, Victorian legend – and a legacy that will last forever.”

Aside from countless accolades from the music industry – in 2006 Gudinski was made a Member of the Order of Australia during the Queen’s Birthday Honors List.

The executive chairman of Mushroom Group “died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Melbourne” on March 1 at the age of 68.

The home, in the exclusive suburb of Toorak, was where he hosted legendary parties with international names that he toured or whom he signed as unknowns and built to global success.

Gudinski’s social circle also included the elite of politics, sports and business.

Andrews counted himself as a close friend and often tapped on Gudinski’s solution-finding skills when faced with political dilemmas.

– Gudinski and Andrews
Gudinski and Victorian premier Dan Andrews announce the State Of Music initiative

When the pandemic hit last March, Gudinski kept his 200-strong staff on salary and shifted to producing TV specials that put domestic acts on primetime and generated employment for venue staff and production crews.

He called on government funding for these. Within nine days of the live sector going dark, production began on the “Music From The Home Front” concert which aired on free-to-air Nine Network and proved a ratings bonanza.

“State of Music” in September was a livestreaming festival while “The Sound” series on the government-run ABC TV showcased stars and unknowns.

Veteran singer songwriter Paul Kelly recalled, “He lived for music and for all the people that worked in it. 

“I didn’t think he could ever get more motivated but this past year he took it to a new level in an effort to keep Australian music alive. He lived and breathed for us.”

This year, Gudinski and Andrews worked on a tourism initiative called Sounds Good Together to encourage Victorians to visit regional Victoria as COVID restrictions slowly lifted.

Between Jan. 23 to 30 there were eight days of concerts in mostly regional venues with major stars Jimmy Barnes, Tones And I, Missy Higgins, The Teskey Brothers, James Reyne, Daryl Braithwaite and Vika & Linda and emerging names as Gordi, Didirri and Mia Wray.

The final show, in fire-recovering Mallacoota, was broadcast on the Nine network. True to Gudinski’s sense of showmanship, he brought onto the stage one of his biggest discoveries, Kylie Minogue, who had slipped back into the country from her London home base without being noticed.

It is expected that Minogue and Barnes will be asked to perform at the state funeral.

Andrews outlined, “It will be a celebration of his life and the details will be finalised in the coming days.

– Matt Gudinski and Michael Gudinski

“It has to be COVID-Safe of course – but I think we can come together in an iconic venue and will be able to celebrate his life and the mark he made and the legacy he leaves.”

John Farnham’s manager Glenn Wheatley, also an early director of Frontier Touring, quipped, “It’d have to be all-Australian artists and he’d probably be saying, It’d better be as big as my productions.”

Michael Chugg, president of Chugg Entertainment who started in the business with Gudinski when both were teenagers, said, “Having an honour like that is unbelievable, if it wasn’t for COVID restrictions, you’d need to do the funeral at a place for 10,000 people. He was that well-known.”

Chugg was GM of Frontier Touring 1980-2000 and reunited with Gudinski in 2019 when they formed a touring joint venture.

In 2009 they also teamed up for a Sound Relief charity concert in Sydney and Melbourne raised over A$8 million (US$6.2 million) for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal and The Premier’s Disaster Relief Fund Appeal in Queensland.

Chugg spoke to Pollstar of Gudinski’s impact on the city. “Melbourne’s always been the music capital of Australia.  Bands today can make it from anywhere in the country but Melbourne’s always been the real seal of approval for music.”

A number of executives said the best way to honour Gudinski’s legacy was to ensure that the various projects he was working on but not announced – including a major one with the government to increase music tourism – would be finished.

Others suggested that one of Melbourne’s major stadiums be renamed in his honor.

Chugg has a simple way to remember his friend: “We all need to lift our game. If COVID hadn’t happened, Australia would have taken over the world in 2020. No doubt about it.

“It’s gonna happen because there’s so much amazing music coming out of here, and it makes me very, very sad that he won’t be around to see it because he was the one who started it all those years ago.”

Looking ahead, Michael’s son Matt Gudinski became executive director of the Mushroom Group in 2013, responsible for the 24 (at least) companies covering agencies, tour promoters, artist management, merchandising, publishing and record labels.

Joining the company in 2003 out of high school his tour company Illusive Presents brought out Eminem, Drake, Bruno Mars and A$AP Rocky.

He is expected to now run Frontier Touring alongside Dion Brant, the one-time Ticketek executive who became its chief operating officer in 2014.