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April 26, 2017
Commerce

5/4 Entertainment: Making Adelaide music work

What started as two guys booking bands out of a Hilton apartment is now the engine pushing Adelaide’s music industry uphill.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

Sometimes great things come from people not really knowing what they’re doing.

“We started in 2010… we were working out of Ross [Osmon]’s apartment in the Hilton,” 5/4 Entertainment co-founder, Craig Lock, says.

Remarks

CityMag is celebrating Adelaide’s status as a UNESCO City of Music with this series on the industry – from front bars to the local talent that’s gone abroad.

Produced in association with the City of Adelaide.

“I was working a marketing job and I hated it, so I… quit my job and then the first thing that we did was ‘We need to get some bands from Splendour! That’s how we’re going to make some money.’

“We didn’t know how anything worked, but we knew how to put on shows in Adelaide – we’d promoted some touring Australian bands – so we [thought] ‘We’ll just do the same thing we do with them, you just email the booking agent.’”

After liaising with booking agents in the UK, deals were made to bring the acts to Adelaide without realising they’d committed an industry faux pas.

“We got these emails ‘Hey, this is Paul Piticco, do you know who I am?’ We were like ‘No.’ He was like ‘I own Splendour in the Grass and I manage Powderfinger, I need to talk to you guys,’” Craig says.

Bands touring on the Splendour in the Grass roster are promoted exclusively by the festival, but Paul saw good intentions in Craig and Ross’ attempt at syphoning a couple of acts over to Adelaide and so realigned the deals they’d made to fit within the Splendour contract.

Craig Lock

The next year, Splendour decided it was worth bringing acts to Adelaide for sideshows again, but despite Craig and Ross offering to be involved, “they were like ‘We’re just going to do it ourselves,’ and they did a couple of shows themselves, and they just bombed. They went terribly,” Craig says.

“They were like ‘We don’t really get it. You guys do get it,’ so that sort of put us on the map, I guess.”

In the international live music promoting game, Australia is a weird country. We’re a disparate land mass “with all of these different markets that are very far apart, so it’s just totally different to everywhere else in the world,” Craig says. And within our weird country, Adelaide is yet another weird market, which gives 5/4 Entertainment its reason for being.

“When Australian people go overseas and [people ask] ‘What do you do?’ and you’re like ‘Oh, I run a festival, I manage a band, I book five venues, I do this and this,’ and they’re like ‘Why do you do all of those things? Why don’t you only do one of those things?’” Craig explains.

“In London, you can just book a venue and you’re sweet, and you find that because there’s so many people there and there’s more money coming into each avenue [but] Australian people generally are very multifaceted in the music industry, and then in Adelaide we’re probably even more so, because it’s even smaller again, so we literally have to do anything and everything we can to make a living and survive and keep growing.”

In the seven years that 5/4 has been operating they’ve moved beyond promoting and booking (Fat Controller, The Crown and Anchor, The Exeter, the Adelaide UniBar, and the Adelaide leg of Laneway Festival are all run by 5/4) to managing artists (Jesse Davidson is a former client, while Tkay Maidza is still on their roster), and they’ve made a point of trying to build up Adelaide’s industry in any way they can.

“We approached [Arts SA] and we said ‘Look, we’ve done the maths… and we figured out that we’re spending almost as much as you are as Arts SA… So you’re spending all of this cash, giving it to bands to record an EP or go on tour or whatever – which is super important – but Adelaide has no industry,” says Craig.

“There’s no one here that knows what’s going on, no one can help anyone get any further, so I think you need to actually think about helping that’.

“[So] we started this intern thing with Arts SA… which is a huge thing for us [because] there’s lots of people doing courses in music, but what happens to them after that? Well, nothing because they’ve got nowhere to go.

“Their course doesn’t mean anything to someone that might hire them in Sydney or Melbourne or wherever, so they need a bridge – they could come work for us, we could pay them something, that person would learn, and if there was jobs going elsewhere, we could give them a reference and it might help them, and it would just generally help us.”

The flow on effect, as Craig sees it, is a stronger and continually growing Adelaide industry.

“People are out there doing things who were our interns, whether it be they’ve moved on and done something else nationally or internationally,” Craig says.

“The guys that are running Yewth mag, half of them have done internships, and that was very basic when it first started, but now a couple of our interns have joined up with them and they’ve gone off and they’re trying to do their own thing… another girl has started managing an Adelaide act and she ended up getting offered a job tour managing this FKJ artist in the US.

“Even the ones that haven’t necessarily scored an all-time job or whatever, they’re still out there trying to make things happen. I think the knowledge is getting spread more now, so whether they’re at a gig talking to a band, they actually know things that are of value.

“There’s not a defined process to getting success with an artist, but I think there’s steps you can take to make it more likely that you will be successful and at least look like you’re professional. That knowledge wasn’t around as much back in the day, whereas now it’s more available to people, because there’s more people that know things. Not necessarily only through working here, but the government’s done some good stuff as well, like extra programs that are not just ‘Here’s $10,000 to record your next song.’

“If that continues, I think there’ll be more jobs for people and there’ll be more industry and other people doing what we’re doing.”

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