Meet Ben Preece, founder, owner and director of music management and publicity company Mucho Bravado. Founded in 2007, Mucho has assisted forge the paths of some amazing careers with Ben at the helm of management. Names like WAAX, I Know Leopard, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Ball Park Music, Eves the Behavior, Andy Bull, The Basics and more have all graced his management roster and benefitted from his guidance. His contributions to the PR side of the business boasts the likes of Meg Mac, Emma Louise, The Jungle Giants, Art of Sleeping, The Kite String Tangle, The Medics, The Belligerents, Lisa Mitchell, Dustin Tebbutt, The Church, Robbie Miller and many, many more.
In any given week, Ben is responsible for his artists’ businesses as well as his own. Vague, to say the least, but as anyone who spends a day in and around the music industry knows, this can include anything from reconciling a bank account, setting up an album release, liaising with and organising our teams, booking logistics for a tour, and right through to playing counselor, trawling through demos and generally supporting the movements of his artists. And that’s not even taking his own business into account where general strategising, radio plugging and managing clients alongside the head of publicity is general, everyday practice.
This particular Monday morning begins like any other, even though this is far from a typical week. It’s BIGSOUND week and today is essentially the calm before the storm, although ‘calm’ is hardly a word I would use for it. I kick each day off with a morning ritual (everyone needs one – it’s not dirty). I always start Mondays with my chats, they’re mentoring sessions as such aimed to not only up my own business brain weekly, but also carry that over to those of my staff and my bands. They kick my brain into gear really quickly and help me feel strong enough to take on the week, defeating those Monday morning blues. Firstly, I talk with my business coach Martin who sets me up for the week with his infinite words of wisdom, anecdotes, and advice. Luke from I Know Leopard is next at 10am – he lives in Sydney and I manage this band so it’s important for me to bridge the distance and start the week on the good foot.
I’ve just moved house to a swift, 15-minute walk from my office about The Foundry Studios, so I walk to work and catch-up with Viv for a PR run-down in our new haunt, the recently reopened Foundry Records (go Will Watson!). Predictably for this time of year, the PR side of the business is shaping up to have an insane week and we discuss WAAX’s hefty BIGSOUND promo schedule, as well as current work on a Divinyls reunion show, a last-minute campaign for Sydney artist Leroy Francis plus campaigns for the likes of Saatsuma, Maya Payne, Pharoahe Monch, Wild Honey, Halcyon Drive and heaps heaps more. This is all on top of the impending BIGSOUND happenings. Next chat for the day is with Jesse Barbera – he’s back from a three-month working holiday, he calls it “long service leave” and we have a lot to catch up on. I’ve been working with his management roster for the last few months and helped on the label set-ups, video and single releases for albums for Evan Klar and local hero Jeremy Neale while he’s been away. Alongside those, we discuss a few things – there are deals on the table for WAAX and Evan Klar, plus a tour for I Know Leopard, a Jeremy Neale single and ongoing scouting for work for producer Miro Mackie.
More coffee is necessary at this point and the rest of the afternoon is spent in a state of pre-BIGSOUND panic, or perhaps it’s just party fear. I do my last round of emails, chasing meetings with the delegates from all over the world that will suddenly be doing business in our backyard. This week I’ll be repping my management clients hard, while keeping an eye and an ear out for any extra work Mucho Bravado Publicity + Marketing can take on.
Speaking of which, a PR client of ours, Sydney band Wild Honey, are showcasing at BIGSOUND this year. They are in town early and we’ve arranged a sit down to chat about their campaign. It’s always brilliant to get this face-time with a band you’re working with and alleviates a lot of the occasional stress when a relationship is carried out over the phone, texts and emails. Leaving the office for a quick dinner, the energy surrounding the Valley is already palpable – there are projections on buildings, tentacles protruding menacingly from the Empire and it’s immediately obvious, even on Monday night, that BIGSOUND is stepping right up this year. It’s over to The Brightside for one of many pre-BIGSOUND bashes taking over the Valley. Typically, we would be doing one too, but it seems ridiculous to have one on a Monday night – too hard, we’ll leave that to the others this year. We’re there to see Andy Ward, a remarkably-gifted singer we’re working on with Sony. His show is a sight to behold – we’re quickly plunged into darkness and a mask he’s wearing lights up and provides the backdrop and light show for his set – remarkable. Tonight, I’ve behaved and it’s off to bed for a good night’s sleep before I confront the week head on.
And it’s on. It says so on virtually every single Facebook status in my feed – the excitement has embodied all. Maz and Chris from WAAX bound into the office, they’ve a day of promo surrounding their two big sets at the festival today/tonight and we indulge in a pre-drink – why not, it is 10am on the first day of BIGSOUND after alI. Eventually, I head out into the Valley to take in some of the energy, collect my and the band’s passes for the festival and swing past the Brightside where Jeremy Neale is playing an acoustic set in the courtyard. His team from Remote Control is there and the vibes are so far, so good. Already, it’s brilliant to see friends from near and far embracing their take on what will be a massive week.
The Social State welcome party quickly kicks off and we’re treated to sets by Royal and The Southern Echo and Bris182 before our own Evan Klar and WAAX round out the late afternoon. The sets are all great and the bands hand in effortlessly, a testament to all their professionalism is playing to a sober audience of straight-faced industry types with their arms folded can’t be an easy slog. This is just one of the many hurdles any band has to overcome on their journey, but these guys tackle it with style and grace.
It’s dinner time and Viv, my good friend Kaja Quinn (Skeletal Harmonics) and I grab dinner at Wagaya (Viv LOVES controlling the screens for ordering) with our Newcastle mates from This That, Ben Cooper (manager of Raave Tapes) and Simon Luke (director at Festival of The Sun). Such a great, pleasantly-rowdy bunch of humans.
Somehow the time disappears quickly between WAAX’s first set and WAAX’s second set – yep, all their appearances are crammed into a couple of hours proving challenging to build their buzz amongst industry-types prior to the show. Upon approaching the outdoor stage at The Brightside, it’s clear I was worried for nothing. The place is rammed with industry and fans alike. Every face I hope to see there from the interested labels and publishers are there and gosh, there is something in the air! WAAX positively mow down this audience and leave everyone astounded, it would be hard to pinpoint a better performance at the whole festival. There are very few moments in a manager’s life as satisfying as a set like this – one where everyone was there to witness a set so good and realise that I wasn’t even slightly exaggerating in my hyperbolic speeches throughout the day. There’s a meeting side of stage immediately after the show – I wish I could tell you who with, but rest assured it’s a great chat with an excited group of people who want to work with WAAX. I catch Sløtface’s set on the same stage, also pretty great. But I’m off to bed – got a big day ahead of me tomorrow.
This is the big one for me. Today, I have a few meetings with international delegates set up by Sounds Australia as well as my own that I’ve organised, attempting to take advantage of the international visitors gracing our fine city. There is literally one every 20/30 minutes for most of the day, often crossing over into the next. But first, WAAX and I have a coffee/breakfast meet with, let’s call them, “Excited Group of People Who Want To Work With WAAX #2” and all goes well (Seriously wish I could tell y’all what these chats are about. Soon!)
Off to the international meetings and it’s encouraging to sit down at all of these meetings and be greeted with excitement for WAAX , as they are really on everyone’s lips today. And if you didn’t see them, you have certainly heard about them. Regardless, the meetings are productive and hopefully more results of these can be shared with you in the coming weeks.
This afternoon we get a rare opportunity to have a meet with our team from Select Music, booking agents based in Sydney. Then over to dinner with, let’s call them, “Excited Group of People Who Want To Work With WAAX #3” and they treat us wonderfully – food, drink and plenty of great stories. And the cheeseburger spring rolls at Heya just might be the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. Who knows? My next meeting is at 10:30 pm with a fellow who is only in town for 24 hours, so I hit the Valley in the meantime and bounce around from venue to venue witnessing an impressive array of Aussie talent – boy oh boy is Australian music in good shape. The likes of Stella Donnelly, Elki, Odette, Evan Klar, Cub Sport, Blessed, Holiday Party, Ziggy Ramo, Exhibitionist, Party Dozen and Winston Surfshirt all dazzle.
Thursday is foggy, to say the least and I’m feeling slow, but I’m not alone. I often find myself not being able to finish a sentence, but that’s BIGSOUND for you. We work hard, we talk hard and we don’t relent – that’s the music industry professionals. Proud of you all.
Today presents more rare opportunities to meet international delegates and friends. It’s a less insane day, still with an endless string of meetings, but this time with at least 5 or 10 minutes between each today – a good breather between each is a good addition to today. Jeremy Neale’s team from Remote Control all assemble at the Pig ‘N’ Whistle for an in-detail rundown of the rollout for his debut album. I’m new to this crew and to see how beloved and supported he is with these cats is a wonderful thing to experience. Evan Klar is off to co-write some songs with Konstantin Kersting (producer-extraordinaire and member of the Belligerents) and again, WAAX and I have another meeting with “Excited Group of People Who Want To Work With WAAX #4”. A group celebratory drink is in order after our impressive line of chats and incredibly productive week so far, so we do just that and the night ahead ensues with a feeling of accomplishment, self-satisfaction and tired inadequacy. That’s the BIGSOUND feeling! Then there’s the after-party at The Triffid….
I can have a little sleep in today and enjoy a much more of laid-back day. I have breakfast with a good buddy at Reverend’s and we’re joined by a revolving door of familiar manager faces and artists. It’s actually perfect sitting here and running into these people randomly. Inter-staters and international people are starting to leave Brisbane one by one, so there’s often a last dash to meet-up before their flight departs
Biiiiiig sleep in and preparation for the next week begins – I’ll be on ABC Brisbane on Tuesday night, wrapping up BIGSOUND with Trevor Jackson. So, I do a little prep for the show while trying to whittle down my highlights for the week into a handful of songs. It’s tough.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
Showing an incredible band that I’ve worked with for three years exactly what I’ve been working on, watching them kick out an amazing showcase and finally start to draw some strong industry attention for all their hard work. Kicking goals, rubbing shoulders, watching my friends kick goals, seeing everyone all over the world in our backyard. BIGSOUND truly is a remarkable week.
LOWLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
The complete lack of rest is obvious, but, while in many ways it’s so great to see everyone doing such good, high-end work, it’s also easy to feel inadequate in a sleep-deprived, overworked and vulnerable state. The conversation surrounding mental health in the arts is rife at the moment and it’s easy to overlook managers. Even fellow managers overlook managers. It’s often hard to remind yourself just what you have managed to accomplish and I, for one, am quick to jump onto the next challenge before pausing to celebrate the accomplishment of the last.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Pace yourself and keep your own expectations in check. In an industry of super-creatives and over-achievers, remember not to measure your worth alongside those of others. Keep your eye on the prize and stay hungry. As managers, we’re responsible for ourselves, staying inspired, staying inspiring and generating our own inspiration is made a lot easier after an event such as BIGSOUND. Learn to communicate clearly, honestly and completely transparently, remain passionate and never be too clever to learn something new from anyone.
If you enjoyed reading this then you should check out our incredible collection of “A Week In The Life Of..” archives.