The time has come to reveal 2016's Power 50 #1, and it's none other than music industry mogul Michael Gudinski.
His influence and achievements are far-reaching and 2016 has been another spectacular year for Mushroom Group, which included Gudinski overseeing the roll-out of the new Frontier Comedy arm, the AFL Grand Final bill and the huge commercial hit of the Molly miniseries.
It is Gudinski's third reign at the top.
So far, the top 10 has been rounded out by Secret Sounds' Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco at #2, Universal Music's George Ash at #3, Sony's Denis Handlin came in at #4, Live Nation Aus/NZ's Michael Coppel has come in at #5, triple j's Richard Kingsmill has come in at #6, UNIFIED's Jaddan Comerford has come in at #7, Future Classic's Nathan McLay and Chad Gillard have come in at #8, Apple executive Janelle McCarthy has come in at #9 and Spotify's Alicia Sbrugnera and Marcus Thaine has come in at #10.
Head here to pre-order the AMID Power 50 for the full list.
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mushroom group, executive chairman
One of the busiest stretches in Frontier Touring's 37-year history sees Michael Gudinski reclaim the number one position on the 2016 Power 50 — his third reign at the top spot. The Mushroom boss is the only person to have been named the Australasian music industry's most influential and powerful player multiple times (every second year since 2012), but his strong performance in all key Power 50 categories — an ability to shape the scene, establishment of industry initiatives, overall career accomplishment, economic impact and public profile — had him a unanimous choice for the 2016 title.
Given all that he has achieved in the 50-odd years he has worked in music, it is remarkable that Michael Gudinski could be enjoying one of the hottest ever runs of his career. There is no doubt that Live Nation's entry into the Australian market has increased his determination to push Frontier Touring to even greater heights. The 2013 elevation of son Matt to the role of Executive Director of the Mushroom Group, responsible for directing the day-to-day operations of the company, has allowed Michael to focus more fully on landing big Frontier deals. And perhaps there is an element of coincidence that some of the world's most bankable artists, with whom Gudinski has built rock-solid relationships, are in cycle and undertaking international tours at the same time. Whatever the reasons, Gudinski is on a serious roll and working with a confidence and enthusiasm (two qualities he has never lacked) that belies his 64 years.
Gudinski (known in the industry either by his surname or simply as 'MG') must have wished he could clone himself at the end of 2015. In December his Frontier Touring company had Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith all beginning the Australian legs of their international tours on the same night in different cities; as someone who still relishes the prospect of getting on the road with a major artist, he was forced to make some tough decisions. (In the end he went with Swift, in Sydney; her performance to 76,000 fans at ANZ Stadium was the largest concert she had ever staged.) Swift, Sheeran and Smith between them played to more than 400,000 punters in Australia and New Zealand across 20 shows over a 15-day period. As always, Gudinski took the opportunity to get priority Mushroom acts in front of huge audiences: Swift was supported by Melbourne singer/songwriter Vance Joy, signed to the Liberation label; Smith was joined by Brisbane artist Emma Louise, another recent Liberation signee; while Frontier act Rudimental and Foy Vance, released by the Liberator label and signed to Mushroom Publishing, opened for Sheeran.
At the same time as Swift, Sheeran and Smith were playing to their packed houses, Frontier also had Rudimental, Rise Against, Thurston Moore Band, Lucinda Williams and Bully in the country. Not long after, John Farnham performed a final show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre (where he held the record for number of performances by an Australian artist) before its demolition. Next year will be no less busy for Frontier, with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band returning for 12 Australian shows in January and February. One of these will be at spectacular Victorian outdoor venue Hanging Rock, for which Gudinski holds an exclusive lease until 2019. The Springsteen dates will be followed by a Justin Bieber tour in March.
The Mushroom leader continues to book the entertainment for the AFL Grand Final, with this year's bill of Sting, The Living End and Vance Joy considered one of the best in recent years (but, compared to the infamous Meat Loaf debacle of 2011, it is all relative). Frontier also curates the Australian Open's live music line-up, providing another outlet for Mushroom-related acts — 2017's bill includes DMA'S and The Temper Trap — to reach audiences outside of their normal fanbase.
Gudinski is not afraid to look past music in his search for new business opportunities, either. (Frontier Events' Melbourne exhibition of Titanic artefacts and memorabilia is still one of the company's great successes, selling in the vicinity of 480,000 tickets in 2010 and breaking the then record for the most popular museum exhibition). Demand saw extra performances added to English magician Dynamo's November tour, with more than 100,000 tickets sold to 16 arena shows over 12 days. Frontier's late-2015 partnership with Sydney-based company More Comedy, creating Frontier Comedy, kicked into overdrive in 2016, promoting more than 15 tours and shows by comics such as Eric Andre, Em Rusciano and Jim Jefferies. Comedy tours require minimal production and feature small touring parties, resulting in far lower overheads than music shows. A successful comedy arm is another lucrative addition to the Frontier business. The More Comedy association has also led to the creation of a management company, Mushroom Comedy, which features 15 comics on its books: the aforementioned Rusciano and Jefferies are clients, as are locals Frenchy and Alex Williamson and Australian based-internationals Ben Elton and Jeff Green.
While Frontier is Gudinski's major focus, with Matt the CEO of Mushroom's group of labels, Michael is still across all signings and the progress of priority albums. He can regularly be heard blasting demos at maximum volume from his top-floor office at Mushroom's Albert Park headquarters in Victoria. One project Gudinski has been intimately involved with is Jimmy Barnes' series of soul albums. The first, Soul Deep, released on Mushroom Records in 1991, spent an incredible 25 weeks in the Australian top ten and has been certified nine-times-platinum for sales in excess of 630,000. Barnes released Soul Searchin', the fourth and final album in series, in May. It became his 11th solo number one album — no Australian act has had more. Gudinski has released all of Barnes' solo albums.
Gudinski drew on another longstanding relationship to deliver one of Mushroom's most impressive achievements of 2016: the two-part Molly miniseries and its accompanying soundtrack. The Mushroom Pictures production was inspired by the life of long-time friend and Oz music guru Molly Meldrum. It was a ratings smash, with more than two million watching its premiere, making it the most-watched non-sport program of the year. It wasn't just a commercial hit: Samuel Johnson was named Best Actor In A Television Series at the 2016 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts for his portrayal of the man in the hat. The program's three-disc soundtrack, released by Mushroom label Liberation, benefitted from its huge audience, hitting number one, spending 31 weeks in the Top 40. Another Mushroom Pictures production, the coming-of-age feature Boys In The Trees, received strong reviews and took its makers to film festivals in Venice and Toronto.
With his extensive experience, passion for the business and a public profile closer to that of the stars he represents than your typical behind-the-scenes industry player, Gudinski wields considerable influence with politicians of all stripes. His long-term dream for an Australian Music Hall Of Fame in Melbourne is set to become a reality after the Victoria state government pledged $10 million in December to fund its creation. Gudinski has lobbied tirelessly for such an attraction; he will reportedly be made a patron of the Hall, along with fellow campaigners Molly Meldrum and Kylie Minogue, when it opens at the Victorian Arts Centre in November 2017. Gudinski is outspoken on the issue of ticket scalping, and he threw his weight behind the Labor party in the 2016 federal election, citing the support of community radio and Sounds Australia as vital to the health of this country's music scene. His opinion is sought and respected by our leaders on a wide range of issues affecting the industry.
One of Gudinski's proudest wins of 2016 had nothing to do with music, however: after years of owning racehorses, a thoroughbred in which he had a stake won the Melbourne Cup. Almandin's victory inspired the Mushroom boss to indulge in one of his famous (though increasingly rare) celebrations, the resulting festivities as large as any thrown for a number one album or sold-out tour.