Interview with DANNY ROGERS, manager for Gotye, The Temper Trap - Apr 25, 2012
“I’ve always known that if you make the right video with the right song then it can make all the difference.”
Surely it’s no coincidence that Australia’s two latest major pop exports – Gotye (US, UK, Aus, Ger No.1) and The Temper Trap (UK Top 10, US Alt Top 10) – share the same manager in Danny Rogers. The Lunatic Entertainment MD has proven to have a keen eye for young talent with a potential for success on the international stage but also the skills, vision and ambition to make that happen – regardless of which far flung corner of the globe it comes from.
Can you explain how you got involved in artist management and came to set up Lunatic Entertainment?
I started in the music industry at the end of 1999. I was living in New York and working in a music venue in Manhattan called The Living Room. Initially I was a bartender with a passion for music, but I weezled my way into a position where I was programming the bands.
From that I made various contacts and then applied for a job as assistant manager to an Australian group called Powderfinger, who were having some big success at the time. Their management (Secret Service Artist Management) moved to New York in 2000, and I helped them set up an office was a general roustabout, undoubtedly picking up some excellent insights into the processes via their manager Paul Piticco.
I then decided to go back to Melbourne, Australia, where I’d grown up, and throw myself into music management. I managed this wonderful band called Gersey. So I started management from an absolute grassroots level and have been slowly working my way up these last ten years.
How did you first meet The Temper Trap and why did you decide to work together?
My future partner had a bar in Melbourne called St. Jerome’s, and the [Temper Trap] guys were regulars, some of them even worked there from time to time. We literally started the music festival [Laneway] there and the bass guitarist Jonny Aherne asked whether I’d consider having them play.
I put them on at the festival without having seen them play. They were a bunch of great guys and as a favour I put them on as the opening band, literally at doors around midday. I was more or less the only person watching them and thought they were absolutely fantastic. As they came off stage, I said, “I thought you were brilliant! How about you jump in the van next week and come up and play in Sydney?”
How did you then help lay the groundwork for their career?
If there’s talent there and you can see an act has something really special going on, my approach – as with Gotye – is to let that slowly develop organically and just put good opportunities in front of them as they happen.
With The Temper Trap it took four years before they went overseas and showcased for the first time. There was a lot of time in between where they were asking me, “When are we going to go overseas?” Because I always saw them as an amazing live act, I meant to wait until I felt that they were definitely ready as a live band.
The Temper Trap had only released an EP before they moved overseas. Why was there such a strong focus on Europe and the US early on rather than establishing the band in Australia first?
I guess it was early on in terms of the debut album. It was pretty simple. Once we got our game plan together and the right opportunity came along, we had the ambition to relocate internationally to try and take the band further. That was a goal we all shared.
Fortunately for them, when they came out to the UK and New York at the end of 2008 and showcased, they blew people away, and had a ton of interest from record companies around the world. We quickly did a deal in the UK. A part of that deal was that we would relocate to London in order to be around for the set up of the record.
What was it about them that attracted the attentions of Infectious Music in the UK and Glassnote Records in the US?
Being great live was really important and both labels really liked the band members personally – the attitude of the guys was a big part. Also as both companies are real song-orientated labels, you need songs that can potentially get played on the radio, and the band have an epic sound and Dougy [Mandagi]’s voice is extraordinary.
It’s now been a few years since the debut album was released. What did you want to have achieved by the end of the first album cycle?
My goal had been to try and really set them up in a place where they had a really strong backbone. I didn’t want them to get too big too quickly because that can be a wrong for you at times. If you’ve had massive success straight out of the box then there’s a huge amount of expectation to come off the back of.
We got to a point where they’d sold 800,000 albums worldwide and a couple of million singles, which meant they could sell 4 to 5,000 tickets in 25 cities around the world. We thought that was a really great space from which to light the campaign. We then went away completely to finish the next record, and we’re now about to relaunch into the market.
When can we expect the first releases?
At the end of May.
How did you get involved in co-managing Gotye?
After starting managing The Temper Trap I began hearing about this artist called Gotye. A woman who worked in my office at the time was putting the music in front of me and telling me that this was an amazing talent that I should be focusing on, but it took me a few months to take any notice. Eventually Gotye himself reached out to me directly and asked if I would take the time to listen to his music.
I was quite impressed by the manner in which he presented his music to me from an email. All he said was, “These people recommended I get in contact with you as someone who could be a manager.” I listened to the songs and thought they were fantastic. We met up and fortunately clicked really quickly. We got along in a natural way, which is really important in that relationship.
How did you work out that the relationship was the right one for both of you?
I said to him, “This is a big decision for both of us so let’s not rush into this. Let’s do a trial.” That’s always been my approach with management; I don’t want to rush in and put a contract in front of people. I suggested we give it three months, and if we both feel really positive about the relationship at the end of that then let’s progress it further. That’s what happened.
Why did John Watson get involved in co-managing him with you?
I helped Gotye with his second album (Like Drawing Blood), which was very successful in Australia and got him around the world on a moderate level. He then went away and made his follow up. In that time I moved to London, and realised that there was a good chance I may not return to Australia super quickly and so suggested that we look at finding partners in both the management and in helping put the records out. We found John, who was someone I had a lot of respect for.
The international breakthrough came with single ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’. At what point did you realise you had a major hit on your hands?
For me personally, it was the day it got played on triple j in Australia. Although I was here in London I was obviously getting feedback, and from the feedback it was insanely obvious that it was going to connect with people.
But I didn’t realise we had a major single until about six weeks later when I saw the traffic for the video on YouTube growing expansively per day. It was a word-of-mouth thing that really started it to make it apparent. You could feel the energy building – people were Facebooking, sending it to people all over the world, and it was gathering its own momentum and eventually became a situation where it was beyond our control. It got bigger than the whole project. As I said at the time, we’d created a monster – you just had to try and ride it [laughs].
What were you original plans in terms of best exploiting the song’s potential?
The amazing video was the biggest asset we had. Having that up on YouTube and letting YouTube do the work for us has been the major form of exploitation of the song.
Radio has also been a big factor in this process, especially by having a song that’s getting played on pretty much every single format available at radio and connecting on pretty much every format as well, which is very, very rare. After a while that takes care of itself.
Aside from that it’s just about building the profile: drawing people back to the body of work the artist has already created; making sure his live show is right up there with the best around, and continuing trying to develop him as an artist.
Had you decided from the start that the video would play a very important role in introducing an unfamiliar artist like Gotye to a wider audience?
I’ve always known that if you make the right video with the right song then it can make all the difference. But it’s a rarity because it’s very hard to make a proper ‘wow’ video. You see maybe ten a year if you’re lucky, and it’s one of those absolute magical moments …
When that video was handed into us, John and I both went, okay, this changes everything. This is a really, really special video. It was enormously compelling. Strategy-wise, we’d hoped to get a great video but until you see the final product you really don’t know.
What do you think it is about the song itself that has resonated with audiences on an international level?
It’s a people song that connects. The music is engaging and quite compelling, and the story of the song is something people can relate to in a massive way – it’s a great story to deliver into vocals. And it’s the Kimbra reveal, the way it just builds, builds, builds so beautifully to this huge moment.
Gotye is currently enjoying major success across Europe and US, as well as Australia. How are you able to take advantage of the potential in all these different markets without it becoming too much for the artist?
You’ve just got to figure out with your artist how much they’re willing to do. And then you try to manage everyone else around the artist’s expectations the best you can.
You need to establish really strict guidelines about what he will and won’t do and why. You have to be very firm about setting specific amounts of time when he’ll be available to do promo, and give him time off so he can actually have a genuine break. The touring also needs to be balanced with days spent back at home with partners and family.
Establishing an act in Europe and the US takes a lot of time and effort in building up a profile and a fanbase, so it must be especially challenging for an Australian act. Through your work with The Temper Trap and now Gotye, what have you learnt is the most effective way at making an impact?
It really does vary from artist to artist, but the most important way that you can do a great job for an artist is by listening to what they think. 99% of the time the instincts of the artist are bang on the money. The way in which you as a manager make an impact is by getting that message across to the people that are going to go out and be on the frontline promoting your artist.
With reference to The Temper Trap, you’ve said that you’re going to do lots of work in Asia in the next two years. What is the potential in this market for your artists?
I think that Asia and South America are rapidly becoming two of the most important markets in the world. From a touring standpoint, the right acts can do great business there. I’m not convinced that a lot of albums will be sold there, but ancillaries like touring and merchandise, are really big in those markets. I put on a music festival (The Laneway Festival) in Australia and Singapore, and the two years spent in Singapore have really started to show how big that market can be.
Are you looking to sign any new artists?
I’m not in any major hurry but if something came along which I felt passionate about, like I do with Gotye and The Temper Trap, then I’d certainly take it into consideration.
At what level would an artist need to be at for you to take an interest in representing them?
It wouldn’t necessarily matter, although I do like the idea of working with artists that have no real history. I like to start out with an artist and help develop them. But if one of my fantasy artists came and approached me – Arcade Fire or someone else that I love then I would obviously consider it.
Who will be the next artist to break out of Australia, do you think?
A band called Husky.
Do you have any tips for the next artists looking to break out of Australia?
I think patience. If you’re a live band, then it’s about getting that live show to a point where it is undeniably great, whatever genre it is. It’s about getting the right people – choosing the right manager, choosing the right label – and not being in any hurry to sign deals.
How much time you need to give it differs for everyone. Some artists are ready to go out and play live shows at the age of 15. It’s about you and the group around you knowing when the right time is for you to put yourself in a position to showcase.
For example, every year at South by Southwest (SXSW) I see lots of acts that are just not ready. Your manager has worked hard to get an opportunity where all these labels come to see you, but you’re not ready – you’re not playing as well as you should have been. And so people are walking away going, “They weren’t as good as I thought.”
What are your future plans for Lunatic Entertainment?
As well as the management arm, we’re also a touring company – we tour artists like Florence & The Machine, M83 and Feist – and the festival. There’s some prospects to take the festival to some other markets around the world, and so we’re sort of investigating that.
We’re just keeping the door open and trying to focus on doing things that we’re really excited about and feel passionate about.
interviewed by Kimbel Bouwman
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