The Music Is Life Project + Andrew McManus : Interview #UTSS2021

Interview transcript, courtesy of The Music Is Life Project and Dene Menzel.

The music industry, a $50million dollar global machine, with 50% of that revenue stream from the bustling live scene of performers, promoters and punters. Well that’s what it used to be. 

Today the live music scene became just one more victim to the Covid19 pandemic leaving a trail of artists, musicians, venues, production, and crew without a livelihood. With little to no government support, and no tried and tested vaccine on the market, is it time to ask if this is the end of the live music scene?

I’m Dene Menzel and welcome to The Music Is Life Project.

Welcome everyone this is our very first episode and we are dedicating it to the live music scene. And it’s been months of mixed emotions. Here in Melbourne I’m recording from lockdown and I took the time last week to reach out to musos across Melbourne to hear first hand their covid impact stories.

I was pretty humbled, you know, these guys and girls, have shared with me some stories this week you know - some real detailed stories of the impact that this has had on their lives - the good the bad and the ugly. And it’s been a bit of a mixed bag.

While some have found inspiration between four walls to write or record new material - you know I really admire that in the artists out there because they’re using the quiet time to actually be productive but look, hey the obvious hit across the board has been financial. We’ve got musicians here who’ve pretty much lost year long income streams in one hit. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

So after hearing these stories, I set out to find some hope in all of this and my journey led me to the door of International Music Promoter Andrew McManus - well, it wasn’t quite his door - and we were on zoom, but you know what I mean.

And we had a great chat. If you don’t know Andrew of heard about him before, he’s been a music promoter for decades.He’s toured with the likes of KISS, Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith - absolutely epic bands, and seen all the ups and downs of the music industry over those years.

Andrew is actually fuelling the fire to revive the live music scene in the middle of a pandemic and you’ve got to hand it to this guy - he’s got balls of steel to do that.

Here’s a little bit about what Andrew had to share.

D: So, Hi Andrew, great to have you on the show today

A: Thanks, Dene, I appreciate you having me on.

D: Not a problem, Now Andrew, you’ve led an incredibly eventful and what some would call a colourful life - probably too much to go into for one podcast episode - but one thing since you’ve begun your journey in music what, 35 years ago?

A: 30 yeah 30years

D: 30 I was close You’ve been quite passionate about the live music scene from day 1, so I really just wanted to ask off the cuff: What is it about live music that you love and that you think people love?

A: Um look, I was introduced to live music um, actually I was a rugby player, and then ended up somehow managing Selena’s down at Guggi Bay and booking all the talent and that’s when I realised that what a wonderful platform the whole business was and is, um and subsequently after that, met The Divinyls, which then I managed for 11 years, 12 years, with Chrissy Amphlett being one of my best friends in the world and she opened my eyes to so many aspects of the world. And I think that’s what music is. It opens so much - so many doors, and relationships and experiences, um and I’m very very lucky to have been on that ride.

D: What a beautiful description of music right there and then - and such a heartfelt tribute to Chrissy Amphlett there. And in that I can really understand why you’d be so protective of the live music scene and determined in moving forward even when things are a challenge  - I read an article - it was written about 3yrs ago, titled “Presenting Andrew McManus - the promoter who won’t stay down”, and while the media has a tendency to embellish now and again, we all see that I feel like this title rings true for you, because you’ve got quite a long history in music - you know the ups and downs, and you’re not really one to sit down and see the live scene die. This podcast episode about the live music scene, it is obviously a flow on from what’s happening at the moment. Covid is really what everyone is talking about. So I understand it, through your new festival - Under the Southern Stars, you’re spearheading a campaign to bring international artists back to Australia in early 2021 with a new (I’m just reading off my sheet) a new covid safe plan?

A: Yes, um, look the - just blearing on that article, there was um I think it was actually longer than that, but the, there were some points taken in that which I think were completely out of context, but at the end of the day - it is true, I won’t stay down, I refuse to stay down. It’s just not in my rhetoric and moving forward into where we are right now, and again through our career and our life, has been enormous challenges, and I thought in November when Paul Stanley cancelled his tour, was like one of my biggest knockdowns - just gone - to then having to pick myself up and get back up off my feet, and start planning how we’re going to resurrect and recreate, you know, End Of The Road with the band and KISS to then walking the tightrope of having to basically cancel, manoeuvre, and change all direction with Under The Southern Stars - yeh it’s been very challenging. And for the, I suppose, commentary consistently around - and from different people, that you know bands are not going to get in until next year - now the middle of the year, whatever whatever - all that’s negative. The media unfortunately love negativity so all the workings we’ve been doing and will be doing is to create some positivity.

D: I love that. I think we all need a little bit of that in our lives right now and I’m sure our listeners would agree— Speaking about our listeners - and just for those who aren’t familiar with what Andrew and his team are planning for these live events - and Andrew please correct me if I’ve got any of this wrong, I’m quoting from an article off Triple M outlining the covid safe plan you’ve got in place. Before we get into all of that, firstly what’s the line up?

A: It’s Live, Ed Kowalski and an original line up, which in this country is seven times platinum. Lightning Crashes, Dolphins Cry - huge, huge singles in this country. Bush with Gavin Rossdale, and then Stone Temple Pilots. It’s a triple threeway bill. We were going to play in April just gone, but five weeks pre, we had to close the whole thing down due to covid. So basically now, we have moved it to February - I think it’s 16 and then finishes, goes through to March 7 2021.

D: Wow that is an impressive line up, and I’m sure we’ve got some Bush and Live and Stone Temple Pilot fans that are listening in right now. I’m just reading the list now from the Triple M Article just to outline what your plan is so people can get an idea of what you’ve got in mind

The plan includes:

*All three acts travelling with essential band members only, and two support staff, and being COVID tested before leaving Los Angeles for Australia.

*A SECOND COVID test after arriving in Australia.

*The bands being quarantined at an isolated compound with a rehearsal studio, for 14 days.

*HIRING Australian tour crew to replace the band's usual touring team.

*SEGREGATED sections on flights and '"military style" transfers between Australian cities for the bands and crew.

*LOCKED hotel floors for band and crew.

*PUNTERS must download the COVID-Safe app to attend the show.

*TEMPERATURE checks and strict social distancing measures at the gig.

*SHOWS will be capped at 70 per cent of total capacity.

D: Now looking at that plan it looks very thorough and well thought out. You mentioned earlier that there are challenges always with these kinds of things. What are the challenges are you facing at the moment to piece this together or does it look like a rock solid plan?

A: Again that plan was put to the Prime Minister, Treasurer, Immigration Minister, Trade Minister, all pre the Victorian scenario that we’re seeing happen right now. In essence, the road map we wanted to and common-sensically create. Since then as well though, Western Australia’s changed or changing their social distancing rule, and keep in mind we’re in July right now, so we’ve got some seven months before we get to February. So who knows what’s going to happen. And each State, so once hopefully we get - and I say hopefully and with confidence - that we’ll get the band members in. There’s been a precedent with a couple of movies currently. Melissa McCarthy’s one of them and several others that I know that have been approved by health to come in, which American citizens come in, quarantine, and then the movie - cause you’ve got to remember - it means so many jobs. Our plan is to as you stated, revert to Australian crew. Those Australian crew will replace the American essential crew, and then they’ll travel with the band. One of the biggest challenges currently is going to be Victoria. 

D: Victoria Yes - I hear you. I’m based here in Melbourne and as I said earlier to our fans I’m in the middle of a six week lockdown - along with all our fellow Melburnians, and Victorians and this is our 2nd Stage 3 lockdown, we don’t know what’s going to happen on the other side of this but look - I think that for somebody to come up with a plan for live music - at least a workable plan, this is a really good start. So I’m curious to explore - If this becomes a winner, do you think this solution could actually work for other countries outside of Australia to keep the music scene alive?

A: Well, we’d like to think so and that’s why Live, Bush and Stone Temple Pilots all grasped the possibility and the concept of this because they’re losing this whole summer, so the next opportunity for them to work is going to be with us in February. The probability of American bands playing next summer in the UK, Europe whatever, is unlikely from what’s happening at the moment. But again, it changes - and if there’s a vaccine - everything’s going to change. But right now, under the gamut that we’re all sitting, the likelihood of the American live scene opening up next summer, it’s mainly internally within America, but the lucrative European and UK festival scene, it’s going to be very difficult for those bands to get to. So if we can create this road map and as I said, if - and I’m going to say when - this does happen, we want to make it available to all the other Australian promoters in Greenfield festivals at no charge. We feel it’s jobs for Australians and it’s so important. And I talk to Australian crew guys two, three times a week and I know what they’re going through. So I’m passionate about giving the opportunity that if we can be the flagship to create the opening of international acts into this country, we want to be it, we want to do it. Live, Bush and Stone Temple Pilots, did them no harm in being those three bands that created the template, and at the end of the day, whether or not our plan - cause every country’s so different. And we’re an island and we’re protected, and we’re quarantined, hence the security lines, you know of getting in and out - it’s so stringent. Whether or not our plan internationally will mean anything - I really don’t know 

D: Well that’s the thing isn’t it? Obviously everybody’s experiencing covid in a different way. To see something affect the whole world like it’s absolutely  is quite heartbreaking. So many industries affected and obviously the music industry being one of them. You were talking about the impact of a vaccine earlier and obviously that does change everything - and it could be the solution to bringing live music back the way that we remember it. Do you think the future of live music will ever be the same even with a vaccine?

A: Well, again - everyone’s got an opinion and we can all live in hope. Right now, for the short term, no. But, hopefully in time, yes. 

D: A fantastic note of hope to finish on and all of you doing it tough where ever you may be in the world - we hear you and like Andrew here, we might have pressed the pause button on quite a few things that we are used to  but it is defintely not the end - and defiantly not the end of the the live scene.

Dene Menzel signing off on  up our first episode of the Music is life project. I hope you enjoyed the show. I’d love to hear your thoughts in our Facebook group. You can just look us up under The Music Is Life Project on Facebook. Don’t forget you can stream more episodes on your favourite app including Buzzsprout, iTunes and Spotify or visit us direct at

Thanks for listening, have a magic week and we’ll see you on the flipside.