From not taking a salary for years, to growing Falcona into a music management and booking company that now has its own touring and corporate events arms – and even runs its own festivals – we could learn a thing of two from Chris ‘Muz’ Murray.

As Director of Falcona – and TIO‘s June Manager of the Month – Muz attributes his success to putting his “entire life” into his work.

Falcona now operates out of Sydney, LA and London and features acts like Hot Dub Time Machine, DMA’S, Alison Wonderland, Hayden James, Miami Horror, Paces and Bad//Dreems on its roster.

Ahead of Muz’s appearance as a panelist on tomorrow’s Mumbrella 360 Conference, he chats with TIO about his key career learnings, the advice he would give his teenage self, and why there aren’t many willing mentors in the local industry.

What made you pursue a career in artist management?

I had set up businesses or worked for blue chips in a whole range of different industries, testing them out. The music and entertainment industry was the one I enjoyed the most and considered to have the most growth potential in this country.

Nowadays, Falcona is much more than artist management: we’ve an agency; a couple of festivals; we have an international touring arm; a corporate events arm – lots of things.

Our most recent project was a national touring event, Wine Machine, where we took a contemporary music line-up throughout Australia’s wineries. It sold out all six dates in its inaugural year.

 

What did you struggle most with in the early days of Falcona?

Direction. Advice. Paying rent. We didn’t pay ourselves for years – so I obliterated my meagre savings pretty quickly and thought about throwing in the towel every week for about four years. Not earning enough money to pay yourself really does change the way you think about your own abilities. It’s quite a humbling process, that I think should be mandatory for all new small business owners.

I was yearning for a good mentor in the early days but there’s not much grey hair in the music industry, most play things pretty close to their chest thinking that we’re all islands unto our own. I find the opposite to be the case: the more collaboratively I work with others, even competitors, the more successful we collectively become.

It’s the narcissists who decide to go head to head on shit, out of spite or some kind of pissing contest, that end up losing the farm.

Among your roster of acts, Falcona manages Hot Dub Time Machine, DMA’S, Alison Wonderland, Hayden James, Miami Horror, Paces, Bad//Dreems + many more. What’s the key to nurturing a growing roster when there’s only so many hours in a day?

People often ask the key – like there’s some kind of silver bullet. Here it is: ridiculous amounts of hard work. As in, you have to put your entire life into it, it has to be your #1 priority, which is death to relationships, especially in the early years. Choose your business partners carefully and chose your team carefully. We have an awesome and incredibly hard-working team of us at Falcona HQ in Sydney. We’ve also got an office in LA and about to set one up in London so we can take full advantage of those 24 hours every day without any one of us having to continue to actually work 24 hours straight each day.

I suppose the key is not to bite off more than you can chew – focus on breaking what you have. Casting a wide net and throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks is not the way to do it, although it doesn’t stop many from trying.

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How did your relationship with Hayden James begin?

I met him through my business partner Garth (who manages him – I’m his booking agent), they went to the same high school. Hayden was one of the kings of the Cross in it’s heyday – like 10 years ago – as part of Hey Now. It took him many years of working with people who weren’t the right fit for him to help develop his craft and indeed to build up the confidence to go out on his own with his own sound. Hayden worked hard for ten years before he started to gain success as Hayden James the solo artist.

With that, comes perspective and maturity that the overnight flash in the pan artists don’t have – which I think then leads to longevity, which is the holy grail in this exceedingly fickle distracted modern world. Couldn’t be prouder of what he has achieved or more excited for what’s about to be announced. He also happens to be one of the best humans I know – you ask anyone about Hayden and I think they’d say the same thing.

What does an initial meeting with you (in the lead up to a management) deal look like? How do you know whether the relationship is going to work or not?

You don’t. But it’s the most important relationship an artist has, so we always insist on a courting period of 3-6 months where you trial working together, but it’s more about getting to know each other better. If you’re having doubts after that period you walk away no hard feelings. Trust is everything, on both sides, and it needs to be absolutely rock solid from the beginning. You both need to go in with eyes wide open for it to have any chance of lasting the test of time. There are never any issues until you start making money. It has a way of affecting different people in different ways. If there is a solid foundation of trust, hard-work and loyalty, then the artist-manager bond will last forever, assuming both of you are good at what you do.

 

What’s the best career blunder you’ve ever made – as in the move or action that helped you learn and grow?

Letting someone interview me….

The greatest mistake I made was the missed opportunity from not acting on my instincts. I now follow my gut on most things, I can’t remember the last time it let me down.

If you could go back, what advice would you give your teenage self?

“Put every cent you have (which I know is next to nothing you dirty little pleb) on Donald Trump becoming President… Yes I know I know, shut the fuck up and trust me, I’m from the future.”

“You know everything you think you want? Turns out you don’t really want it. Focus on fun, happiness and good people and the money will come. And patience you young, good looking, well spoken little whippersnapper, you’re in this for the long haul, don’t burn yourself out on the shit that doesn’t matter.”

“Don’t be discouraged by the bad shit people do to you, always continue to try and see the best in people. It will make you so much happier than racing them to the bottom. Always take the high ground.”

“Finally, don’t let those early failures get you down, it teaches you exactly what you need to know and we both know you won’t learn any other way kiddo. Suck it up. One last thing, visit Mum & Dad more, I don’t care how busy you think you are.”

Muz will be speaking at the Mumbrella 360 Conference on 8 June on the ‘Festivals Musicians and Industry Insiders: How Not to Screw Up Music-Based Marketing’ panel. Tickets / Details here