RIP Michael Gudinski AM.
More than a music industry leader, he was a magnet for Melbourne and a force of nature.
There has been a lot of quality coverage about MG’s life and legacy. But I want to talk about his impact beyond his “day job”, about his ability to deliver against all odds, where his ability to influence and impact transcended his person and his business. A quick story to give you a sense of how he made things happen: In 2009, like so many, I was devastated by the Black Saturday Bushfires. I thought something had to be done, so I contacted friends such as Cameron Adams at the Herald Sun, Grant Gillies at Network 10, Keiran Beasley at Nova, Antony Hampel, Wendy Matthews, and others to put a fundraiser together. Within three days, Tammy Schlitz from the Red Cross gave us official approval and we got about ~150 bands on board.
But despite our collective skills and experience, we all knew there was only one person who could pull off something this huge: “Let’s call Gudinski”.
The next day, we ventured down to Albert Park and met with Keith Ridgway, one of Gudinski’s right hand men, who brought the Mushroom Group’s formidable resources to the fore. With a broader group of music industry promoters, production people and events geniuses such as Michael Chugg, Joe Segreto, Mark Pope, Rina Ferris and others, we created Sound Relief.
Gudinski brought the biggest fundraising concert in Australia’s history to life, raising more than $8m in tickets and more through his donation of proceeds from DVD sales.
Whether this event or any number of massive cultural events, businesses, and artist careers he created with his team in Dundas Lane, in a world of people who play it safe, he was a visionary who just made crazy and creative things happen. And made a spectacular living from it. He turned creative thoughts into events, projects and businesses like no other. He got accolades in music, entertainment and even won a couple of Melbourne Cups. He delivered. He brought worlds of entertainment, sport, politics and industry together. He was a vital connector, a driver of Melbourne’s soft culture global prominence.
In the words of a friend who works at Mushroom: “He’s a genius. He’s made a massive impact on this country and on the music industry globally. He’ll be remembered. Really remembered.”
Entrepeneurs like him are extremely rare. It’s not only the man we mourn, but the way music industry gravity seemed to bend around his orbit. The way he bashed and bruised the long held Australian cultural cringe and promoted Aussie creative talent to Australians. The way he brought joy – not through some altruistic objective, but purely because he had built a successful and enduring business out of providing joy to others. The way he set the model for integrated independent entertainment companies the world over. His death begs the question: can this overly conservative, puritanical world we’re living in foster, reward and encourage pioneers and visionaries like Michael Gudinski into the future? I truly hope so.
My thoughts and condolences to the good people at Mushroom Group, and to Michael’s family: Sue, Kate and Matt.