Tony Ward is the founder of Man On The Ground, a Hong Kong-based music and entertainment consulting company. Before launching Man On The Ground, Tony spent more than 15 years in New York in executive marketing positions at Sony Music, BMG, Arista Records, EMI Records, and Sanctuary Management. Tony ran marketing campaigns for many successful artists, including Santana, Sarah McLachlan, Patti Smith, Eurythmics, Beth Orton, and Spiritualized. For the past three years, he has served as Program Director for Music Matters, the premier annual event for the Asia Pacific music industry. Tony shared with us his valuable insight into the future of music and act breakdown.
RL: How did you get started in the music business?
TW: I’ve been a music fan my whole life and didn’t think of much else growing up. Then, in the 80s, I worked at my university’s radio station in the United States. I’ve always liked UK music, especially from the then independent Virgin Records label. So when I graduated I decided to move to London and was determined to get a job in the music business. In fact, I managed to get a job at Virgin Records in London and worked there for a few years.
RL: What led to the creation of Man On The Ground?
TW: When I moved to Asia, I immediately recognized that many Western artists or entertainment companies now see Asia as a market of opportunities for expansion and growth, and they need someone to help them navigate the nuances of the industry. here. Many Westerners see Asia as a big question mark and need help making connections, launching a product or service, or help with career guidance.
RL: Tell us about your role in Music Matters? What led you to assume the position of Program Director?
TW: Several weeks after moving to Hong Kong, I was introduced to Jasper Donat, who is president of Music Matters. I was looking for someone with industry experience to design the conference program and secure guest speakers. We get along well. The conference has become the premier industry event in Asia. My role at Music Matters is to create the panel themes, locate the appropriate panel and keynote speakers, and write the program. I also work on the festival side of the conference: Music Matters Live.
RL: What was your most successful marketing campaign for an artist?
TW: In the mid 90’s, I was in New York at EMI Records and I worked with a band called Fun Lovin ‘Criminals. They were an incredible live band with incredible personalities and charisma. We felt they were perfect for the UK and European markets so we focused on breaking the band down in that region and we committed to this by taking the band there over and over again. Over the course of a year, they went from playing small clubs to big festivals across Europe and still have a huge following in the UK today. So the philosophy of a band repeatedly returning to a market worked and I still believe in it to this day. I also worked on Santana’s Supernatural album, which sold 25 million albums worldwide, so that was great too.
RL: Who has been your favorite artist to work with? Why?
TW: It was definitely Patti Smith and we worked together on several albums. It sounds like a cliché, but she is a true artist: musician, painter, poet, writer and photographer. In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2010, she won the National Book Award for her book Just Kids. Not many artists can say that.
RL: How do you think social networks have affected the breaking of acts?
TW: Obviously, it has become important to break an artist from many angles; For example, now many artists are discovered on YouTube and labels are scouring the Internet for talent, so there is an additional avenue for discovery. When used effectively, artists can open a very useful line of communication and commerce with their fans through social media. But in the end, it’s still about the music and playing live. If you don’t have that experience, it doesn’t matter how many Facebook fans you have in the long run.
RL: Where do you see the future of music heading?
TW: I think you’re looking up from where you’ve been going for the last 10 years, particularly for the independent, self-sufficient artist, but in different ways than how we’ve measured success in the past. As an artist, it will be more about creating your own fan network and marketing and selling to them directly. And it will continue to be on the living side of the business and having a global perspective.
RL: What is your advice to independent artists around the world who hope to take their careers to the next level?
TW: Work so hard to be an amazing live act and always work to perfect your live art. Take your time and don’t try to skip any steps. Also, try to travel to the various music industry conventions and events around the world. It’s not cheap, but you will learn a lot, maybe make new and important connections, and understand how the industry works from a global perspective. Look for all available opportunities for performance spaces at international festivals; there are opportunities for freelance artists. You can even try using the crowdfunding options that exist today to help finance the trip. There are also so many online tools that independent artists can use to grow their fan base, from selling and streaming music, studying analytics, creating and selling merchandise, fundraising, and distributing their music digitally around the world. Study the tools that are available to you.
Tony Ward lives in Hong Kong and continues to provide excellent marketing advice.
Man On The Ground Official Website: www.manontheground.asia
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