December/January 2023

by Charlie Rodgers

Exploring The L.A.B. Path To Success – Business From The Management’s Perspective

by Charlie Rodgers

Exploring The L.A.B. Path To Success – Business From The Management’s Perspective

How did L.A.B. go from writing on pizza boxes to writing radio hits? Was it their musical talents alone or were there other factors involved outside of the music? L.A.B.’s live monitor engineer and Southern Institute of Technology audio tutor Charlie Rodgers sat down with some of the band members, and their management team, to discuss their business practices and how they have contributed to the success of the band.

In this part of the article, we continue the discussion with L.A.B. band manager and Loop Recordings Aot(ear)oa owner Mikee Tucker, and tour manager Scott Tindale. Read Part 1 – Business From The Band’s Perspective here.

“I think the key to the band’s success is their work ethic. They might rehearse one song all day, so they put a lot of work into a live performance” opens Tucker.

“I think that’s been my biggest thing with them, they’ll say they want to do this and then they’ll do it,” adds Tindale.

“I’ll tell you right now, there is no way this band would be anywhere near where we are without the label. Don’t get me wrong, we are the main source of it all, but we have a massive team behind us that helps it all move,” singer Joel Shadbolt acknowledges before Ara Adams-Tamatea takes over.

“They got us in the papers, they got us in the magazine spreads, they put us on the radio, they negotiated competitive fees and they ensure the band and crew are always taken care of on the road. They did everything in their power to get the band out there, and this was when it was just a two-person team.”

“A label is meant to bring opportunity, a label’s meant to know Spotify, a label’s meant to know NZ On Air,” emphasises Tucker. “Brad knew he needed to find better management, and he said, “We’re going to finish this album, and can you help us?’ And we got an NZ On Air grant for the first album.

“I think the main thing is a good management team don’t interfere and just enhance what’s already there. So we’re good hustlers, logistical planners, good with finance, contracts and negotiation, but we don’t get involved with the creative side.”

Loop’s website refers to their role as record label, music publisher, promoter and booking agency.

“Some artists we have on the full-service model, artists like L.A.B., Summer Thieves, Fly My Pretties, and then some artists we just do live bookings and live shows, but we adapt our model for the right artist as no two acts are the same,” Tindale explains.

“Music always comes first, we only sign things we like. We are not out here trying to sign a pop star or something that we think will make us money.”

During the band’s summer tour of 2017, Tucker had to be a jack of all trades, switching hats between band manager, tour manager, production manager, stage crew, and loader.

“We were hired to choose the bands for a series of free shows with a big sponsor, and they didn’t want L.A.B. because they wanted surf rock bands. We totally hustled that slot, and that tour cemented them, that tour was critical to them playing free around the country.”

After the success of the song In The Air from album three, L.A.B. started to climb the musical ranks from opening band to festival headliner, completing their 2020 summer tour in front of an impressive crowd of 15,000 at New Plymouth’s Bowl Of Brooklands. Ten days later, the country was in lockdown and the future of live events were in the air.

Prior to Covid-19, the band announced shows at Auckland’s legendary Powerstation where tickets sold out within minutes.

“The show was originally scheduled as a smaller club-style show to happen later in the year. Once Covid hit NZ, we weren’t sure when the industry was going to pick up again,” says College Hill audio production manager James Thompson.

“When Mikee contacted us to say he was planning on shifting the concert to Spark Arena, and making it the first arena concert back, we got our planning books out and waited until the ‘all clear’ was given to host mass gatherings.”

The financial implications involved with hiring a much larger venue with the risk of cancellation are not to be taken lightly.

“Let’s say there were some sleepless nights, I could have lost everything,” Tucker suggests.

On June 8, 2020 PM Jacinda Ardern announced NZ was lifting all lockdown restrictions and L.A.B. celebrated the return of live music, playing to an electric crowd of 6,000 people. The Spark Arena show changed everything, the band had now made it to levels they could only dream of when they first wrote their goals on that greasy pizza box.

So what was it that made L.A.B. so big? How did they go from writing down goals to selling out arenas?

Here’s a summary of some key points for others on the same path to consider:

  • You need a music product that can appeal to a wider audience.
  • A strong work ethic, non-negotiable.
  • Have a band leader that has a vision and determination to follow through with everything at the highest level.
  • The band leader has to have the confidence to make any final decisions regarding the brand.
  • The band leader must make sure to include everyone and each must treat the others with respect.
  • Be transparent about everything business-related, especially money.
  • Share important information with the band.
  • Learn how to do your taxes. Learning taxes sucks, but so does going to jail.
  • Find good management, that is what will take you from one level to another.
  • Not all managers are created equal, do your research and understand who would best serve the band’s purpose.
  • A band manager needs to be an excellent organiser, hustler, and negotiator.
  • Someone in the band who can jump between musician and management can be the bridge of transparency between these two worlds.
  • Keeping everything transparent should stop any thoughts of mistrust amongst the group.
  • Make your crew feel a part of the family.
  • Only surround yourself with those who truly believe in your goals.

Last but definitely not least, L.A.B.’s success comes down to the love and support of their families and especially their partners. They are the ones holding it down at home so the band and crew can concentrate solely on their craft.

Charlie Rodgers has been working for L.A.B. since 2017, and is acting programme manager for the audio department at The Southern Institute of Technology.