NZ Music Month Summit 2019: Cushla Aston

NZ Music Month Summit 2019: Cushla Aston

“Discover Live” is the motto of this year’s Music Month Summit which takes place at Auckland’s Herald Theatre on Saturday, May 25, covering a variety of related subjects in panel discussions with seasoned local industry professionals. Cushla Aston will be hosting one panel, on marketing and promoting live shows. We caught up with the founder and head of Aston Rd, an artist management company looking after the likes of Louis Baker and Julia Deans.

Can you tell us a little about the first gig you ever organised? How did it go?

Fundraising to get myself to the US as an exchange student at16 years old – 3 bands, 3 kegs, 300 tickets at $10. Hand-designed the tickets, photocopied and cut by hand, sold at school and at the fried chicken takeaways I worked at on the weekends, and cash at the door (no eftpos those days). Sold it out but lost the bond for the hall. Paid the bands (not much those days, $50 or something stupidly low), the security guys, and made a stash of cash. Was a bit of a legend for parties after that. and so it began…

How has promoting a gig in NZ changed over the last 10 years?

Digital marketing is the big change. You can sell a show out with a dedicated fan base with a single FB event and absolutely no marketing spend at all. The other side of the coin is that there is less print or editorial available and you’re competing against major internationals and local acts – there is a lot of competition.

What’s your own biggest challenge promoting shows these days?

Always financials. How much do you spend? Making enough noise and getting through to the fans.

What question can’t you wait to ask the panel you’ll be moderating?

We often learn best from our mistakes, what’s been the best thing you’ve learnt?

Is there a common mistake you observe when you look at people organising events these days?

Nothing that I observe a lot, but the imagery matters. When I see a poster that I can’t read, they’ve made it difficult for the potential customer. Design vs design to sell a product are two different things. There has to be a balance.

How do you pick support acts? Young bands often wonder how they can get a foot in the door…

We want someone that will complement the artist but not compete with the artist. Diversity is always good too. The job of a good support is to warm up the audience for the main act while playing the best show they can too. Playing support gives you the opportunity to convert an audience and make new fans.

Would you mind telling us a few strategies to keep calm and dodge the general anxiety that can come with being a promoter?

I’m not a promoter but I promote my artists’ shows. I always have done. The anxiety of a show is breaking even, once you break even the pressure comes of,f but now it’s turning the rest of those tickets into profit. If you have a strategy and do everything you can you should be okay. I play it safe, maybe too safe, but I’m conscious of not leaving artists in debt.

If you could pick one Music Month Summit speaker (who you don’t know well yet) to sneak off with for a non-small talk chat over a cup of coffee, who would it be?

Hmm, I pretty much know everyone! I don’t know Carol Harding so well ,so I’d catch up with her. I wrote and teach the Artist Development paper for the Bachelor of Commercial Music at Massey University and there are female industry students coming through who are expressing interest in stage production, FOH [front of house] etc and I’d love to create more opportunities for young women to move in to this side of the business. I’d be talking to Carol about her pathway and how we can help develop these opportunities.

Who would you say this Music Month Summit is for – who would benefit from listening to the panels on offer?

There is no one in the music business who won’t benefit. There is always something to learn from others’ perspective, experience and knowledge. As I say in all of my one on one coaching sessions or mentoring sessions, if you take one thing away from the hour or the day it was worth your time.

The Music Month Summit will be broadcast via Facebook Live through the MMF NZ Facebook page, so those unable to attend in person can also benefit from the knowledge shared on the day.