Rob Potts, CEO
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Rob Potts has become like a signpost in the International country music touring industry. His efforts as a member of the CMA Board of Directors and his ties to Canadian country music have helped pave the touring road from North America to Australia that artists now take for granted. The list of artists that have taken advantage of this passionate Aussie’s 35 years of experience include names like Charlie Daniels, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Emerson Drive, Terri Clark, The Band Perry, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and many more.
As today’s information age continues to shrink the globe, International music markets are becoming more lucrative than ever before. Australia is especially high on the list for country music artists because there is no language barrier [well only slightly] making it easy for fans to relate to the song lyrics which are intrinsic to the format. NEKST caught up with Mr. Potts via email asking him to shine a light ‘down under’ and put another ‘shrimp on the barbie’ for us…
Robb Potts: We are predominantly an International Touring Company operating as promoters mainly for North American Country Artists, but the company is multi-faceted. We also co-own and operate 4 major Australian festivals—three are Country and Roots and one is Blues and Roots. A third part of the business involves Artist Management. We steer the careers of Jasmine Rae the current CMA Global Artist of the Year, Morgan Evans the current CMC New Oz Artist of the Year and Peter McWhirter. We also represent world renowned Australian Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel for Australia and New Zealand.
NEKST: How long have you been involved in Australia’s touring industry?
Rob Potts: I started working in the music business in 1978 as an agent and manager and moved into concert promoting full time in 1990. My full career spans about 35 years with touring really taking over for the last 13.
NEKST: Your hard work on behalf of the CMA is admirable, especially considering your investment in traveling time and expense. What is it about the organization that motivates you?
Rob Potts: I feel privileged to have served on the CMA Board for the last 12 years and especially honored to have been asked to Chair the International Committee. It’s simply amazing for a music genre to have a trade organization supporting its efforts and driving the music’s profile with properties like the CMA Awards, Music Fest and Christmas special all on prime time free-to-air TV in the USA and around the world. The incredibly skilled collection of music and entertainment industry professionals that have served on the board in my time are both inspiring and motivating to work with. I do travel many miles and days to get to and from these meetings, but I always return home motivated to do what I do, better.
NEKST: What is the role of the CMA from an international perspective?
Rob Potts: Over its 61 years, CMA has become synonymous with the professional profile of Country music internationally. As I travel around Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even in Europe I see how the organization underpins the credibility of the genre. It also provides a massive resource in these territories to help encourage the uptake of country music through foreign media and radio. Often it has been a catalyst for many of the U.S. artists and industry people who begin looking at business opportunities outside of the USA. The CMA International Awards are considered the pinnacle of achievement in the genre by both industry and artists in most foreign territories. It’s very important that the organization continues this practice and promotes the winners.
NEKST: What do U.S. acts have to do to set a tour in Australia?
Rob Potts: Call Rob Potts Entertainment Edge!! [of course] Ultimately, an act needs to develop a strategy for establishing a fan base in this market, in the same way they do for the U.S. and Canada. Ideally they begin by performing at one of the big festivals after they get their first USA hit. The festivals we run plus others we work with will often provide performance opportunities for baby artists if the act and its record company are willing to invest their time and effort into the marketplace. Another option is for developing or mid-level U.S. artists to come to Australia as part of a larger tour. For example, as Eli Young Band did with Tim McGraw; Dierks Bentley with Brooks and Dunn; and Kellie Pickler is doing with Toby Keith. These tours are often set up around our key festivals, so in addition to opening arena shows, they get to perform their full shows at these events. The other thing they need to do is set aside Australia interview time when they are releasing their albums in USA. They need to develop the same sort of media relationships in this market as they do at home.
NEKST: What kind of U.S. acts do best in your market?
Rob Potts: Most artists that find commercial success in the USA can work in Australia. It’s not 100%, but probably 90%. CD sales and video hits will help determine their potential. We have country radio in Australia, but it doesn’t operate with the same hit-driven commercial dynamic that drives success in the USA. Album sales and video hits are much more important here. The local version of GAC or CMT is CMC (Country Music Channel) and it has a major influence on a successful profile in Australia.
NEKST: What expectations should artists have with respect to venue sizes and revenues?
Rob Potts: The biggest tours here over the last 10 years have been Alan Jackson (the fastest selling country music tour in Australian music history in 2011), Dixie Chicks, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton and Keith Urban. They all toured at arena levels and took home multi-million dollar fees for 4 to 10 shows. Artists like Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Gary Allan, Joe Nichols, Dierks Bentley, Dwight Yoakam, Terri Clark and EmmyLou Harris have toured in venues with 1,500- 3,500 seats, and done between 4 to 12 shows per tour. Obviously the income on this level of touring is reflective of the venue capacities.
NEKST: What’s your favorite Australian food?
Rob Potts: The local Mud Crabs from up in tropical Australia – referred to locally as a “Muddie.”
NEKST: What do you find most different about doing business in the U.S.?
Rob Potts: Trying to get people to actually answer their phones instead of making you talk to voice mail!
NEKST: Do you prefer to be contacted by email or Skype?
Rob Potts: With the time difference between the USA and Australia, I don’t need people to be able to see me when calling at 6am or in the middle of the night. So email— Rob@entertainmentedge.com.au.
NEKST: What’s your favorite part of this job?
Rob Potts: The biggest buzz for me is still breaking new artists—whether it’s a local Aussie or a new act from the USA or Canada. There is nothing better than seeing a crowd embrace an artist that you have helped established. After that, it’s got to be the sign that says, “SOLD OUT.”
NEKST: Do you drive a sedan, convertible or a pickup truck?
Rob Potts: I’m a comfort guy when it comes to cars, so I love large sedans!
NEKST: Favorite hobbies?
Rob Potts: Riding my motor bikes (Japanese sports bikes) fast on winding roads, golf and sailing boats.
NEKST: How did you get into this business?
Rob Potts: Funny story really. I used to own a small trucking company in Tasmania in the early ‘70s. A good mate used to drive trucks for a sound and lighting company down there. He called me up one Thursday and asked if I could do him a favor and drive his truck since he’d put his back out. That night was the first of four shows in Tassie for Peter Allen. On the second night I got to stand on the side of stage and watch his incredible live show. From that moment on I was hooked.