Veteran artist manager and entertainment entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley used the platform of Australia's Big Sound conference to clear the air on the circumstances which led to his incarceration.
During his open and candid keynote speech last Friday (Sept. 11), Wheatley addressed the "elephant in the room," namely the misdemeanour which led to his 15-month jail term in 2007 on tax fraud charges.
"When a deal sounds too good to be true, it is," he told delegates last Friday. "I took advice from a lawyer on how to avoid tax. It was bad advice. That advice cost me a 15-month jail term, and five months more home detention." Wheatley continued, "Ignorance is no excuse. Understand what you are signing. I had never read a tax refund. How stupid. I will now."
The ARIA Hall of Fame inductee traced the extreme highs and lows of a 40-year-plus career which began on stage as a musician with revered Brisbane pop-rock band Masters Apprentices, and journeyed through an illustrious artist management career managing the likes of John Farnham and Little River Band. His wards have sold more than 20 million album sales, he said, but the good times were often balanced with the bad. Wheatley admitted the "madness of the '80s" caught up with him, and he got his fingers burned on the Stripe subscription-based digital radio service.
Wheatley urged delegates to embrace technology, "crazy" creative ideas and innovation, and urged promoters to keep a lid on ticket prices. "It's miserable at the bottom end, but you must keep at it. Put in the yards and you will get your returns," he said.
Wheatley also admitted Farnham's awaited comeback album for Sony Music wouldn't be ready for Christmas. "We've got a lot of good songs, but we haven't started it. John is no good at multi-tasking," he said of the veteran singer, who is currently on a nation-wide tour. "[Sony Music Australia chairman/CEO] Denis Handlin is driving me nuts," he quipped.
Earlier in the Sept. 9-11 program in Brisbane, Wheatley had taken part in the one of the most colourful sessions of the three-day event, a discussion entitled "Hypothetically speaking". Moderator John Watson, CEO of John Watson Management and Eleven: A Music Company, walked his panelists through a mock business transaction on day two which would carve out a path of glory for Wally Lewis and the News, a make-believe rock band comprising famous local rugby league stars from the past.
Later that day, the government-funded Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap) launched an innovative new free initiative aimed at helping Australian artists secure airplay across the country. The new AirIT service (www.amrap.org/airit) enables record labels to submit new Australian music to an online library for access exclusively by community radio. "This new service is an important resource for Australia's community radio sector and for local artists seeking airplay," explained senator Stephen Conroy, minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.
Songwriter and producer Van Dyke Parks, artist manager and label great Danny Goldberg and AIM CEO Alison Wenham were among the heavyweight international speakers on the Big Sound day program this year, drilling into panel discussions ranging from the emerging Asian music market, the festivals circuit and nailing radio airplay in the U.S. More than 460 participants took-part in the sold-out event, organizers say.
The vibrant night program featured more than 60 bands, including local rockers I Heart Hiroshima, the Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider and Sydney's Philadelphia Grand Jury.
Big Sound is an initiative of not-for-profit industry body Q Music, and was supported by the Queensland government's export agency Trade Queensland.