Gary Seeger talks indie labels and scouting the next big thing
From humble beginnings working in a record store, Gary Seeger has climbed a long way to become Creative Director of Peer Music Australia, part of the biggest independent publishing company in the world.
Alongside his role at Peer, Seeger also runs his own company, SeegerMusic; a supervision company specialising in film and television productions. Despite operating in different creative spheres, Seeger says that there is some overlap between these two roles.
“On the record side, the big thing for artists and writers is that they want to get their music into film and TV, and it’s stronger than ever.
“Because of the lack of mechanical sales, and streaming and downloading, it’s quite profitable if you get that song on a branding campaign. It can set you up well.”
While viewed as an alternative means for Australian artists to get their music to US shores, Seeger says it “can be a little bit of a lottery as well”.
“We always hear the same story. For everyone that gets there, there are thousands that try, whether it’s a brief from a TV series or film, or pitching for an ad.
“There are a thousand songs going to the one brief and, of course, there is only one winner.”
On the Peer side of his work life, Seeger’s work in A&R has seen a lot of changes when it comes to looking for and signing new acts.
“It’s changed as far as what we have with the media now. Obviously there are a lot of people that see how many hits you have on YouTube.
“Personally, being a lover of music and being in this industry for a while, it’s about the full package. One thing I would be very much more in tune with is seeing a band live.
“Today, A&R directors have the luxury of sending out scouts. I prefer to go out there myself.”
However live performances alone aren’t going to gain the attention of Seeger, with artists also needing to consider what to put in their demo.
When signing Byron Bay rock duo Elegant Shiva, it was the band’s demo that drew Seeger in.
“They sent me a couple of tracks and the first two demos were really interesting.
“They delivered another three and I had eight songs, eight demos, all of them were fantastic. I couldn’t fault them and that’s just gold for me. I signed them on the fact they were absolutely brilliant songs as demos.”
Seeger says artists demos should “pretty much be polished up”, and artists should be looking for opportunities beyond a recording contract.
“I am talking about not just sending your demos around in the hope of a recording contract or a publishing deal, but also sending demos for briefs, to ad agencies and film and that. It’s really got to have a lot of quality to it.”
Seeger also thinks there is still space for independent music to thrive in an industry dominated by major record labels and a changed media environment – noting stronger interest from a younger demographic.
“I think there are more avenues and opportunities for a younger demographic to listen to music these days. You can’t escape it.
“It’s when you go shopping; walking into any form of retail or even a lift, there is music.
“There are companies that actually make compilations to filter down the pipeline and send to all these media outlets.
“We’re not talking 60s/70s/80s classic – we’re talking about really cool, independent stuff that’s been going on for some time now through Europe, and I’m hearing it more in Australia.”
Seeger believes that Aussie indie labels will stand strong in the years to come.
“Independents have always been strong; it’s dipped and always come back.
“In the days when I was working at Polygram (now Universal), they were building their repertoire and slowly buying out these independents.
“Independents got to a certain size, a major would come in and buy them out and there’d be some kind of creative control.
“There’s always been an independent label out there finding fresh, young acts – I think there always will be.”