When Bob Aird steps down from the AMPAL board next month, he’ll do so as a member of a music publishing trinity, if you like.

Aird was recently presented with the AMPAL Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music Publishing, an honour bestowed just twice before by the music publishers’ association board, in 2016 to founding AMPAL member Alberts, now part of BMG, and last year to former APRA AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle.

The veteran executive “has always been a strong, vocal, supporter of the incredible music coming out of Australia and New Zealand, and our industry owes him a debt of gratitude,” notes Matthew Capper, Managing Director of Warner Chappell Music Australia and Chair of AMPAL. “His acumen, and wit, will be sorely missed.”

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Aird joined the AMPAL board of directors in 1986, and recently retired as Managing Director of Universal Music Publishing Australia, having announced his departure in April 2016 after a distringuished career at the publishing giant.

He led the domestic company of Universal Publishing since 2000 when UMPG acquired Rondor Music from Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.

Prior to that, he held management positions at PolyGram Records and guided Rondor Music Publishing Australia.

Over the course of a distinguished 40-year career, Aird signed and nurtured the careers of many prominent songwriters and artists from Don Walker (Cold Chisel) to Joe Camilleri (Black Sorrows), Paul Kelly, Potbelleez, Wolfmother, Lee Kernaghan and he signed Jet to their first Australian publishing deal.

Australian music legend Paul Kelly looking sharp
Paul Kelly

Aird also negotiated the deal for Qantas to use “I Still Call Australia Home” for its global advertising campaign.

He still calls Australian music home.

TIO caught up with Aird ahead of November’s AMPAL general board meeting, when he will step down from the trade body’s board.

Bob, what are some of the proudest achievements in your career? Is there a single moment that jumps out?

Over so many years it’s impossible to select one achievemen. Every time you partner with, and share success with, an artist or songwriter it always feels great. And I had plenty of them.

I guess the one thing which stands out is being appointed the Managing Director of Universal Music Publishing when Rondor Music was sold to UMP in 2000.

To be selected to head up the Australian/NZ operation of the world’s leading music publishing company was quite a blast. I was in the big time.

And to be appointed again when UMP acquired BMG Music Publishing in 2008 was very satisfying.

Looking back, how is the state of the industry now compared to when you first started?

When I first started I was a rep for Polygram in Melbourne. “Would you like that album in mono or stereo?”

The music industry was flying until about 2001 when the decline started. Much blame was directed at the GFC but I reckon the decline was predominately the result of certain sections of the global recording industry trying to force-feed consumers with CDs when the new generation of consumers had indicated that they preferred to acquire music via downloads.

Had the recording industry accepted the download practice and joined the revolution with their own download sites or developed ‘industry’ legal ones, unlicensed sites such as Grokster, Kazaa and Napster would not have gained any traction. Once they did the industry took a hit, unlicensed downloads were selling and there were warehouses full of CDs which no one wanted.

Then started a decade of legal battles which the industry finally won. Of course unlicensed sites had to be shut down and the record and publishing industry joined forces to protect their rights in court and at government level.

Music publishers did not want to be seen as obstructing progress and accordingly APRA/AMCOS was one of the first PROs to license Apple (for their iPod).

Downloads morphed to streaming and the business is now back to full tilt. The numbers have returned to pre-2000 figures.

The obvious difference between now and then is that consumers no longer own their music, they just listen. Music has changed as well, some music now is simply merchandising.

You’ll still be attending the APRA Awards, surely? What are you plans in retirement? Are you heading back to Queensland?

I have been the chairman of the APRA Awards Committee for years. Yes, I will be attending the APRA Awards. Always a great night. See you there.

I have always been involved in yachting and own a 36-foot cruiser berthed in Pittwater, and race and cruise on friends boats. I am currently the Cruise Captain of the Sail Cruising Division of the Royal Motor Yacht Club in Newport. This involves planning the annual cruising program around Sydney/Pittwater and some coastal cruises. It’s pretty busy.

I’ve no plans to go to Queensland, although I love it up there. As Graeme Connors said, ”I get a little further north each year”.