Each month, we’ll put The Industry Observer spotlight on an artist manager who is doing incredible things for their roster and the music market in general.
David Morgan, co-owner of Lemon Tree Music is our March manager of the month, and for very good reason.
Morgan began his artist management journey managing his own band Bonjah with fellow bandmate – and now Lemon Tree partner – Regan Lethbridge. After almost a decade performing front and centre as alt-rockers Bonjah, the New Zealand-born Melburnians stepped side stage and co-founded management firm Lemon Tree Music in early 2013.
The firm now manages Pierce Brothers, Bonjah, Anna O, Bad French, Jack Stirling and as of mid-2016, Tash Sultana.
Last May, Sultana uploaded a bedroom-recording of her performing ‘Jungle’, which would later appear on her debut EP, Notion. The video has since accrued over 1.75 million views and this year, the track was publicly voted into third place in the triple j Hottest 100.
Morgan tells us about how he came to sign Sultana, how Lemon Tree came to tap UNIFIED to launch Sultana in the US, and the biggest career blunder he’s ever made.
What made you pursue a career in artist management?
Being in a self-managed band (Bonjah) I always had a passion for the business side of things and trying to figure out how the industry worked. There was a lot of trial and error, and we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing with our band at the start. Going through those paces of making mistakes gave me a drive to pass on some knowledge to others so they didn’t make the same mistakes we did.
How did you come to manage Tash Sultana?
We were actually introduced to Tash by our first act on our roster, Pierce Brothers. They met Tash busking and had her on as support for some shows. We saw some amazing and very raw talent in Tash and Regan (Lethbridge) started booking her shows at 123 Agency. After about 12 months things started to heat up a bit and Tash asked us if we’d help her with the management side of things under Lemon Tree Music – of course we jumped at it.
How did the music industry first receive Tash when conversations with media and labels began?
We never really tried to start conversations early on or chase any media coverage. We let her live show do the talking and after everything started selling out and the general public was losing their shit, the industry started to naturally take notice and the reaction was always the same – WOW!
Many different people in the music industry from all over the world have been very supportive of Tash and her journey.
You launched your management firm Lemon Tree Music with Regan Lethbridge three years ago, what do you know now that you wish you knew back then?
Absolutely everything I’ve learned happened in the last 3-4 years! I’ve actually just been introduced to a book written by Jeff and Julie Crabtree called “Living With A Creative Mind”. I can’t say enough about this book and I wish I had it from the start of the journey.
You’ve partnered with UNIFIED to launch Tash’s career in the US, what’s in the pipeline following that deal?
We had set up a great booking team at Paradigm Agency before we started working with Jaddan (Comerford). There were a few label deals on the table and Regan literally called for a 10 min chat for some advice that turned into a 90 min power session and the connection grew from there.
Jaddan’s been great with his on-ground knowledge to really activate the amazing team at Mom + Pop, Paradigm Agency and UTA in Canada. He’s an absolute legend, our values and goals are really aligned and we have a lot of trust in each other.
There’s so much going on over there (in the US) it’s hard to know where to start – sold out shows, amazing response from media and radio, a Tiny Desk performance, millions of streams, climbing the charts, super supportive fans, a few office performances, deals deals deals!, TV interest, more tours, festivals, buffalo wings, baseball caps and fucking cold winters! It’s never a dull day that’s for sure.
Given Tash’s success this early on in the piece, what new career goals have you since set for yourself?
We’re always looking to grow and have had big ambitions right from the start. It’s a really exciting time to be working in the music industry, there’s a lot of opportunity in the current climate and we’ll be announcing a bunch of great new things in the not too distant future.
What’s the biggest career blunder you’ve ever made?
Actually, one time I did start a flyer drop job. I was that guy putting promo shit in people’s letterboxes for a whole week. That was the worst career move I’ve ever made.
If you could go back, what advice would you give your teenage self?
Stop smoking so much weed! You need your memory to be creative. And be nice to your mother.