In a particularly wild week for Australia’s music industry, one which began with a giant falling, a major music company under scrutiny, and a sense of new dawn, a final terrible twist arrived that no one saw coming.
Late Saturday, news broke of the passing of Justin Cosby, who, at age 50, was much too young and yet had already given so much energy to those who knew him.
Cosby died Friday (June 25), though details of his passing were not announced.
If the industry gave a collective exhale through the week, the weekend delivered a sucker punch.
This patient, sensitive music man was the antithesis of those stories of a troubled major label culture that had soaked up so much of the news week.
Standing well over 6 ft., Cosby was easy to spot at a gig. A chat with JC was always illuminating. Yes, good music was in the man’s veins, but a conversation could go deep into life, love and our place in the world.
When it was time to hit the bar, go catch another band, or find your seat, somehow your mind felt a little clearer for that talk; refreshed, energised.
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Cosby wasn’t a show-off, though he had every right to behave like one. Back in 2000, he and his good friend Ashley Sellers co-founded Inertia Music in a living room.
Speaking to this reporter on the company’s 10th anniversary, Sellers explained: “We had a lot of opportunities to work with music that would probably counter our music policy, our culture and maybe made a bunch of money and possibly made our lives a little bit easier in growth terms. We just kept to what I guess I set out to do in the beginning, and that’s to keep it to music.”
Cosby, the company’s Director of A&R, he recounted at the time, was the guy responsible for “signing amazing records”. He did just that.
Fast forward two decades, to 2017, when the independent music sales, distribution and label services business was acquired by Belgium-based PIAS Group, its new owners declared Inertia as “Australia’s leading independent music company, working with some of Australia’s most exciting artists,” including Sia, Ben Lee, Ali Barter and Neil and Liam Finn as well internationals Björk, Odesza, M83, Ásgeir and more.
Some years earlier, in 2013, when a U.K. delegation visited Sydney and Melbourne for a so-called “trade mission,” Cosby was invited to speak and share his considerable wisdom on the domestic music market, and the music that cuts through. Cosby was sick with flu, but soldiered on despite being urged to stay home in bed.
If there was a chance to educate, and meet with some like-minded music soulmates from across the world, JC wasn’t going to miss the chance.
Thanks to its lack of barriers to entry, the music industry everywhere is comprised of all types, from the accountants and anoraks right through to the silverbacks. Cosby was none of these. He was the music community’s Renaissance Man, a guy with classy taste, who gave time and wisdom, and left us much too soon.