“I’ve come a long fucking way, so I’m going to say some words.” Only Michael Gudinski, or perhaps his old running mate Michael Chugg, could open a speech to the U.K. music industry with these words and get away with it.

Gudinski did just that, at a slap-up black-tie function in London back in 2002. The Mushroom Group chairman happened to be on hand at the Music Managers Forum’s annual gala, to introduce his good mate and Kylie Minogue’s then manager Terry Blamey, who was collecting the Manager of the Year Award.

It was pure Gudinski. No mucking about, entertaining, uncut, unscripted, unreal. The presence of this gregarious Aussie probably terrified a few toffs, but no one in the room would forget him.

Gudinski was in London again in 2012 when Blamey received the prestigious Peter Grant Award for excellence in his field.

That was part of Gudinski’s magic. The ability to be everywhere at the same time, make his presence felt, get some business done, and out.

michael chugg michael gudinski
Michael Chugg and Michael Gudinski

Magic is, after all, a trick. MG understood better than anyone in the world of music that doing business is about relationships, and to build those you need to connect.

MG was, at his heart, an internationalist. With that appetite for travel and a freakish stamina, he would be everywhere at once, a whirlwind of storytelling, enthusiasm, always representing Australia, and its artists.

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Like magic, really.

Before the Internet and smartphones connected us in realtime, Gudinski made the world smaller for Australia and its music industry. He created an outpost in the U.K. for his Mushroom brand, an unheard of proposition for an indie from Down Under in the 1990s, signing Muse, Ash and Garbage.

Always pushing Australia music, building the pipeline, getting business done.

Lars Brande and Michael Gudinski at Bigsound 2010
Lars Brande and Michael Gudinski at Bigsound 2010

I sat with Gudinski for several lengthy, and candid, interviews in late 2009 and early 2010, for a special which appeared in Billboard Magazine. The issue was published to coincide with Michael’s keynote address at Midem 2010. MG spoke in Cannes on 26th January, Australia Day. When asked why he chose to stay in Melbourne, rather than chase the bright lights and big bucks of London, New York or Los Angeles, he told me: “I would rather be a big fish in a small sea. And I made a conscious decision to bring up my kids in a town where I was born. With the benefit of hindsight, he added, “if I had gone to live in England or America for a while, it might have made a huge difference to a couple of the Mushroom artists like Split Enz, who should have been a huge international success and almost were. I don’t regret the decision I made, but it frustrated me not to have the success in the U.S. that I’ve had elsewhere.”

We’re fortunate he loved Australia, and Melbourne, so. 

There’s nothing like a sudden, unexpected passing of a giant to punch you in the gut.

Gudinski’s death on Tuesday (2nd March) leaves a planet-sized crater in the music industry, no doubt about it.

In the weeks ahead, Gudinski will be honoured with a state funeral. And there will be calls for a statue in Melbourne and a “Gudinski Lane,” and questions will be asked about the future of the great company he built, Mushroom Group. All in good time.

Michael Gudinski should be remembered for rolling up his sleeves and doing all the hard work. MG crashed through the borders and made it easier for the rest of us.

Follow his lead, and keep going.