Campbell Smith is a music promoter and talent manager whose artists include Brooke Fraser and The Naked and Famous and whose gigs include Big Day Out. He spends half his year in Los Angeles.
1. What's your day like on Big Day Out day? And what do you do the day after?
It's 24 hours long, I probably walk about 30kms and I'm always on edge. There's 50,000 people there and anything could happen. I'm on site by 4.30am. It's calm around dawn as we think we have everything under control. It's sheer panic at about 10am when we realise we haven't. It's a pretty regimented day for me with hourly stakeholder meetings and a lot of oversight. We bump out most production right after the show and are out of there at 4am then back out at 9am, continuing the bump out. But I mostly drive around on a golf cart, pointing.
2. What is the best gig you've been to in your long musical career?
I can't do one. I'll give you a complicated three way tie: Joe Strummer And The Mescaleros, closing the green stage at Big Day Out in 2000, playing a set full of Clash songs; Iggy Pop destroying a venue in Dublin in 1998 like a frothing madman; and then any one of the 14 or so gigs I've seen by Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band over my life. So that's 16 shows really. But who's counting.
3. You studied to be a copyright lawyer and spent a lot of your time at the head of RIANZ fighting illegal downloads. Has copyright as a concept changed in the past decade?
Conceptually, no. A creator still has (and should always have) a right, in prescribed circumstances for a period to time, to control use of his/her authorship. But in reality, the speed of internet evolution, the ease of infringement and the problem of enforcement, are driving big changes that could not have been anticipated even 10 years ago.
4. Where will new restrictions on sharing/stealing come from, do you think?
The market will figure it out. And politicians will pass supposedly relevant laws about 10 years later, that are about as useless as they are late. Lobbying politicians on copyright law was the most fruitless endeavor I've ever undertaken in my career. Goldfish are smarter.
5. You once described artist management as international contract negotiation mixed in with high-level babysitting. What's your best babysitting war story?
I think I said "glorified babysitting". It's certainly not high-level. I'd never disclose any stories, it wouldn't be dignified and they'd have more on me. But if I did, they'd all involve Scribe. One of the cleverest artists I've ever managed, but he basically abdicated all adult responsibility from the moment we started working with him. He knew he had a safety net and that we'd fix s***. Like I said - clever.
6. What music did you grow up listening to?
Anything and everything. I grew up in Hamilton and there was f*** all else to do. It started when I was about 12 with the Ramones and Blondie (courtesy of Radio with Pictures). Then Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. The Clash and the Jam. Sixth form was Motown and the Rolling Stones. Seventh form was all about the Smiths and Rem. And the constants through everything were Springsteen and the Beatles. And my mother's country records, especially George Jones and Merle Haggard.
7. Who, in your opinion, is the most-overlooked musician New Zealand has produced?
SJD. He's critically revered, but his audience should be much bigger. Not so much overlooked as widely undiscovered.
8. What is the best lyric ever written?
"Some sweat hog mama with a face like a gent/said my get up and go musta got up and went".
(Aerosmith, Sweet Emotion).
9. What's the biggest mistake of your career?
Not taking piano lessons seriously when I was a kid. In hindsight that's probably a regret, not so much a mistake. I make mistakes regularly (given the amount of time I spent wide awake at 3am pondering what I've done or not done), but I dont think I've made really big mistakes. The stupidest thing I ever did was when I was about 20, the consequences of which mean I have to sit for hours in secondary inspection at customs whenever I land in the US.
10. What did your parents teach you about work? And money?
Work hard. Look after money. But not so much by word, more by deed. And don't leave your wallet lying around if you have kids who will clean you out without a second thought. My father worked incredibly long hours when I was a kid. I always thought he should not work so much. Now I probably work longer hours than he did. I learned that lesson for better or worse.
11. Has music made you rich?
It's given me a nice life, certainly. I'm pretty comfortable. Every show's a risk though but over time you learn to ride that. You can lose a lot of money. Last one that did? 2012's Big Day Out. We lost a lot of money then. Soundgarden were the headliners but we didn't have enough big acts under them. What do I spend it on? No, not boats. I'm a bit scared of boats to be honest.
12. Do you believe the Lorde hype?
I witnessed the Lorde record being made over the last year. It was recorded in the studio in my office, right through the wall from my desk. I saw it and heard it go down, so I'm insulated from any hype or its effect by the reality. Ella is a sassy, savvy, determined, gloriously talented musician, an interesting human, and she and Joel have made a fantastic record. So I'm a believer. And her success is good for all of us. It gives you hope. But I'm sure the great New Zealand knocking machine is about 15 minutes away from taking aim.