Words by Leah Phillips
Photography by Renee Stamatis
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the multi-faceted music company The Operatives. In this time they’ve toured some of the biggest names in the global beats community as well as strongly supporting the growing Australian scene. It’s an exciting time of growth for The Operatives as next year will see the launch of a new record label division to the brand. I sat down and chewed the fat with the collective’s head honcho Jerry Poon about the mysterious and addictive nature of event curation, why it’s important to be progressive and what The Operatives’ future holds.
Perched on the balcony of The Mercat Cross Hotel, DJ, producer, promoter, tour agent and Operatives boss man Jerry Poon reminisces about earlier gigs in The Operatives career. Some of the most memorable were held in this very venue, while others have been on an arguably grander scale; selling out a Flying Lotus show at The Sydney Opera House for example.
Based here in Melbourne, The Operatives are a strong and dynamic group of forward thinking artists, producers, DJs, singers, songwriters, radio hosts, audio engineers, photographers, videographers and writers who strive to raise the profile of new, exciting and revolutionary producers on a local and international front. The Operatives tour international names like Goldie, Concord Dawn, Marcus Intalex, Doc Scott, Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus and Katchafire, while their home contingent includes Silent Jay, Edd Fisher, Amin Payne and Nam to name a few.
While curating regular events, including Espionage, The Operatives also tackle artist management. Although most of the local talent manage themselves and have their own collectives on the side, they are welcome to the resources and connections on hand.
The strong sense of a musical community the group emanates today was cemented in the collective’s formative stages as Poon’s objective was to create a structure that helped break the mould of one hit wonders and build a long-standing culture of music. In other words, “the music should become a part of everyday life”.
A key to their success in remaining individual and progressive in the rapidly advancing and genre diverse scene is the collective’s ability to curate events that nurture the experience people have while they are taking part, adding elements that will trigger memories for the individual later on. Another way they like to keep things fresh in live shows is by keeping feelers out for new artists consistently. They encourage artists to approach them, discuss what they’re doing and what they want to do next.
The determining factors in booking successful shows come down to the right people, projects and locations. “It’s just one of those things that (is unpredictable). But walking away from an event knowing you’ve done everything that you possibly can do to make it as good as it can be is your job. It’s always a gamble. You can never tell how well a show is going to go. Even if in your mind you think what you’ve curated will kill it, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Booking shows is like playing poker; there’s a lot of strategy involved but it’s luck that changes everything.”
When they were starting out in 2004, Poon admits the beats scene was not as crowded as it is today. “The Internet played less of a role, there were less beat makers and some of today’s big players were just starting out.”
So obviously today’s environment makes the business easier in some respects, especially when it comes to dealing with overseas tours.
“You no longer have to send faxes!”
Most of The Operatives content is presented on their main website. With artists, you can immediately access all their data, which can often be quite hard to find if they’re in an underground scene.
“Their tech specs, press kit and other details are instantly accessible which in reality should be really simple things because everyone is going to ask you for that so why not have it all in one resource.”
It’s been a decade of musical goodness for The Operatives but there’s no slowing down in sight. Next year will see the group expand to include a record label, which already has a few songs from their local signings ready and waiting to be released into the world. There are also plans to push The Operatives brand into overseas markets such as Asia and America.
For more info on The Operatives, head to www.theoperatives.com.au