Client Spotlight: Harvey Saward, Remote Control Records


2 August 2017
Posted by Bree Coker

Tell us a bit about Remote Control Records

Remote Control was set up in early 2001 by Steve Cross and myself. We started working from Steve’s house in Brunswick and have steadily moved west. First to North Melbourne and a few years ago to Footscray.

We have a partnership with the Beggars Group in the UK and started out pretty much just working their roster of labels. This gave us some early successes with the likes of the Basement Jaxx, M.I.A. and the White Stripes. It seemed a lot easier back then to transition a band from a Triple j band to commercial radio and we had some high charting and big selling releases in our first few years that helped us to establish a solid business and gain a strong reputation in the Australian independent sector. This enabled us to start to work with local artists and labels, employ more staff and feel confident we had a sound business model that could work even though the recorded music side seemed to be going through a period of decline as it transitioned, slowly, from physical to downloads and then to streaming.

What is your favourite thing about what you do?

Getting to work with music I love (most of the time). I feel very fortunate to have lucked upon a career in music. I grew up in a fairly remote part of Tasmania where the only way to get involved in music was to get out there and make it yourself. From there I moved to Melbourne with a band in 1986 where we found the Melbourne music scene a tough old nut to crack. But along the way I learnt a lot and picked up part time work at a record store in Kew (Exposure). And that led to a job at the then start-up distributor Shock. Gotta thank Andrew, Frank and David from Shock for giving me a job and also backing me to start licensing in some overseas records. I was pretty much allowed to sign what I wanted, which was usually what I liked, and luckily some of it sold enough records (and thenCDs) to keep everyone happy. To answer the original question to this day I’ve always been able to work with stacks of music I Iove and that’s the favourite thing about what I do.

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business?

I don’t have any formal training in running a business. I didn’t read the book “a dummy’s guide to running a business” or do a course at University. So the actual business of running a business can be at times a challenge. I’ve had to rely a lot on instinct and maybe being pretty good at maths at school has helped! I’ve had a great business partner in Steve Cross who is great at a lot of the things I’m pretty crap at. So together we make a good team. We’ve employed some fantastic people over the life of Remote Control who’ve contributed an enormous amount to our success. We are also very fortunate to have Beggars as a partner. They give us great advice on the business side as well bringing through a consistent flow of quality artists.

What advice do you have for someone thinking of starting a business in the music industry?

Well, having kinda stumbled into it myself I think the best advice is to trust your instincts and just be persistent until doors open for you. I once used the words “gut instinct” to try and justify licensing a certain artist in my old job. Only to be told “gut instinct is not going to sell any records what are the sales points”? That was probably the worst advice I ever received and to me was totally at odds with what independent labels should be about. So go with what feels right, be patient, and things will work out.  And be really honest in what you say and what you do. The music industry has its fair share of bullshit artists but I’d prefer to back the quiet achievers myself.

Which artist is your ‘one to watch’ for 2017?

International one to watch for me is Ibeyi. They’ll shortly be releasing their second album and it’s stunning. I was fortunate enough to hear a play back of the album at the XL studio in London and it’s an amazing blend of their French/Cuban heritage fed through a contemporary filter. They are lazily tagged as world music but this is joyful and uplifting and bound to bring a smile to many faces.

On the local front we are about to bring through some new signings on our Dot Dash label and I think our latest signing Total Giovanni will make a big impact over the next six months. They are already killing it live so it’s an exciting time to be releasing new music from them.