7 Aug 2013

Australia’s Multi-Millionaire Roadie

Roger Davies

This is a story about a back room operator who is one of the most successful and respected guys in the global music industry. Yet most people don’t know who he is.

Right now his act is the biggest selling female performer in terms of live concerts in Australia, and that of course is Alecia Moore, aka Pink.

Roger Davies is her manager and mentor. He only manages artists that listen to him, and when they do their career takes off like a space shuttle. Here’s a roll call: Tina Turner, Cher, Oliva Newtown John, Janet Jackson. The one that didn’t listen was Sade, but she sold 55 million albums so it didn’t end too badly. Joe Cocker had a massive run while Roger guided him.

You can see Roger at Pink gigs, quietly observing proceedings and ruling gently over what is an extraordinary money machine. Take for example the remarkable pop-up store in Melbourne.

It was so wildly successful in July that it is back. The store will return to warehouse space Thousand £ Bend (361 Little Lonsdale St) and will feature a range of limited edition merchandise designed specifically for the pop-up store that will not be available anywhere else in the world, including her shows at Rod Laver.

In addition to the merchandise range, the store also features interactive exhibits for photo opportunities, including props and costumes from her previous tours and her iconic heart-shaped bed. This second stint will include new items from her show not featured in July’s opening, including a giant cannon and 27 foot tall inflatable clowns.

This is so awesomely successful that to manage demand for the store, an innovative booking system has been implemented which enables fans to book in a specific time at which they will be guaranteed entry.

CX knew Roger when he was a humble roadie for a band called Company Caine around Sydney. Cocaine, get it? (Reference here)

Roger was incongruous – Go Set magazine noted that for a ‘Head’ or prog rock hippy band, its roadie looked like a star in his leather jacket. He drove the Transit van and hauled the column PA, setting up all the backline and doing everything. In those days the Roadie really was all things – booking hotels, and collecting the fee. We saw him carefully count out the $80 performance fee at The Arts Factory, all in $1 and $2 notes, back in 1971.

He didn’t wait too long to hit his stride – shortly after he emerged as manager of Sherbet, and wrote the book on how to market and tour a pop band through the 1970’s. His innovations included their own label, Razzle Records and he pioneered production  values with the best PA, lights and even pyro. Everyone followed Sherbet.

Roger is also a nice human, very rare in the cutthroat world of music management. CX was at a Pink show last time around with the monitor dude in catering. Roger walks in and says hello. The monitor dude says ‘Hey Roger, here is the sponsorship contract from (brand S) wireless’.

Roger glances through it, and says: “This looks fair. What do you think?” before signing it.

No one works like that. More should. A complete genius and a gentleman. CX was privileged to interview Roger Davies in 1995 during the Janet Jackson tour of Australia. It seems to be one of very few interviews, if any, and it is a PDF here. Roger-Davies 2


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