Sep 13, 2012

Jaddan Comerford of Staple/UNFD

Melbourne-based independent music entrepreneur Jaddan Comerford has developed, grown and morphed his indie hardcore and punk label Boomtown Records into a diversified, nationwide company called Staple/UNFD, which handles all facets of the music biz, including a label, music publishing, agency bookings, promotions, artist management and events.

Tonight, for the first time, Staple Group company Destroy All Lines is changing their hardcore night, Snitch, to fit in alongside BIGSOUND in Brisbane. Jaddan checks in with us in between meetings to talk about his ever-expanding and ever-changing ventures.
Interview by Angela Allan.

You founded Boomtown Records when you were 18 years old, what was the industry like towards you?
I definitely didn't know what I was doing, but I didn’t care. It was more of a hobby, more than anything, so I kind of did what I did. A few key people kind of embraced me because they could see that I was a young guy having a go. I think people were supportive of us. Maybe they could see potential in what I was going to do but not be threatened by me. I was just a young kid who had a few ideas.

Why did you want to start Boomtown Records?
As a kid, I grew up listening to Southern Californian punk-rock labels such as Epitaph Records and I used to buy albums because they were on a certain label, so I wanted to create a similar sort of brand and culture myself. From a young age, that’s what I wanted to do.

Were you ever in a band?
I played in bands at school but I never wanted to be a musician. I always wanted to go into business.

What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
That’s a hard question to answer; there are so many different levels of achievement. We’ve got The Amity Affliction releasing a new album that was a Top 10 debut, we’ve got bands that play on live TV, and we’ve sold out 5000-capacity venues. I guess if I had to say, it would be building The Amity Affliction up to worldwide success.

Who was/is your greatest influence or mentor in this field?
David Vodicka, who is a Media Arts Lawyer and Chair of the AIR board, he was one of the first people to take me in and give me time. And the current CEO of Warner Music, Tony Harlow, is really supportive of what we do.

Favourite local haunt to catch some great live music?
The Corner Hotel in Richmond.

For BIGSOUND, Staple/UNFD is hosting an unofficial metal/hardcore live showcase, why was it created?
Our company, Destroy All Lines, run nights all around Australia – we run a night called Snitch at X&Y Bar in Brisbane on a Thursday – and it made sense to overhaul it to make it suit BIGSOUND. We engaged with BIGSOUND and they know about it and approved it, so next year we’re looking to do something more official. We’d like to do a big, outdoor, live hardcore show.

Do you feel this genre of music is sometimes discounted or overlooked?
Not really. I don’t think like that. That’s a very negative way to see it. At the end of the day, not that many people are comfortable working with the genre because there are limited ways of marketing and it’s not as attractive as say, indie rock, which gets you a lot more credibility and vibe in the industry. We do it because the bands need somewhere to play and people like these bands. Hardcore bands are some of the biggest ticket-selling live acts in the country right now.

What are the challenges in a world of digital technology for your artists or company and its impact?
It’s great. From a social media point of view, the marketing is amazing and the connectivity with the fans. From a sales point of view, our new-release sales are still skewed towards physical. Digital, in a lot of ways, is almost like a bonus. When you buy a digital record, you have to pay for it. When you sell a physical record, you get a return. It’s a hard sale and there’s money in the bank. iTunes is growing for us at the moment.

What’s a typical day like for you?
It’s New York from 6 till 9 in the morning, it’s LA from 9 till 12, Australia for the rest of the day and it’s the UK and Europe from about 6pm till midnight. Then you just do it all over again. It’s not always the same. It’s a lot of phone calls, meetings – lots of meetings – but that’s how you get things done.

What do you look for in an artist or band that you are thinking of signing?
They have to have good songs. More and more these days it’s about the songs. I was joking with someone the other day and said, “At the end of the day, it’s all about the music,” and we both laughed. But it’s completely true and it has to be about the music. A lot of it also has to do with drive and ambition as well. Anyone can be an overnight star these days, but it’s about how can we make another band that can be around for eight years and beyond and make good records. It’s about finding artists that are in it for the long haul, because we are.

What was the first record you bought?
by The Offspring.

What was the first live band you ever saw?
The Living End who were supporting The Offspring.

What was the most memorable concert you attended?
Definitely The Offspring. I was 13 and spray-painted my hair green, wore cargo shorts and a Blink-182 T-shirt and it was one of those really cool nights.

What are your favourite Australian indie releases from the past year?
I love Big Scary and the Smith Street Band.

Why is being “independent” important in the music industry or to an artist?
I think people get caught up in that kind of stuff. There are a lot of similarities between major and indie but the fundamental difference when you’re independent, you are the master of your own destiny.

Any tips on who you think are great up-and-coming Australian indie artists?
The Smith Street Band – that’s one band that’s going to prove a lot of people wrong, they are so Australian, it’s going to take a few more years for people to understand where it sits, but they are going to be very successful –  and Royal Headache are going to do really well. I’m a big fan of those guys. It’s not about radio or pop, it’s about good music.

Best avenue to discover new Aussie music?
Triple J, live events and festivals are exposing bands all the time.

Any artists you’re working with in the next year whose release you’re excited about?
We’ve got a new artist we’re managing called Vance Joy – that’s going to take a lot of people by surprise.

What is the best lesson you have learnt in the industry?
Learn from your mistakes and never make them again.