1972 would be a pivotal year. Aged 20, with a new business partner in Ray Evans, Gudinski booked a major musical coup: the inaugural Sunbury Festival. Over 35,000 fans paid $6 for a three-day ticket. Spying more opportunity, Gudinski also managed the event’s watermelon stand… which he did up until 1975, when torrential rain left him with thousands of melons to dispose of.
His first international tour as promoter also came in 1972: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. “It was the most money I’d ever made in one night in my life,” he later told a biographer.
May 1972 would see Gudinski make his biggest move: the announcement of a new independent record label, Mushroom Records. Based in Wellington Street St Kilda, Mushroom was a ‘360º company’ decades before the industry term was common. Mushroom Records would become the largest independent label ever in Australia’s music history. 1973 saw a complementary sister company form in Mushroom Music Publishing, which remains the most successful independent music publisher in Australasia today.
Mushroom Records scored big in 1975 when one of Gudinski’s management clients, Skyhooks, released their debut album, Living In The 70’s. It was the biggest-selling local album ever released up to that point, spending 16 weeks at #1 and selling over 240,000 copies.
Not long after, Gudinski struck gold again with the signing of New Zealand expatriates Split Enz; their 1980 album True Colours and the hit single ‘I Got You’ were huge successes. Jimmy Barnes celebrated countless #1 solo albums, starting with 1984’s debut Bodyswerve. The artists released on Mushroom Records reads like a who’s who of Australia’s finest talents: Kylie Minogue, Archie Roach, Hunters & Collectors, Paul Kelly, The Angels, Yothu Yindi, and many, many more.
In 1973, Mushroom also became home to what is currently Australia’s most accomplished booking agency for domestic acts: Melbourne based Premier Artists. Sydney’s The Harbour Agency came under the Mushroom fold five years later. In 1979, Gudinski would launch a new international tour promotion arm that would change the game.
Frontier Touring is the most respected, long standing, and proactive concert promoter in Australia and New Zealand. In Pollstar’s Q1 2020 report, Frontier ranked at No. 5 globally, shifting 900,000+ tickets in a mere four months. A year earlier, thanks to the inclusion of a record-breaking run with Ed Sheeran, the company sold a whopping 2.7+ million tickets – 440 shows in 12 months. For over 40 years Gudinski’s Frontier Touring has delivered the world’s biggest acts down under: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Leonard Cohen, Kylie Minogue, Justin Beiber, The Killers, Billy Joel and countless more.
After establishing a Mushroom UK office and new label Infectious Records – which enjoyed global success with signings such as Ash, Muse, Peter Andre, Garbage (four Grammy nominations) and Kylie Minogue’s stratospheric rise – Gudinski would go on to first sell a share of Mushroom Records to Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited Group in 1993.
Gudinski sold his remaining stake in the label to Murdoch five years later, in 1998 – but retained the ‘Mushroom Group’ name. That sale coincided with the label’s 25th Anniversary, which was celebrated with a spectacular concert at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Over 75,000 people caught 60+ artists across nine hours, the concert broadcast on TV and raising $150,000 for Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
Music was in Michael Gudinski’s blood. Often referred to by those in the know as the Godfather of Aussie music, he is widely recognised in his life as the most powerful and influential figure in the Australian music industry.
As Chairman of the Mushroom Group – the largest independent music and entertainment company in Australia and New Zealand, home to Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment, eight record labels and over two dozen other specialist divisions – Gudinski’s clout was undeniable. Born and raised in Melbourne, Gudinski’s multi-faceted business and proud advocacy for artists created an empire. His passion for music was legendary. Voted #1 in The Music’s ‘Power 50’ list in 2020, it was his fifth time at the top spot since its inception in 2012… All this, despite not being able to play a single note – music legend Jimmy Barnes once telling his friend to “not even sing in the shower”.
Born 22 August 1952 to Russian immigrant parents, Michael Solomon Gudinski got his first taste of the entrepreneurial life at seven-years-old, charging Caulfield Cup race goers for parking in a vacant block next to his house. At 15, he was organising dances and earning $500 a week, with bands showing up on his parents’ doorstep for payment. Booking acts like The Aztecs and Chain (who he also managed), Gudinski dropped out of his final year of high school and established his first booking agency, Consolidated Rock, in 1970.