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Tributes Flow For Industry Legend Sarah Longhurst

17 May 2023 | 3:16 pm | Staff Writer

One of Australia's key 90s alt-scene managers passed away last month and will be farewelled at a service tomorrow, as industry figures pay their respects.

Sarah Longhurst

Sarah Longhurst (Supplied)

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Sarah Longhurst was one of Australia's most respected music managers in the 90s, known and loved by so many behind the scenes of Australia's music industry. She was behind the success of some of the best artists from the indie music scene, including Pollyanna, Big Heavy Stuff and Custard.

Longshot Artist Services was her vehicle to not only create opportunities for the bands she loved, but also to mentor other managers and provide advice and comradeship across the industry. A pioneer and inspiration for a generation of female music managers, Longhurst was also a respected tour manager, spending time on the road with artists as diverse as Presidents of the USA and Shaquille O'Neal and also worked across other aspects of the industry, including music supervision and her own label Longshot Records.

Longee, as she was affectionately known, passed away peacefully on Friday, April 21st at her home in Wombarra. Her funeral will be held tomorrow, Thursday, May 18, as the music industry shares its tributes to her contribution in the industry and beyond. 


I knew Sarah fleetingly at the University of Sydney Law School in 1987. She would like it conveyed, I'm quite sure, that she was very beautiful, and was the muse for a few artistic types in her university days.
We didn't meet again until 2009 after her central business achievements, when she dropped into a group bill I was in with one of her Canadian artists and friends, Joel Plaskett, who went on to substantial success. I was never quite sure of the business arrangements she had by this time after her health had dictated an early retirement - it seemed she was happy to advise in an informal way just to make sure the people whose art and spirit she loved took the wisest path. Another Canadian she would communicate with regularly was Serena Ryder, who has won numerous Junos and has a thriving career.

It was typical of Sarah that she focussed in quite obsessively on one of the songs I played that night we reconnected in Melbourne, and would then use it to centre herself when suffering the mood swings she so stoically managed. She felt music on a very emotional level, and would often text me about what she was listening to and how it was making her feel. Consequently, I can tell you from looking at my phone that the Sunday before she died she was feeling a little too enthusiastic, and so her soundtrack from 6 am was "John Denver, soft 70s. Johnny Cash live, and Elvis Ultimate Gospel...."

The premature death in her final year of college of her much-loved father was not an infrequent touchstone of her conversation. As was the fondness with which she recollected her school days at SCEGS Darlinghurst. Being eccentric herself she had a very high tolerance for eccentricity, and one would meet all sorts of fruity characters on her deck when dropping in to visit the Wombarra house. She loved children and animals and doing things for others. A great afternoon for her would be introducing numerous chickens and Benny the Goat to a seven-year-old and sharing chocolate strawberries and cake she had just whipped up in preparation for the visit. What a kind soul, what a brave woman she was throughout the challenges that were thrown at her. - Tim Freedman (The Whitlams)

“In the 1990’s Sarah Longhurst was a passionate advocate for her management clients and for Australian music in general. She was highly intelligent, having studied law at university. She was always full of intense energy and a razor-sharp sense of humour. In addition to running her own successful business, Sarah played a key role for many years in the peak body of artist managers, helping to lobby the government and doing lots to support her peers. Like too many young managers, the professional challenges eventually became overwhelming, so she moved out of the music industry during the ‘noughties’. Over the years since then, much has thankfully been done to make more support available to young managers but Sarah’s far too early passing should be a reminder of why Support Act and the AAM continue to play such an important role in driving much-needed change across our industry.” - 
John Watson (Eleven Music)

"Sarah and I first met when I was struggling to clear music. She got straight to the point. 
“What do you really need right now to clear licensing for?”  I thought I’d cut to the chase and see what this unique-looking character could do. Next Monday we wanted to start editing our opening sequence to the Foo Fighters 'One By One'.  Her quick reply was…

'These are my conditions.  1 You pay all my phone call expenses, 2 you let me come in and watch you do your editing, 3. you teach me how to surf, and 4 if I save you any money from your music budget I get to keep the difference?....  Deal?”  
I replied, "Sounds good to me, how about showing me what you can do?'

"She picked up the phone and called an international phone number of what turned out to be John Silva’s office.  John manages Beastie Boys, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Queen of the Stone Age AND the Foo Fighters among others. 
Monday I am here in Sydney we get an email sent Sunday night from the USA…. 

"Hi Sarah, The Foo Fighters WANT TO BE IN JACK MCCOY’S NEW SURF MOVIE.  Please go ahead with your editing and we will work out the details later.  Love John." 

"Sarah taught me everything from turning me onto great bands, tour managers from all the big promoters in Australia, and introduced me sooooo many (countless) great artists in Australia. 
But one of the best bits of advice she gave me was how to act when I meet with Paul McCartney…  “DO NOT TALK ANY BUSINESS WITH PAUL, have his manager talk to me AND JUST FOCUS ON CREATING an ARTIST TO ARTIST WITH HIM!”, which I did and Paul and I are still friends and creating our art together to this day.  All because of Sarah. Not only did she know friends in high places, they ALL loved Sarah for her friendliness, professionalism, intelligence, humour and kindness.  And yet it was the small things in life that she also loved dearly.  Her animals, her fish and even a goat that had his own lounge chair in her living room… A GOAT.  Yeah, that was some of the best things in Sarah.

"For me, the best part of our friendship was when she came up and sat in on maybe 50 edit sessions, when we went down to Kiddies Corner at Palmy and taught her how to surf and I had her up surfing on her first wave with the biggest smile on her face, and our endless phone calls talking shit and sharing that stoke that brought us together... MUSIC.  I never stopped learning from her. 
I remember when I asked her what credit she wanted on our last feature film together, Music Producer, Co-Producer, Executive Producer, I would have given her anything she wanted.   She thought about it for a few seconds and then said, “Jack’s Best Gal” would do. I’d introduced her to several people with that one and she loved it.

"I’m going to miss you BEST GAL.  The Best Gal I ever had the opportunity to play movie/soundtrack fun with. Just know how much Kelly, my kids Indi, Cooper and I loved you BIG TIME and just because we can’t see you doesn’t mean you are not here with us all.
 - Jack McCoy (Director, Producer, Cinematographer)

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"I first met Sarah when I was in an indie band looking for some sort of guidance and my friends in Pollyanna put me in touch with Sarah as she was managing them then. While she was really busy with the rise of Pollyanna, Big Heavy Stuff and Custard, she still took the time to share some great advice and made herself available to me. Flash forward some years and I was a budding artist manager and had the opportunity to work with Dave McCormack. I ran into Sarah at a music managers' function and we grabbed a coffee. The first thing she said was to look after Dave or she'd be calling me. The second thing was that I could call her anytime to bounce ideas off and just "chat". I had a similar conversation when I started managing Big Heavy Stuff. Those two messages to me summed Longee up - the absolute care she had for her artists, (even after she'd finished working with them), and the loving guidance and friendship she gave so willingly. Those who were in her orbit knew it in no uncertain terms and like me, were far better for it. I'll miss her deeply as a mentor and friend." - Peter Bayliss (First Base Music)

"Sarah Longhurst was a force of nature who swept people up into her vortex and changed their lives." - Worth Wagers (Singing Streets)

"Thinking of Sarah brings a smile to my face. She absolutely lived for Mickey Mouse, music and the bands she worked with. She especially gave her all, her passion, her sparkle, to her bands. It was that heartfelt dedication and excitement that pushed her to work so hard and it's why the stars will be a little less bright now that her sparkle is gone." - Staci Slater (The Talent House, US)

“Longee always had time for you. Like all managers she was permanently busy, however, Sarah would make a purposeful effort to provide time, support, advice and mentoring to countless emerging managers whenever we needed it. A long-standing and active board member of the MMF, Sarah was a staunch advocate for Manager’s rights and perpetually protective and fighting for her bands. I had the privilege of dealing with Sarah in multiple capacities from booking shows for her artists at Macquarie Uni and the Annandale Hotel, whilst she simultaneously always looked out for and provided key supports for the acts I was managing (Bluebottle Kiss and Rumanastone). Warm, generous, kind and clever - Longee was a formidable role model, gone far too soon.” Millie Millgate (Sounds Australia)

"I have so much to say about Sarah. She was ‘One Of Us’ - a person who was part of the scene in Sydney in the late ‘90s - seen at gigs, wearing band t-shirts, talking about music. She just happened to be smarter than a lot of us, cared for people more than most of us and did more than most of us. Oh - and super successful. If you were to do the Power 50 of 1997, she would be near the top, killing it. I don’t know if she wanted to be a manager, book venues or run labels. It was what she did because it was what was needed to be done - like some sort of superhero, swooping in to save some young band. She made a lasting impact on the music industry, sure. She was a connector before Malcolm Gladwell came up with that term. But that style of music person who just cared and wanted to help - we don’t see it enough these days. And Sarah embodied that for me." - Danny Yau

“I met Sarah Longhurst in Perth in the very early days of me managing Jebediah, back when this strange career started. She was one of the first ‘real’ managers I dealt with back in the ‘90s looking after bands who *gasp* people not in WA had heard of, like Custard and Pollyanna. She was surprisingly approachable (all managers ‘over east’ were alien and frightening to me at the time) and passionate to a fault, dedicated and generous with her advice, always, and I know I wasn’t the only young manager who was benefiting from her knowledge. I have a fond memory of sitting with Sarah out the front of Ozone in Perth (Jebs were opening for Custard, maybe? Dunno!) and Sarah having a red hot go at talking me out of a career in management which of course I ignored but let me tell you 30 years later she had some bloody good points. A very good human and a great connector of humans she is gone too soon and we were very lucky to have her. Sarah treated our industry and musicians like it was precious and I worry it did not do the same for her. Vale Longee.” - Heath Bradby (Fidelity Management)

“I was lucky to have met & dealt with the fabulous ‘Longee’ in the early/mid 90s whilst working on the first few Pollyanna releases at Bark/Mushroom. Not only was she an absolute powerhouse of a manager who was passionate, fierce & loyal, she was also the beautiful caring soul who would send messages out of the blue to let you know she was thinking of you. Vale the great ‘Longee’, you will be missed. xx” - Jo Corbett (Jo Corbett Publicity)

“I knew Sarah during the ‘90s and early 2000s. She was sharp, smart and incredibly passionate about Australian music. We never worked together directly (although we came close) but the bands we worked with were always playing together and I’d see her out at hundreds of shows. She was a champion of the young, the emerging and the underdogs and her manic heart and soul were always in the right place. We fell out of touch in recent years but her memory burns bright from that time… RIP Sarah." - John O'Donnell

“I thought very highly of Sarah. Great intellect. High moral standards. A sharp wit and a stoic mindset considering her ongoing health issues. Sarah gave more than she got in business but that was the way she chose to do it when she could.” - Philip Mortlock (Origin Music)

Sarah was a deeply caring and nurturing person who we’ll all miss. She’d offer anything she had to offer: her time, her wisdom, even a place to rest when she thought you needed it. And when she thought you needed it, she was right. As she was with most things. A unique and wonderful person who’s loved by many.” - Dave Batty (Custom Made)

“When my son was born Sarah passed on her prized Bruce Lee mounted poster to him. Just like Bruce Lee, Sarah Longhurst was passionate, strong, diligent, and inspirational. A true confidant to me in my early years. Her cooking and in particular her cheesecakes were incredible. The world has lost a true giant. RIP Sarah.” - Nik Tropiano 

"I remember Sarah ‘Longie’ Longhurst fondly. Our many chats about revolutionising live touring both here and beyond for Australian artists were always filled with passion and excitement. Her wry sense of humour made me smile. Sarah’s integrity, creativity, and dedication to making a positive impact in the music industry were truly inspiring. Her presence is deeply missed but I’m sure she will be remembered well, by not only her friends but numerous musicians and colleagues she helped - purely because she could. Vale ‘Longie’ you are one of the good guys." - Owen Orford (New World Artists)

"The first time I met Sarah Longhurst, she scared the absolute crap out of me. She was smart, capable, decisive and tough. I soon discovered that under her intimidating exterior was a lovely, kooky, and kind hearted person. A role model without doubt, Sarah was always generous with her time to help up-and-comers like me, and she gave loads of great advice and encouragement starting out in the biz."Andy Cassell (Winterman & Goldstein)

Do you have a story or tribute for Sarah to add? Send it to us here.