'A Man As Influential As The Artists He Promoted': Vale, Michael Gudinski

2 March 2021 | 1:07 pm | Jessica Dale

An Australian music legend.

For music in Australia, you couldn't have asked for a bigger champion than Michael Gudinski AM

Michael Solomon Gudinski was born in Melbourne on 22 August 1952, the son of Kopel 'Kuba' Gudinski and Nina Gudinski who had immigrated to Australia at the end of World War II, arriving in the country in 1948 and settling in Caulfield soon after.

It was here that Gudinski's entrepreneurial spirit would first emerge; as a seven-year-old who would charge Caulfield Racktrack-goers to park on the empty block next to his family's home. In less than a decade, before the end of his teenage years, Gudinski had found his next venture - the one that would set him on his way as one of the world's leading promoters - running dances for his Melbourne peers across the city, booking local acts to play. 


Before the end of high school, Gudinski joined the Australian Musicians Booking Organisation (AMBO) working under founder and leading dance promoter Bill Joseph on weekends, distributing promotional materials and eventually booking bands. 

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Just years later in 1972, at 20 - an age where most are just coming to grips with what they want to do with their life - Gudinski launched The Mushroom Group with Mushroom Records and Mushroom Publishing. The same year saw Gudinski, alongside Ray Evans, stage, manage and book the iconic Sunbury Festival. Frontier Touring would come along in 1979. 

Now, Mushroom Group is home to more than two dozen companies, working across touring, labels, royalties, booking, film, festivals, merchandise, creative, comedy, management and more, employing more than 200 music industry workers. It's a family business too, with son Matt Gudinski the group's Executive Director and daughter Kate Alexa who released music through the Liberation imprint.

More than Gudinski's business acumen though was the man at the centre of it all. A larger-than-life personality, a risk taker and at the end of the day, always a music fan - something that was always apparent when you would attend a Mushroom event and see Gudinski in attendance. His influence is such that seeing him at a show was as much of a kick as seeing the act. Even punters at home, with no interest in the music industry, know Gudinski. A man as influential as the artists he promoted.

You can credit him for finding and signing a lot of our country's greatest acts too, with Skyhooks, Archie Roach, Hunters & Collectors, Yothu Yindi, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, and of course, Kylie Minogue having been Mushroom signees. Gudinski was never one to rest on these laurels though, continuing to work with the best upcoming Australian talent, generation after generation.

Gudinski's influence is felt globally too. In Stuart Coupe's 2015 book, Gudinski: The Godfather Of Australian Rock'N'Roll, there's a story of Sony's Tommy Mottola calling Gudinski "probably the greatest music man I've ever met" and it's something most would agree with. Some of the most lauded international shows in Australia have been at the hands of Gudinski who was responsible for tours from legendary acts like The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Liza Minnelli, Paul McCartney and many, many more. 

In 2006, he was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia medal (AM) for service to the entertainment industry through the promotion of Australian music recording artists, as well as for being an advocate for young people in the music industry, and to the community. It's just one of the many accolades he received throughout his lifetime, including the ARIA Lifetime Achievement Award and being inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 1992, the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music at the APRA Awards in 1998, the Melburnian of the Year by the City Of Melbourne in 2012, a city that he was immensely proud to be from. Gudinski was named the #1 most influential person in the Australian music industry five times - most recently in 2019 - and was often a feature on the International Power Players list. 

In tough times, Gudinski was always there. 

His philanthropic work saw millions raised to support Australians through times of crisis, including raising over $8 million as part of 2009's Sound Relief Benefit concerts for fire and flood victims. It was no different last year, with an industry in crisis Gudinski and his Mushroom Group launched Music From The Home Front on ANZAC Day, a TV concert event paying tribute to frontline workers with performances from over 50 Australian and New Zealand acts. More than two million people tuned in and later the accompanying album hit #1 on the ARIA Charts, with all proceeds going directly to Support Act to help music industry workers.

Melbourne's known as a music city and it takes a rare and brave person to commit revitalising that amidst a global pandemic, but of course, Gudinski did, working with the Victorian State Government over the past months to bring live music back to the city. It's just another round of events that shows Gudinski as a pioneer, forever innovating. His passion for Australian music will be hard to surpass.

Gudinski will always loom large over the Australian music industry. Frankly, it wouldn't exist like this without him and for that we will always owe him immense, immense gratitude. Vale, Michael Gudinski.