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Never Tear Them Apart: The Chris Murphy Story

Any young manager looking to make their way in the music business would do well to study the mercurial career of Chris Murphy. Take note, or take a leave of absence.

The man who took INXS and forged them into a global phenomenon died this weekend aged 66, following a battle with mantle cell lymphoma, but his impact on the global music business will continue to reverberate for some time to come. Whether you are a fan of INXS or not, whether they were  a band of your time or not, it’s important to acknowledge the ways and means of getting to the very top of the global music scene, from nothing and nowhere.

A fierce negotiator, wily strategist and perpetual human dynamo, Chris’ ability to penetrate the most elevated corridors of the corporate music business, generate a storm of activity and dance rings around everyone he encountered was unparalleled.  Unwavering in his pursuit of getting more for his artists, Chris’ approach to his role should, if it is even possible, be distilled, bottled, and distributed to every music management school on the planet. Everything he did was out of a dogged pursuit to protect, nurture and promote his musicians. He wasn’t everyone’s friend, he didn’t need to be, that wasn’t his job.

Over a 40 year career as artist manager, label operator and entrepreneur, he put “band of brothers” INXS on the global stage, using an armoury of charm and guile to create a career path that has kept the band perpetually moving forward for over three decades. Weathering multiple storms including the death of lead singer Michael Hutchence, the one-man whirlwind left no stone unturned in his promotion of the group, employing everything from talent shows to a TV mini series to keep them in the public eye.

The results – 50 million album sales worldwide and counting – speak for themselves. 

While an old school practitioner in terms of fearless approach, he had an unwavering eye for the new, continually embracing fresh technologies, platforms and approaches to promote his acts. Some of the Jacaranda team were privileged to work with Chris on the 30th anniversary immersive remix and launch of INXS’ Kick, and the energy with which he embraced the project, calculated the angles, and used it to create the world’s first commercial cinema tour for an Atmos album playback was, quite simply, breathtaking.

He was smart, quick on the uptake, and a master marketer, but most of all, Chris Murphy was loyal to the hilt. To his artists, his friends, and the small team that worked around him for the majority of his career, he was a staunch protector, advocate and advisor. An omnipresent energy whose flame burned forever bright.

Their loss will be profound, but so too will be the music business’ as a whole. Things just got a little bit less interesting around here – and a lot less fun.

Jacaranda Records Capomaestro Ray Mia said: “Chris was the epitome of a music industry manager you hear of in folk tales, proper TVs being thrown out of hotel rooms. I’ve not met anyone like him, and unlikely to meet anyone of his like again. Waltzing into a mid morning meeting at the Beverly Hills Hilton, demanding sparkling wine for everyone as we settled into a production meeting to work through the shoot the next day on Venice Beach, complete with skater-board storyline. The man was everything you’d heard about the music industry and more. I shall never forget being handed a large format presentation he had just given to Sir Lucien Grange, the Chairman of UMG, and there covering one of the pages in unmissable large letters was a quote from me: “INXS are to Skateboarding what The Beach Boys were to Surfing…” Ray Mia – EVP UMG… the only thing was, my actual comment was “It’s not as though INXS are to Skateboarding what The Beach Boys were to Surfing…” But this summed Chris up, he made his own reality, I wasn’t upset – I didn’t cower at the thought of the guy at the top of UMG seeing my name and thinking “what the f*ck is this all about?”  – I just had to laugh, I will forever be grateful to have been able to watch and work for him as he tangoed around the corridors of UMG making things happen that no one else could have. You just could not say no to him, no one could. He was way (way) smarter than those who got credit for his energy and perception. In this world which has been turned upside down this last year, we’ve lost a true soul, a go getter, someone that made everything more vivid and more real. Honoured to have witnessed you at work, love what you did and more importantly – how you did it. RIP Chris.”

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