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  Industry Profile




Industry Profile: Rod Quinton

— By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)

This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Rod Quinton, General Manager, Saigon Sound System.

Bob Dylan recently made his debut in Vietnam in high style.

His show, held at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Ho Chi Minh City on April 10, 2011, had great sound, great lighting, and the best in technical staff with a punter’s only complaint of just a bit of a queue up for beers.

Producing this event was Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigon Sound System which produces and promotes show in Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Among the shows this two-year-old firm has worked are those featuring: Ratatat, Ken Stringfellow, Dengue Fever, and the Rebelz from the U.S.; Cuban Brothers, and Killa Kela & Andy Knowles from the U.K.; I Heart Hiroshima, Mojo Webb, Q-Bik & MC Seeka, and the Fun from Australia; Shun Sakai from Japan; punk rockers P.K.14 from China; and Vietnam rock stars Microwave, and Pham Anh Khoa. Also, it has presented shows by such British DJs as Goldie, Skalektrik, and Jonty Skruff.

Before arriving in Vietnam, Dylan didn’t ask for a VIP greeting at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. He did, however, request a room with two windows at a modest Ho Chi Minh City hotel.

In all, Dylan directly said three words to the audience of 6,000 that included Vietnamese as well as expats from France, England, Germany, Italy, Norway, and the United States, “Thank you friends.”

Dylan is one of the top international artists to perform in Vietnam, where top name concerts remain rare, and the Communist government maintains tight controls over expression. In a country choked by bureaucracy, Dylan's song list was pre-approved by the government, but Rod Quinton, general manager of Saigon Sound System, maintains that no restrictions were placed on the submitted list.

Dylan, however, later received criticism after his first-ever shows in China for allowing the Communist government there to vet his song list, and for keeping quiet about the detention of activists there.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Dylan and his band performed 17-songs in a festival atmosphere for a show that ran at just under two hours. Among his songs were "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking," "It Ain't Me Babe,” "Tangled Up In Blue," "Simple Twist Of Fate," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Highway 61 Revisited," and "Ballad of the Thin Man."

For his encore, Dylan played "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watchtower," and "Forever Young."

The concert also paid tribute to Trinh Cong Son (whom Joan Baez once dubbed the "Bob Dylan of Vietnam”), observing the 10th anniversary of the iconic singer/songwriter’s passing with performances of 15 love songs by Son performed by top Vietnamese singers.

Certainly, Dylan’s performance in Communist Vietnam is symbolic, but with more than half of country’s 89 million people being born after the Vietnam War ended, music fans there are more likely to have heard of contemporary global pop stars Lady Gaga or Britney Spears rather than Bob Dylan or the Backstreet Boys, who performed at the Military Zone 7 stadium on March 24 in Ho Chi Minh City; and at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on March 26 for shows that were heavily discounted.

Following Dylan’s Ho Chi Minh City appearance, there have been hints of upcoming shows by Linkin Park, Michael Learns to Rock, Jason Mraz, Bon Jovi, and Justin Timberlake by the local media, no doubt arousing heightened expectations of Vietnamese music fans, especially young ones.

How did you feel watching Bob Dylan and his band walk onstage in Ho Chi Minh City?

To be honest, very proud. We’ve got a great team, and a lot of people worked very, very hard to make this happen. You don’t believe it is going to happen until it does. Even then, it was, “Okay, he’s here in Vietnam. That’s a great start. We are almost there.” When he went out onstage, and the band started up, he started singing, and he was clearly into it. For the first song ("Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking") he was melodic, and he was passionate. It was great. A very good feeling.

No problems in getting Bob and his entourage through customs? That has been a problem over the years with artists performing in Vietnam.

No. No dramas. We got him in okay. It was all cool.

In their coverage, the international press said the event wasn’t well attended.

This is my first experience with international press. It’s quite amazing how sensationalistic they can be; and how they can pick up on small things and run with them. The main headline was that the venue was half-empty or half-full. The other thing was talking about controversial stuff—that he had to get all of the songs vetted by the government; and that he should be ashamed that he went through that; and he didn’t sing “Blowing In The Wind” or “The Times They Are A-Changin.'”

To me, both of those (criticisms) are fundamentally off the mark. We had just under 6,000 people there. We had been hoping for 8,000. So we were three-quarters full. Certainly, there were enough people there for the venue not to feel empty or lack atmosphere. It was a great feeling, and the crowd size was really nice.

The show took place in a football field?

Exactly. Bigger than a football field, but a big grass area. We had 3,000 or 4,000 people standing up at the front, and people spread out in the back on picnic blankets and things. It was great. It was really a lovely atmosphere. When a headline goes out that we were half-empty, it’s a shame that is how it’s reported because it certainly didn’t feel that way.

Dylan performed 17 songs including many of his older songs.

That’s right. He was clearly enjoying himself. He spent most of the concert smiling broadly. He did three encores instead of his usual two. It was great. We were chuffed, and it certainly seemed like he was too.

Having the tribute to Trinh Cong Son before Dylan was timely. That was near the 10th anniversary of his death on April 1st.

It was a couple of days after the anniversary of Trinh Cong Son’s death. I was here (in Ho Chi Minh City) at that time. His (funeral) was amazing. I had no idea who Trinh Cong Son was until he died. I had heard of him, but I didn’t really understand it all. Just seeing the public reaction to his passing was really moving.

Quite symbolic having the tribute to Trinh Cong Son alongside his American counterpart, Bob Dylan.

I had heard that Joan Baez line that the Bob Dylan of Vietnam was Trinh Cong Son. I was familiar with that. (In doing the tribute), I guess that I was quite concerned that we would just end up with a football field of expats (expatriates). That’s not what we are trying to do here.

What are your goals?

Saigon Sound System is definitely platformed for raising the production of music. We are really keen to do better productions because most of what happens locally is pretty ordinary. Two, we want to open the doors more, and bring in more and more quality acts to Vietnam. Three, we can do the same thing in reverse—send more Vietnamese music out because there are some really fantastic young artists here.

So, with that being our mission statement, it wouldn’t have been very good—out of the box—to have an audience that wasn’t truly the local market (for the Dylan concert). We wanted to try to establish some kind of a hook with relevance for the local market. (The tribute) seemed to make good sense. I hadn’t even thought through in my mind that it coincided with the 10th anniversary of Trinh Cong Son’s passing. I went and met his niece Tib Nguyen, who I know. I said that we were bringing in Bob Dylan and would like to have the show as Trinh Cong Son/Bob Dylan. She was like, “Wow! Are you are kidding? It’s the 10th anniversary of his passing at the time you are doing the concert.” It’s the type of thing where you get the hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling. “Wow! What an amazing coincidence.” I felt that this was something that we would be crazy not to run with, and crazy not to try to make the most of.

[Trinh Cong Son is one of the greatest figures in Vietnam’s modern music. During his lifetime, he won many music awards at home and abroad, including the World Peace Music Award 2004. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at his funeral a decade ago in Ho Chi Minh City. His music remains very popular among Vietnamese, old and young. A road in Hue city along the Huong (Perfume) River in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue was named after him on March 17, 2011.

A series of exhibitions featuring Trinh Cong Son’s art is currently touring Vietnam. The exhibition, entitled “Not mau” (“Colorful Note”), includes more than 50 paintings, in water colors, chalk and oil, created by the antiwar musician during different phases of his life.]

How long did it take to get Bob Dylan to Vietnam?

The first time I was introduced to the idea of bringing Dylan here was going back two years when (promoter) Colleen Ironside from Live Limited out of Hong Kong, was here. She brought over (Australian rock singer) Jimmy Barnes to play an Australian Day event in Ho Chi Minh City (Australian Big Day Out in April, 2009) that we put on. Colleen used to be with Live Nation, and she’s good mates with Chuggi (Australian promoter Michael Chugg).

We were at the Boat House restaurant on the Sunday after the show having a bit of a recovery, and Colleen said, “What do you think about Bob Dylan coming here?” I said “Great, but how much? The Vietnamese don’t really know him. So it’s going to be a hard sell here. But what an iconic idea.” Colleen said, “Let’s give it some time, and then let’s see what we can put together.”

So then in October of last year, I was down at the One Movement (for Music conference and festival) in Perth (Australia), the music industry event that Chuggi puts together. He said, “It looks like the Dylan tour is going ahead in April. Are you interested in doing Vietnam?” Of course, I said, “Absolutely.”

Was your first step approaching the Ministry of Culture and Information to see if a Bob Dylan show was acceptable to the authorities?

That’s right; actually, that’s where we started. After the plane came back from Australia we rang a guy I know at the Ministry of Culture and Information and had a coffee with him straight up. It just doesn’t make any sense to pursue something here unless…Effectively, we started with the Ministry of Culture and Information. We met them informally over a cup of coffee and told them about bringing Dylan in. They said, “Give us a couple of days.” Then they came back and said, “Cool. That sounds fine.” That was really a starting point for the whole thing so we could go ahead and work on it.

Why meet with the government officials informally?

Just because we didn’t have a contract or anything formally to present (to them) from Dylan at that point. It was just a verbal idea. For a formal meeting, you have to have some documents in front of you. The Ministry of Culture doesn’t really want to chat. (The informal meeting) was just essentially for us to make sure that they felt that the idea was okay, that it wasn’t going to be controversial, and it wasn’t going to get everybody into something that they didn’t want to get into. It just made sense.

I have a good friend who works for the Ministry who is a musician himself. Before he came to work at the Ministry, he worked on some gigs with us a long time ago. He was a good person to go to so he could quietly talk to his bosses, the guys in charge, and ask, “Is this something that these guys should be pursuing?”

Bryan Adams, and Sting played Vietnam years ago. It’s surprising that it took this long for Dylan to play there.

Certainly, for the past decade, there’s been a lot of talk about that “Dylan is coming” for the Peace Awards. There were a couple of times that people mentioned that Dylan was going to come to town. It never came to fruition.

[In 1994, Canadian Bryan Adams became the first major-league international star to play in Ho Chi Minh City since James Brown played war-time shows there in the ‘60s. Ho Chi Minh City was the ninth stop on Adams’ two-month, 15-city Asian trek, which included shows in Bangkok, Bombay, Kuala Lumpur, and Taipei. Hong Kong-based Bruce Aitken of Sports Asia linked with regional tour promoter Midas Productions to bring Adams to Vietnam. Aitken had to obtain 12 separate government approvals for the show. At the time, the U.S. had a trade embargo against Vietnam, and Americans were not allowed to perform there without Treasury Department approval.]

How did the Ministry of Culture and Information officials view the Dylan concert?

We caught up with the Ministry guys at the end of the concert, and they were very happy. We had a beer with a couple of them after the gig; they were very happy with what we had done and, in particular, the quality of the production. Their view was, “Okay, so what’s next? Tell us what you want to do, and we will try and get you some pre-approval next time around to give you a long run at (promoting) it.” Because we really didn’t get much time to promote the (Dylan) concert.

So we said, “We’ll make it easy for you. What are the sort of things we can or cannot do?” They said, “We’re pretty easy-going. Two things that we really don’t want to see is the stuff that has potentially strong drug references. We’re not keen on things that introduce our young population to the drug culture. The other thing that we don’t want is the type of music that promotes violence. The angry stuff. Apart from that, you can pretty much do what you like.”

So that’s cool. That seems to me a very fair assessment and basis from which to work.

Was the Dylan concert Saigon Sound System’s first major show?

Yes, it really is. The people that I work with, the guys with Saigon Sound System are essentially a production crew. They know sound and lights. I have a technical director that works with me, Jerome Breger; a sound engineer Alex Sosno; and a lighting designer Dominique Raby. It really started with those three guys. I knew how talented they are and what they could do. It is way above what others can do here. Also with us are Rob Eddy (acoustic and sound engineer); a production manager, Vo Luom; and Craig Derbyshire, who is our artist liaison manager

For the Dylan show, you also worked with Pro-Feel Limited.

Yes, we brought in Pro-Feel Limited from Cambodia. We had to spend four days at the border with them arranging import and re-export of their equipment. The tricky part was their custom-built, tandem Volvo truck. The Vietnamese (and Cambodians for that matter) are used to taking containers off one truck (licensed in Cambodia) and putting them back on another truck (licensed in Vietnam). We had included the Volvo itself on the packing list as an essential piece of equipment with a special letter asking for an exemption.

Our tech director Jerome Breger, started saying months in advance, “You won't be able to get the truck in.” And for a couple of days it seemed like he was going to be right. There was certainly a lot head scratching, teeth gnashing, phone calling, document shuffling and relationship stretching that took place but in the end we got the Volvo in. We were lucky because without it, we did not have a show.

Pro-Feel Limited are Hungarian guys—Lajos Bujdoso (technical director) and Jozsef Csenteri—(operations director) with a Cambodian roadie crew. We still don't understand exactly why Pro Feel chose to drop this great VerTec rig (JBL VerTec Line Array speaker system) into Cambodia not so long ago, but we formed a very strong bond with them during the production of the Dylan show, and we look forward to working with them again in the near future.

How many partners are in Saigon Sound System?

The partners in the company are my wife Nhan, myself, and Alex (Sonso) and his wife Thanh have a small share. Nhan and I are the owners. Nhan is the general director of the company. We have a bunch of people that we employ on a project-by-project basis. That includes Dominique, Joe and the guys I just mentioned. Then (for the Dylan show) we brought in a bunch of other people in hope that we can continue to employ them. So we are scrambling to make sure that we get something locked in fast—something that is more financial viable than Bob Dylan. It’s not so easy to make money in this market.

When did the company launch?

We incorporated less than two years ago, but we have been doing shows together for over a decade. We have done a lot of charity shows. We did the Australian Day show with Jimmy Barnes. We have done that type of event many times over. We have had a lot bands in from Australia from yesteryear like Mental As Anything. We’ve had Mark Seymour from Hunters & Collectors, guys like (electronic music duo) Ratatat out of the States; the Cuban Brothers; and we had Ken Stringfellow who used to play with R.E.M. We have done lots of smaller stuff. We had this great punk band out of China called P.K. 14 out of Beijing. They’re fantastic.

Mainly doing shows in Ho Chi Minh City?

Mainly in Ho Chi Minh City. We have worked with (promoters) CAMA out of Hanoi in the past, and, hopefully, will do again in the near future. They are kind of doing the same thing that we do. We have done a number of things in collaboration with them. They are a great bunch of dedicated guys. Like we had Dengue Fever not long ago. They did the Hanoi gig and, we did the gig here. We talked with them if we could do a Dylan gig in Hanoi at the beginning, but for many reasons that just didn’t come to fruition.

There is a CAMA music festival (in Hanoi) at the end of May (28), and Saigon Sound System will have the Aussie band, Ball Park Music, also playing in Ho Chi Minh City. We are hoping for a couple of acts from this great line-up to join us here.

Westerners don’t realize how big Vietnam is. That Ho Chi Minh City is over 700 miles from Hanoi with not much available in between for shows.

That’s exactly right. People in the States think Vietnam is just a dot on the map but there’s between 80 and 90 million people here, and 60% of them are under 30. They are young; they are aspirational. Today is a good day; tomorrow is a better day. They are crying out for, “Give me more content.”

The Ministry of Culture and Information oversees various forms of entertainment. Being in Vietnam a decade ago, I recall that the Music Center in Ho Chi Minh City operated like a government-run talent agency as well. Is the government still heavily involved in the music scene?

It’s starting to fragment a bit more. We are starting now to get some companies that are setting up as (independent) production houses. There’s a great company, Music Faces (Music Faces Entertainment). They now have a little stable of artists under them. They work independently of the Ministry. I say independently, but they need to let the Ministry know what’s going on.

[Music Faces Entertainment, based in Ho Chi Minh City, was established in 2004 by group of known songwriters and producers in Vietnam, such as Duc Tri, Anh Quan, Huy Tuan, Hoai Sa, Phuong Uyen, Hong Kien, and Vo Thien Thanh. Its roster includes such artists as Anh Khang, Hoang Bach, Suboi, Le Hieu, Pham Anh Khoa; “Vietnam Idol” winners Phuong Vy and Quoc Their; and model-turned entertainer Ho Ngoc Ha.]

But things are starting to mushroom a little bit. There’s now a lot more music on TV. There are now two dedicated music television channels in Vietnam, Yan TV and Yeah1. And we also get Channel V (from Hong Kong) and MTV Asia.

The thing that is changing things there is the mobile phone.

Absolutely. The market is very similar here to China. There’s a website called Zing MP3 which is similar (to Baidu). It is a music portal with downloads for mobile and computer.

[Also in Vietnam is NhacCuaTui.com, a website with thousands of MP3 songs.]

Meanwhile, CDs of international acts are available on the street, and in markets for the equivalent of $2.

That’s exactly right. There’s still quite a good market for local music content, however. Music copyright is protected with local artists. You can go into a local CD shop, and buy a limited CD release by the band Mr Dam, and you will be paying the equivalent of $6 or $7 for that. At that same shop or next door, you can buy Britney Spears for $1. The Mr Dam CD has a hologram protecting it, and making sure that it’s not a rip off. The government is working on (copyright) starting on local content first. But things are getting better.

(For the Dylan show) we were quickly contacted by the office of Intellectual Copyright Music in Ho Chi Minh City. That office has existed for a long time, and we had to pay copyright (fees) on the show.

Had the office contacted you for previous shows?

We have been contacted once before for Paul Ubana Jones. Last time he came here, I got this letter from the Intellectual Copyright people. I didn’t even know that they existed, and that they have an office. So I went and saw them. Even though it was a free concert in a restaurant, we had to sort that out with them.

Saigon Sound is a big fan of (London-born) Paul Ubana Jones. He’s been to Vietnam three or four times, and we’ve brought him. He is here now. We are doing a launch of a documentary that we filmed in New Zealand of him doing a tour there in January. He’s an amazing guitarist who, many moons ago, played support for Dylan (for a Bob Dylan & Patti Smith bill at Queens Wharf Events Center in New Zealand in 1998). He’s been the support act for Norah Jones when she has toured there.

We’re pushing his film. He hasn’t got the audience that we feel that he deserves. That's why we filmed this documentary and we’re trying to find a publicist to get him out and about.

You didn’t make money on the Bob Dylan show even though the show had several corporate sponsors, including Jim Beam and San Miguel, as well as non-profit organizations like Wildlife?

Oh no. And that was all small stuff. There was not a lot of money coming from them. Nowhere what we needed.

Why do something knowing you’d lose money?

To make a statement about who we are, and what we want to do. I suppose we considered it an investment. We really wanted to demonstrate that we are serious about doing things that are important—that matter—as well as trying to make a dollar. The show was really, I suppose, the kind of a thing where a debutante sort of arrives type of thing. We knew that the show was going to cost us, but it’s a pretty important thing to have Dylan hitting a stage in Vietnam. It's something that you don’t get the opportunity to do too often.

With the Dylan show, people in the music industry certainly took notice of Saigon Sound System.

We just have to maintain the momentum. Certainly, what we do next won’t be of the same genre. We’re quite genre non-specific. We just try to bring quality stuff from the different levels. But we are going to have to do something that is, I suppose, much more popular and much more widely recognized to a Vietnamese audience the next time up.

Few Vietnamese are familiar with Bob Dylan. They are more aware of Britney Spears or Lady Gaga.

Yeah, that’s it. What we will do next up will be much, much closer to Lady Gaga than Bob Dylan. We are looking for something that is high energy, and really (appeals) to the kids.

Now that we’re dealing with these amazing international artists, the real trick for us—the problem is—how do we make it work financially for everybody? The headline that went out (internationally) at first was that Bob Dylan was coming to Vietnam, and the tickets cost more than an average monthly salary. Which is a bit of an unfortunate headline because well, it’s misleading. A large part of the population here is agricultural, and basically they are working on a barter system. “I will trade my rice for your fish.”

Still, the show was expensive for someone living in Ho Chi Minh City. What was the American dollar value of the tickets?

We were looking at about $42. Then, what we did getting into the last week, we had a student ticket in which they could buy one ticket, and get one free. So essentially at $21 (per ticket). We are trying to plan something for August or September, but it’s the rainy season and you have to take (the show) indoors. The biggest venues you can get indoors are for 10,000 people. You do the math,10,000 times $40—and even at $40 it seems expensive but if the act is good enough that’s $400,000 of revenue. That doesn’t go very far these days. It doesn’t buy you the top end (of acts). You can find sponsors, but you have to make sure that production is top end.

The problem is that you are flying in an international act for only one show, not for a tour. Venues remain a problem throughout Vietnam.

That’s absolutely true. In talking to that point, we are making alliances with people like Chuggi and Ross Knudson of LAMC (LAMC Productions) out of Singapore that are very important for us. Ross was at the Dylan show.

We’re pretty tired of watching all of these fantastic artists playing Singapore. Singapore is swamped with great artists right now. Last month, Santana and Bob Dylan played there as well as B.B. King, Ben Harper—all these great artists.

[There have also been recent shows in Singapore with Jimmy Eat World, Slash, Stone Temple Pilots, Faithless, Yellowcard and Iron Maiden. Upcoming are Deadmau5 (May 6), and Justin Bieber (April 19).]

Jason Mraz is huge in Singapore.

Huge. Jason Mraz, we tried to get. We wanted to get him here earlier in the year and also last year. But this is where the Dylan show will now work. It demonstrated our capability. We’re now much better positioned to go back to these guys and say, “Okay, we’ve shown that we can make it work. Why don’t you visit Vietnam as well?”

Westerners might think they know Vietnamese music but, they likely don’t. They might know it as traditional music.

That’s right.

Trinh Cong Son inspired a whole new generation of Vietnamese singers, including his star pupil and prodigy Hong Nhung. There’s also My Tam who is somewhat similar in style to Celine Dion.

I’m a big fan of My Tam. She’s fantastic. Hong Nhung did some (songs) on our stage at the Dylan show. Something that we really want to do is take more Vietnamese music internationally. There are Vietnamese artists that we would like tour. There are a couple of them that are great ambassadors for what Vietnam can do.

Pham Anh Khoa recently represented Vietnam at the Pattaya International Music Festival in Thailand (March 18-20) that attracted over 400,000 people.

In my opinion, Pham Anh Khoa is Vietnam’s first true rock star. He played a gig I went to with 12,000 people outdoors in Ho Chi Minh City. Just as he was about to go onstage, it started raining. The Vietnamese hate getting caught in the rain. I was expecting everybody to head to the hills. He walked out on to the front of the stage, put his hands up in the air, and the whole crowd roared. He stood at the front of the stage getting drenched for 45 minutes, and everybody else stood out front and got drenched too. Then the rain stopped and (the crew) spent 45 minutes drying everything off. Then Pham Anh Khoa turned it on, and played for two hours. It was an incredible show.

There’s Pham Anh Khoa, and there’s Microwave, who are a heavy rock band. The singer (Dinh Tuan Khanh) has a style similar to Axl Rose. Just this incredible range. The guy’s a freak. So with people like this, and sort of pop stars like My Tam and Hong Nhung, there’s a lot going on here. There’s a slew of artists doing different types of music and they deserve to be heard outside Vietnam.

What international markets do you think Vietnamese music could reach? Isn’t language a problem?

Sure but music is music. It affects people not just with lyrics but, obviously, with what the musicians are doing; and the sound and energy. I don’t speak French but I can listen to some French music, and be completely moved. So yes language is an issue; but the challenge is to communicate what the song is about. P.K. 14, the punk act from China, they sing in Mandarin, and they are from Beijing. Before the singer (lyricist Yang Haisong) sings the song, he says a little bit what the song is about in English. That gives you a feeling of what he’s about to leap into. That was hugely received by the audience here. A lot of people have asked when they are coming back. And they are singing in a language that nobody can understand.

Wouldn’t the Vietnam government welcome acts playing outside the country for export revenue?

They would indeed.

Such activities would also help bring Vietnam further back into the international community.

Exactly. When I had a couple of beers with the Ministry guys after the (Dylan) concert, that was something that they are very keen to pursue. To build an export platform for all artists outside the traditional stuff which everybody pigeonholes Vietnam with at the moment.

Has the government loosened up on access to the internet?

Yes, it’s pretty good. I find internet access very good in Vietnam. There are heaps of Wi-Fi hot spots. It inexpensive, so most of the restaurants and cafes give it out for free.

How does an Australian from Melbourne come to live in Vietnam?

I came as a salesman for Yellow Pages 14 years ago. Not particularly glamorous. I wasn’t in the music business. I did three years with the Yellow Pages. The company I was working for was a subsidiary of the big Australian telco, Telstra. Afterwards, I tried a couple of different things. I did some importing of wines from Australia. Then I was lucky enough to invest with a couple of guys in a small resort in Muni Ne about four hours north of Ho Chi Minh City. I got lucky. We are working on a music festival up there. That’s the next big project we’re trying to set up—a two or three day festival in Mui Ne.

You’ve been a restaurant owner.

Yeah, I’m still kind of involved with that but not really. I have shares in restaurants, but I have other people that take care of them while I’m focusing on the stuff that I love.

You are going to Musexpo in Los Angeles in a few weeks?

Yes I am. I want to wave the flag. We are a fairly young crew. We are all staying in Vietnam. We are very serious about what we are doing here. We have a very long term view of our business.

Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide: Celebrating 40 Years Of The Juno Awards.


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