Interviews
Interview - John Lenard Burnett


Interview: John Lenard Burnett, Audio Entrepreneur: 17th July 2004


Media Man Australia continues it's exposé on the media and multimedia world.

In this revealing interview, we talk with John Burnett about his career, and the amazing career he has enjoyed.

You were largely responsible for establishing SAE (School of Audio Engineering)...how much contribution did you make, and what is a summary as to why you are no longer in partnership with Tom Misner?

(Short and sweet answer)

Yes, the concept of an education institute as an extension of Lenard Audio was planed as far back as 1974. The Institute was to include a school for audio engineering, recording and electronics.

Unfortunately the original Lenard Audio did not survive long enough for the institute to be formed, which is another story.

At the time of starting the school with Tom, the agreement was; Tom would handle the financials and
business registration and I was to construct and oversee the curriculum. (As Tom had not come from a music or entertainment background, his understanding of the industry and music production / performance was limited despite his desire to own a recording studio).

Why am I no longer in partnership with Tom?

A good place to start may be to read Tom's biography 'The Misner Factor' by Robert Alexander. BRW (Business Review Weekly) also gives an account of the Misner factor in the feature article 'A wrong way to the top' (by Kath Walters).

Tom has given an entertaining version as to the beginning of the school. Truth is something we may all have our own versions of. I see this story as a tragedy of a perverse society for which we are all responsible. In 'The Misner factor' Tom proudly boasts about how dishonesty enabled him to become wealthy. Fear associated with criminal behaviour does not exist in Tom. This is why some people admire him, and others including myself are no longer associated or in partnership with him.

(long and challenging answer)

(A) Yes, the concept of an education institute as an extension of Lenard Audio was planed as far back as 1974. The Institute was to include a school for audio engineering, recording and electronics.

Unfortunately the original Lenard Audio did not survive long enough for the institute to be formed, which is another story. At the time of starting the school with Tom, I was bankrupt. I had to entrust Tom with the business registration and financial accounts. Tom was in the commercial contract cleaning business and had no background in the music or entertainment industry, but had a desire to own a recording studio.

Why are you no longer in partnership with Tom Minser?

First you would have to read Tom's biography 'The Misner Factor' by Robert Alexander; BRW (Business Review Weekly) also gives a condemning account of the Misner factor in its feature article 'A wrong way to the top' by Kath Walters.

Tom has understandably given a different version as to the beginning of the school. This is why the true story no matter how difficult needs to be told. I'm tired of hearing those who defend Tom as being a victim of character assassination. This story is a tragedy of a perverse society for which we are all responsible.

In his book 'The Misner factor' Tom proudly boasts about how dishonesty enabled him to become wealthy. Fear associated with criminal behaviour does not exist in Tom, which is why many people admire him.

Within a few months of the school opening, Tom had acquired an Ampex 8 track-recording machine, which apparently had been stolen. As senior partner I made him remove it from the school premises. The shock of discovering I was managing a school with someone who functioned at this level was for me overwhelming. In a meeting we had a few years ago he said, "You didn't have what it takes". He was absolutely right. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next….

I was responsible for the training, but behind the scenes Tom independently held court with the young students, boasting of his fame.

He claimed he was an honorary member of the Audio Engineering Society of New York, authorized to give students he approved of, a license to record in any studio in the world. He also claimed he recorded the Beatles, and personally knew The Rolling Stones. "Trust me, I know what I'm doing" he said, "You've got to tell them what they want to hear".

Approximately a third of the students were young and naive, and believed their God had arrived and started worshiping him.

Tom hotly opposed practical training on equipment that was purchased with the student's fees. The senior students were outraged, and stopped paying further fees until the problem was dealt with. I decided to put Tom in front of a class, to face reality. This decision of mine was a disaster, to Tom this was an opportunity.

To the students he boasted that he had just returned from the US where he had been recording the
latest Eagles album. (You could hear a pin drop). A few of the older students later phoned Eagles management in the US, Abby Road Studios in London, Audio Engineering Society of New York, EMI and ABC radio 2JJ.

They could find no evidence that he was known or had any experience in the industry. When the senior students confronted Tom, there was uproar.

Tom 'The Misner Factor' simply went into overdrive and did a runner (with the money).

I was bankrupt and the school was in Tom's name. Nobody in the industry knew who Tom was, and now he's disappeared with the student's money.

The ABC radio 2JJ management (now triple J) who supported me in starting the school felt I had compromised them into supporting a fraudulent enterprise. They threatened to assist the students to take legal action against me, for the return of their fees, which Tom had taken. I was given a week to have the matter cleared up. At the last moment, Tin Pan Ally Studios associated with the ABC, took responsibility and allocated time free of charge, so I could complete the student's practical training. The condition being that I break all association with Tom.

How do we look at this story? What would you have done if you were John or Tom? Society has since chosen which one of us it best identified with 'The Misner Factor'. From being a contract cleaner who only dreamed of being in the entertainment industry, now a deity to many naive young students who would do anything for him.

Over time, politics, big business and media, made lying a virtue. The 80s became known as the era of 'greed is good', and has not looked back. It is often questioned whether social conditioning traps us, in which we have no choice. I am trapped in out-dated beliefs, that honesty and word of mouth have power over lies and false advertising. In the recent meeting I had with Tom he also said, "You overreacted, nobody listened to that stupid 2JJ station anyway".

There is still no institute that teaches audio and electro-acoustic engineering correctly at a high technical standard. The result being that the trend of how (audio) technology is used is driven by marketing,
not by educated understanding. This also suits many companies that sell equipment.

to be continued...

Editors note: This story is going to get a lot bigger by the time Media Man Australia has finished with it!

Interview - John Lenard Burnett: 22nd July 2004

Media

Fairfax

BRW

Julius Media

Articles

Media and Philosophy - 'Money is the symbol of exchange in human relationships', by John Lenard Burnett

A wrong way to the top, by Kath Walters - 20th May 2004

Tom Misner’s amazing recollections (Julius Media) - 10th September 2003

Media Man Australia

The Legal System!