Interview - Kevin Jacobsen O.A.M.

Interview: Kevin Jacobsen, Jacobsen Entertainment: 28th August 2003

Media Man Australia continues to interview Australia's key figures in the media and entertainment business.

After months of negotiation with the Jacobsen brother's, we have secured an in depth interview with a living legend of the Australian entertainment business, Kevin Jacobsen.

How did Jacobsen Entertainment come about?

Jacobsen Entertainment is carrying on the business of concert promotion; event and theatrical productions as well as other areas of developing and presenting live entertainment. It was considered that a public company could eventually envelop other areas of entertainment in due course.

What's your background, and that of the company?

I began my working life in a chartered accountant's practice. I played piano and formed a band with my two brothers. The band Col Joye and the Joyboys achieved 4 x #1 records and many more in the Top 40. Col Joye became a huge star. I left the band and began managing artists and formed a company as a theatrical agent representing leading pop artists. We then became promoter of Col Joye concert tours and tours by other Australian artists. We began importing international artists to present in concert throughout Australia. We were familiar with the venues and procedure since we had promoted Col Joye appearances. Col Joye was a major attraction.

What are your aims and objectives?

The aim and objective was to become a major production house and producer/promoter of entertainment throughout Australia and internationally. We have presented Stars of the Bolshoi Ballet; Disney on Ice; FAME - The Musical; and single pop artists in Europe and Asia as well as presenting leading international artists throughout Australia; and local Australian artists in capital cities and regional areas.

What have been your career highlights?

Highlights take on different meanings at different times.

a. We, i.e. Col Joye and the Joyboys, were asked to take part in a Lee Gordon Big Show when Lee Gordon himself called us at Festival Records. The show was with Johnny Cash and Gene Vincent. This was a big break since we had only just released a single Bye Bye Baby. Minutes before going on stage we received notice from Bob Rogers, who was the leading DJ of the day, saying congratulations Bye Bye Baby had gone to #1. This was a highlight. Subsequent hit were all highlights.
b. Being awarded the O.A.M. for contribution to the entertainment industry.
c. Being appointed for a 4 year term as a Commissioner of the A.B.C.
d. Tours of Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel; Barbra Streisand; John Denver.
e. Producing the Royal Bi-Centennial Concert from the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1988.

What was the biggest gig to date, and what sort of revenue did it generate?

The biggest gig in terms of gross takings for a concert was the Barbra Streisand Tour. Four shows grossed over $23million.

The Three Tenors - 1 x show at the M.C.G. grossed $15 million.

However big gigs which cover multiple shows in all states create a different type of 'big gig'. The biggest theatrical event by way of sets, costumes, cast etc. was Disney's Beauty and the Beast which ran 2 years in Melbourne and 15 months in Sydney and grossed $58million.

SHOUT - The Musical in capital cities for 12 months, and has just completed its regional tour. FAME - The Musical is still going after 2 years and is about to open in South Africa.

The Man From Snowy River- Arena Spectacular was perhaps the biggest arena spectacular and was a huge success.

I consider SHOUT and Man From Snow River to be important events in Australian entertainment history.

We presented an outdoor spectacular AIDA at the Sydney Football Stadium and the Melbourne Carlton Football Stadium. That was big, with elephants, tigers, snakes, 48 horses, 2000 people on stage. We also promoted this at the Tokyo Dome doing 3 x shows and attracting 150,000 people.

I think presenting Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Long Way to the Top are all big in some way or another.

What events of yours were personal favorites and why?

Long Way to the Top; The Man From Snowy River - Arena Spectacular; Barbra Streisand and SHOUT - The Musical. Each was a huge challenge and I was personally thrilled and satisfied with each of the productions. As a performer my own favourite was John Denver who was probably one of the nicest people I have ever met.

What was the main reason you didn't get the WWF back to Australia, after their first tour in the mid '80's?

In the mid '80's we had Toyota as a sponsor. Without Toyota we would have lost money. At that time ticket prices were not high enough to make it profitable. We also played all capital cities. Now that it has become a Special Event with high ticket prices it would probably work doing a short Sydney/Melbourne only tour. However I think they have developed a relationship with another promoter.

What do you see as the main reasons for your consistent success in the business?

I don't know about consistent success. It is a volatile business. However elements that are considered before contracting artists include local and international knowledge - research - artists exposure - CD sales and many other aspects that have to be brought into account. Being trusted by agents and managers to deliver on all fronts is one of the utmost importance in procuring the services of the artists.

What is the biggest misconception about the entertainment industry?

The biggest misconception is that the promoter makes all the money. Artists fees, advertising costs, venue costs, travel costs, light and sound, accommodation, ticket commissions etc. etc. are all paid first. The promoter who has taken all of the risk, is the last on the list to be paid. Another misconception is that all artists are charismatic star-type people. Today's artists often feel very insecure. They are usually surrounded by accountants, lawyers, managers etc. etc. Most decisions of a concert tour are not directly made by the artist.

When and why did you become a public company?

I have always considered that a large entertainment company embracing concerts, theatre, television production even eventually films would be viable in Australia with the Australian public holding its shares. However it was not a good time to launch a public company for many reasons. Besides the corporate downturn for public companies there was a drought, the war in Iraq, the bombing in Bali, September 11 in New York and all of these major events had a profound effect on theatre and concert attendance's not only in Australia but throughout the world.

Why should people see a show organised by Jacobsen Entertainment, rather than another promoter?

I don't think people buy tickets or are swayed one way or another by "who presents the show". It is a bit like an artist who is as good as his or her last record or the sustainability of the artists. Having said that, I believe that we have presented the most varied shows be they pop, theatre, spectaculars, ballet, locally created e.go. Snowy River and SHOUT and we have always strived for excellence in direction and production. As far as international artists - the promoter has little influence over the performance value of the artists.

How has new and emerging technologies been good for business?

Emerging technologies for stage production enable much better lighting and sound etc, which are essential for today's concert or theatregoer.

The public, with or without knowledge of technology of the entertainment business, is receiving better sound and visuals on DVD and Television than years ago and live entertainment is keeping up with, and in some instances, surpassing those technologies. On one hand TV, CD's, DVD's and tapes are re-useable. On the other hand a show is over once it is over and cannot be 'replayed'. Therefore the patron, who has paid cash, is entitled to the best performance possible but the technology to provide this is an ever increasing cost.

What is the biggest misconception about you?

I don't know. I have no idea of what concept people have of me.

What other important information should we know about you and your company?

Our company began as a family business with family values and aspirations. We have presented the type of concerts and theatre we thought the public would enjoy. No t only have we always loved this business, I believe we have given good value to our patrons.


Editors note: An insightful, rare interview with one of the greats of the Australian entertainment business.


Jacobsen Entertainment

Jacobsen Venue Management

Media Man Australia: Entertainment News

Media Man Australia: Personality website links

Shout! The Musical official website

ABC: Long Way to the Top

ABC: Rock Snaps - Col Joye

Sydney Entertainment Centre

Festival Mushroom Records: Col Joye

Article: The Great Aussie Promoters, by Greg Tingle - 5th October 2003


Media Man Australia interviews:

Doug Mulray

Debbie Kruger

Billy "Wiz" Munro


Col Joye on stage


Kevin Jacobsen - Chairman of Jacobsen Venue Management
Profile credit of Jacobsen Venue Management

Kevin is acknowledged as one of Australia's most prominent entertainment entrepreneurs. He has produced, promoted and presented the world's finest stage spectaculars, concerts and major special events in Australia and around the world, including special projects for the staging of national and international celebrations for the Australian Government, New South Wales Government and Queensland Government.

The Jacobsen Group is one of the largest operators of public facilities in Australia. Kevin is on the Board of Directors at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney Capitol Theatre and Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.

He has been awarded the medal of the Order of Australia for services to the Performing Arts and Entertainment industry. He has served as a Government appointed Commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and was influential in establishing the JJJ radio network, which is the biggest provider of Australian and new music. He is an Australia Day ambassador and is regularly asked to speak with leading financial institutions on forecasting entertainment trends. Recently he was appointed to the working party for implementation of immigration laws in Australia. He is an expert in the management of venue facilities and consults for numerous venue developments.