To the country music community,
On Friday, we learned that one of country music’s most passionate and successful advocates had unexpectedly passed away in a vehicle accident in Tasmania.
On behalf of all members of the CMAA, and fans and industry workers everywhere, we extend our condolences to Sally and Jeremy in particular, and Rob’s many, many friends across our worldwide community.
Many people will be aware of Rob’s recent activities on the world stage as a longtime member of the US Country Music Association (CMA) board of directors where he was actively involved in country music’s international efforts. He was a previous chairman of the CMA International Committee and the current chairman of the Australian CMA Advisory Group. In March 2017, the CMA conferred the prestigious Jo Walker Meador International Award to recognise his outstanding contribution to country music.
Pursuing his global vision, his company established and championed the ‘CMC Rocks’ festival brand with major events in Victoria, NSW and Queensland featuring an unprecedented lineup of US and Australian country stars and huge audiences.
In terms of the expansion of country music, Rob’s ability to attract Michael Chugg, one of the world’s leading music promoters, to partner in the CMC Rocks events, has been instrumental in significantly raising the profile of our genre.
These activities on the world stage naturally attract attention, but the debt that we owe as an industry goes back a number of decades.
When, with partner Marius Els, Rob established the first major agency based on country music, a genre of music which had previously existed outside the mainstream was firmly placed on the industry radar. It is highly unlikely that much of the investment in local careers which has followed – not to mention the jobs that have flowed from that investment, would have taken place if not for Rob’s passion and commitment.
But, as Rob proved with his recent commitment to the CMA Board, he was that rare industry individual who was prepared to commit time and energy to the often ‘invisible’ advocacy and administration that underpins and facilitates the commercial operations that are the public face of our industry.
For a decade, Rob was a passionate and hard-working member of the CMAA board and executive.
The organisation and, by extension, the broader Australian country music community, had the benefit of his intimate knowledge of industry operations, his extensive local and international networks and his constant advocacy for a global perspective.
Among his many contributions, he was a leading advocate for ground-breaking market research which helped raise the profile of local country music and brought it to the attention of the world’s major market.
Even those just entering our industry owe Rob a debt of gratitude, as he was an absolute believer in the need to increase the artistic and business skills of the next generation of industry leaders, and was one of the most vocal supporters of the CMAA's world-first college (as it first was) and the CMAA Academy of Country Music (both junior and senior) which, next year, celebrate a unique 20th anniversary.
This behind-the-scenes advocacy often goes unnoticed, but remains as a wonderful legacy.
I know we speak for fans of country music everywhere, when we say thanks for your vision, commitment and friendship.
You’ll be sorely missed. Rest in peace.
Country Music Association of Australia President