Greatest Managers series profiles the best artist managers in the global business. This time, we speak to Regan Lethbridge and David Morgan of Lemon Tree Music – the co-managers of Tash Sultana and Tones & I, whose Dance Monkey is dominating worldwide streaming charts. The World’s Greatest Managers is supported by Centtrip Music, a specialist in intelligent treasury, payments and foreign exchange – created with the music industry and its needs in mind.
Next time you’re in Australia, maybe don’t take an Uber.
Try walking. And keep listening. You never know.
Tones & I, the world’s fastest-rising artist behind what might be the song of the year, Dance Monkey, was discovered (by Jackson Walkden-Brown), in Byron Bay, busking.
She is now co-managed (alongside Walkden-Brown) by Regan Lethbridge and David Morgan of Melbourne-based Lemon Tree Music Management, who first enjoyed global success with Tash Sultana, who was discovered, busking.
The duo’s management career began when they signed alt-folk duo, Pierce Brothers, who had been discovered, busking.
Before that, Lethbridge and Morgan (pictured) had been in a band together, Bonjah. It was the vehicle that took the native New Zealanders across to Oz where they managed to avoid proper jobs by… yeah, definitely cancel that Uber.
A lot of new music is often said to come from the streets. In the case of Lethbridge, Morgan and their most successful artists, they can literally name those streets.
Right now though, they probably spend more time in the air than on the ground, criss-crossing the globe as it surrenders, territory-by-territory to the talent of Tones & I and the insane appeal of Dance Monkey.
So far, the track has topped the charts in 20 countries (and counting), including the UK, where, having racked up eight weeks in a row at the summit, it is now the longest-running No. 1 ever by an Australian artist – and, almost unbelievably, closing in on the 10 week record for a solo female artist established in 1992/93 by Whitney Houston’s gravity defying I Will Always Love You.
In Tones’ homeland of Australia, meanwhile, Dance Monkey recently ticked off a 17th week at the top (the previous best run was 15 in a row by Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You). Globally, on Spotify, it has more than 560m streams, it remains No.1 on the service’s worldwide chart, and it’s consistently doing over 6m streams a day.
The US is the last major territory to fall, and, while it probably can’t be described as hitting the canvas just yet, it’s wobbling, for sure: Dance Monkey this week climbed inside the Top 20 (at No.19) of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.
MBW grabbed an hour from Lethbridge and Morgan’s frankly terrifying schedule to discover the roots of Lemon Tree – which launched its own JV label with Sony Music last year – and get the backstory and future plans for the globe-straddling Tones & I…
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BREAK UP YOUR BAND AND FOCUS ON MANAGEMENT?
Regan: It just ran its natural course, we all grew up a bit – and we’re all still best friends. That was when Dave and I discussed seriously launching Lemon Tree, in 2013.
Our first signing was the Pierce Brothers, who were local Melbourne guys. We just laid out a blueprint and got to work. It helps that buskers have got this mentality where it’s do or die; they’re super focused on honing their craft and playing for people. They just seem to want it that little bit more.
HOW DID YOU MEET, DISCOVER AND EVENTUALLY SIGN TASH SULTANA?
Regan: Pat Pierce, one of the Pierce brothers, kept talking about this busker that pulls really great crowds. Tash came in for a meeting, and I started booking live dates in 2014; I’m still the booking agent in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
And then, after maybe 18 months or so, one of Tash’s videos went viral on Facebook and I said, ‘Would you consider LTM managing you?’ It was a month of back and forth, then we signed on the dotted line and away we went.
We straight off went about going global with Tash and we’re really proud of all the work that we’ve done. Tash is truly incredible and still blows my mind to this day. We sold out Red Rocks recently, with co-manager for America, Jaddan Commerford, and that was just absolutely unbelievable, quite an emotional experience.