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iansmithVale Ian Smith
Tribute to a mate, by Rob Walker

Not a lot of readers may know Ian Smith personally, he was not a musician but he knew about music. He was a major factor behind many Australian musicians. Smithy passed away this week aged 62.

We met in 1988 when he gave me and a lot of others, a job on the bi-centennial Melbourne Music Festival.  The music industry was rubbing shoulders with the top end of town for the first time – government funding, the Victorian Rock Foundation, the Premier, talking up the value of the industry and our artists to Australia. It was a golden era which led to another and another. Smithy was in the thick of it as General Manager of the VRF. The team he led went on to run 6 Melbourne Music Festivals, St Kilda Festivals, Big Day Outs, and many more.  He managed Australian Crawl’s meteoric rise in the late 70’s/early 80’s, then Jimmy Barnes and Diesel for MGM, he was tour manager and local mentor to the world’s best when they visited. As an event manager he was one of the very best. He worked for the 2000 Olympics, Grand Prix, The ARIA’s, organised major events like the Mushroom 25th Anniversary concert, Countdown Spectaculars and the opening of Crown … the list goes on and on and on.

The job he gave me changed my life. He helped a green event manager to new levels of know-how and professionalism. He enabled a new career for me and gave plenty of others opportunities too. We flew by the seat of our pants. Our families grew up together and they were fun and exciting times.

Being from WA, he was an early adopter of the West Coast Eagles and a founding member of the Melbourne membership and quickly enjoyed success there too. He was thankful for Foxtel when he moved to Sydney.  Sorry you couldn’t go out with a fairy tale last game on Saturday, but it was the Bombers, so fitting.

The Australian music industry has lost one of the best back of house blokes – his memoir would make an interesting read. He was known to utter on numerous occasions over the last 25 years, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Well you didn’t do too bad mate and what a life you led. What grand things you did.

For Australian musicians, Smithy in so many different ways, provided the stage for artists to shine.

Smithy was one-of-a-kind, and we’ll miss him. On behalf of all the people he got out of trouble (and the many he got into it!) and all those that benefited from him and his work, sweet dreams mate.

Rob Walker
(Australian Music Association, Australian Musician)

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