was a musical maverick and visionary entrepreneur, with a deft ability to recognise talent, trends and gaps in the market.
Christopher Mark Murphy (CM) was a musical maverick and visionary entrepreneur, with a deft ability to recognise talent, trends and gaps in the market – from entertainment to agriculture.
Due to the early passing of his father, Chris started to work at his parents’ agency, Mark Murphy & Associates, at the age of 17. By age 23 Chris had opened a rock division, ‘Solo Agency’, taking on bands such as AC/DC and instigating what was to become known as the ‘door deal’ - the first of its kind in Australia that secured a percentage of the cover charge for the band, increasing the artist's average profit.
After merging Solo Agency with Melbourne’s PREMIERE Agency, Chris returned to the family business where he was appointed the agent for Midnight Oil, through whom he met the young support act, INXS in 1979. He was so impressed with the young band; he took on their worldwide management and escalated the band's status to one of the worlds’ greatest acts.
From 1980 – 1995, CM managed INXS through his company MMA International and built a global management company with offices in New York, London, Sydney and Hong Kong. Through Murphy’s management, INXS went on to sell over 40 million records, release 11 albums, 7 long form videos, receive hundreds of gold and platinum albums and achieve # 1 positions worldwide including 2 Grammy nominations, 6 ARIA Awards, 5 MTV American Awards, the Brit Award for Best International band as well as many other awards around the world.
In 1982, Chris launched his publishing company, MMA Music Publishing and built its catalogue to over a quarter of a million titles and led the company to open an office in Asia - becoming one of the first independent Music Publishers to enter the Asian market. With hit catalogues by songwriters such as Stevie Nicks, Belinda Carlisle, and Phil Collins, MMA Music helped their artists achieve award winning status (such as Australian Song of the Year written by Michael Thomas). MMA Music Publishing also worked with notable writers such as Andrew Farriss who produced Jenny Morris’s 3 x Platinum award winning album ‘Shiver. Jenny Morris was also awarded Best Female Artist by ARIA in 1997/1998 whilst under the management of MMA Management.
In 1987 Chris’s frustration with the Australian Touring market, catering to so many international tours, saw him produce the AUSTRALIAN MADE Tour - consisting of 10 Australian Bands to show the public what they had to be proud of. As recognition of his success and continuing work developing Australian talent, Chris was honoured by Business Review Weekly as Australian Entrepreneur of the Year.
That same year, CM founded rooArt Records - an independent label with signings such as You Am I, Ratcat, Wendy Matthews, Shanlee Del and The Screaming Jets. The label had phenomenal success, holding simultaneous # 1 singles and album positions for both Ratcat and You Am I.
rooArt was the # 1 record label in Australia and formed a joint venture with entertainment giant Time Warner in 1992, the company was ultimately sold to BMG in 1996.
After returning to Australia in 1995, Chris noticed the beginnings of a massive shift in the industry - to what we now know as the ‘digital arena’. He purchased two media entities in Australia - Australian Style - a high-end fashion magazine and the then rundown Sydney icon, 2SM.
Chris set about changing the look and feel of the magazine - with iconic covers such as Helena Christensen, increasing the magazine’s circulation and launching it internationally.
At 2SM, Chris bought the exclusive rights to USA news powerhouse, Bloomberg News Service and relaunched the station as a source of news and entertainment in preparation for the digital licenses.
Eventually selling 2SM, Chris set up his own digital radio system “Digital One” in 1999. Digitalone was Australia’s first digital music broadcasting company, backed by Network 7 and delivered entertainment via a new and unique programming approach to its listeners. Digitalone was the first Australian company to deliver an interactive audio service via the mobile phone, negotiate the first online streaming radio agreement administered by APRA and partner with KOREA’s Thrunet, America’s NetRadio and Microsoft’s window’s media player.
In 2001, CM created Petrol Records and launched a brand globally under the mandate “Dedicated to bringing you Seriously Good Music”. The company searched the world for the most exotic music and sounds - launching the successful compilation series, Greatest Songs Ever, Greatest Moments Ever, The Sex The City, The Music and The Departure Lounge.
With iTunes alone, Petrol achieved more than 180 #1’s, more than 700 Top 10, and more than 1,600 Top 100 positions.
When Apple launched iTunes, Petrol was one of the first independent labels to launch with them world-wide. Chris' belief in the world music genre led him to a young Australian producer living in Santiago de Cuba and together, not without peril, Petrol recorded the album “Liberacion - The songs of the New Cuban Underground’ and created a cutting edge documentary which garnered a Grammy Nomination in 2008.
Branching further into the digital revolution, Chris also began publishing digital books - akin to the Penguin titles of the early last century. The 20 Minute History Lessons focused on the world’s most interesting and charismatic figures and relevant subject matters and likewise, Not Lost In Translation series accessed foreign languages for the youth.
The company achieved a staggering 7 out of the top 10 downloads on iTunes in the US and Chris received the 2009 NSW Premier’s Export Award for Arts & Entertainment.
In 2009 Petrol signed INXS, with the band returning to work with CM on what was regarded as one of the most successful music relationships, to re-establish them from a band to a brand.
In 2014 the # 1 rated television mini-series, Never Tear US Apart with CM as the Executive Producer alongside Tim Farriss was a TV ratings success. In the weeks following, Petrol broke all records with six albums in the Top 10, with ‘Very Best Of’ at no#1.
INXS have now sold over 60 million records worldwide, including #1 albums across 4 different continents and have a performance history of some 4,000 live shows to over 25 million people. Including their sell out performance at Wembley Stadium in 1991 to 72,000 fans. The live performance footage of Wembley was restored in London for a 4K theatrical release with one of the world’s first ATMOS mixes by Giles Martin and played as a theatrical release in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, throughout Europe and North and South America.
In 2016 Chris Murphy made Australian music history when Petrol Records entered into a Joint Venture partnership with Universal Music Group.
Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group said, “I’m thrilled to be building on our special and long-term relationship with Chris Murphy and INXS. We look forward to developing exciting projects that will create new immersive experiences for fans around the globe to engage with the music from one of the world’s most enduring bands.”
In May 2019 Petrol Records announced the signing of Australian teen trio, The Buckley's. They are the latest in a string of success stories to emerge from Australia’s Byron Bay region and are the first to be signed by Petrol since the Universal Music Group joint venture.
The Buckley's were listed in American Songwriter's 'Top 20 Songs of 2020' for the song ‘Money’ and lauded by The Australian as one of the “Hottest Creatives to Watch in 2021”.
The group consists of Sarah Grace Buckley (19yo – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar), Lachlan Buckley (18yo – Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar) and Molly Buckley (16yo – Vocals, Mandolin) who are no strangers to the music business. Despite their youth, Sarah has written more than 70 songs in collaboration with some of the industry’s best writers, and the trio has performed widely, both within Australia and internationally. Sarah recently won the APRA Songwriter’s Professional Development Award. In a Music Network Interview, CM was quoted ‘I’m saying this in print – Sarah Buckley will be one of the greatest songwriters to come out of Australia. Ever!’
In 2020 INXS were awarded the highest selling AUSTRALIAN album of the decade by ARIA, and recently awarded Diamond Status selling 500,000 copies of their album, The Very Best. To date, ‘The Very Best has spent a staggering 468 weeks in the ARIA charts (6 weeks shy of 9yrs).
Chris' life has been a colourful journey; being thrust into the music industry at a young age, through to his success in managing INXS to international stardom and beyond. His tenacity and vision unparalleled. In 2014, Chris' amazing life-to-date was documented and published in the biography, MURPHY: The Making of CM Murphy.
In memory of Christopher Mark Murphy
Founder and Chairman of Petrol Records
CM was a musical maverick, an innovator and a builder of a brand from concept.
He has been called one of the top music managers in the world, but more than that, he is a man who devoted his life to bringing the world seriously good music.