From house parties to head of a music label – Johann Ponniah

859565_10151795685285031_475127984_oA low point had been reached in December of’09 when Johann Ponniah and his three flatties received a final notice from the gas company and had no way of paying their bills. In a desperate last attempt they decided to throw a house party featuring their mates; a couple of local bands and charge a cover fee.

200 people including the local cops arrived and they raised enough money to cover their gas bills for the next quarter.

Today I OH YOU records is an award winning label, promoting indie musicians through hosting the sickest warehouse parties. In 2014 Johann Ponniah was named by AMID, 38 of Australia’s power 50 music industry leaders – He also just turned 25.  

Hey Johann, Welcome to WTH.

Q: Although some would say your success eventuated from this party, you’d already left the comforts of home, decided against university in order to get a head start in the music industry, managing your first band Hunting grounds (formerly known as Howl). A bold risk for an 18 year-old – What gave you the gumption to take the leap of faith to get into the Music industry?10450043_561028717375725_6643647451007694606_o

I always knew that I wanted to work in the music industry and with musicians in general. I wasn’t sure what role I wanted to play (label, manager, booking agent etc) but I knew that I had to be in there somehow! As I finished high school I was offered an internship at a management company in Melbourne and I decided firmly in my mind that this was my chance, so I went for it. I never really thought of it as a bold leap of faith, I just didn’t have any other option.

Q. It certainly paid off but was there times (pre-success) where you hit speed bumps? How did you keep persevering?

There’s been a lot of speed bumps along the way and I’ve got no doubt that there will be plenty more, but that’s not specific to just my career so far…or the music industry in general – I think everyone faces their own specific challenges, I guess you just have to try and keep rolling with the punches!

Q: The few bands you’ve signed have all had great success- The Aria award nominations alone this year attest to the talent at I OH YOU. I mean Best Hard Rock And Heavy Metal Album taken out by DZ Deathrays – Black Rat (!!!) How much of the success of these bands, can be attributed to your input? And what exactly is your input with the bands you manage?

I certainly don’t take credit for our band’s success, I feel incredibly lucky to work with the talented artists that we do and assist them with their music but they would be having success with or without me! I’m also lucky enough to work with a number of amazing people on our label who all have huge contributions to the band’s success + the band’s separate managers/agents etc.

Q: Does your day have a set routine – or is it just a blur of parties i.e. are hangovers an occupational hazard?

I crave routine. The majority of my day is spent looking at an email inbox. Not nearly as glamorous or fun as instagram may suggest.

1966295_10152274979171858_1890494178_oQ. You’re pretty modest about your DJ skills but you’ve just returned from Festival of the Sun. Would you consider yourself a professional DJ now?

Hahaha definitely not! Professional track selector perhaps.

How many other hats do you have to wear in your role as director of I OH YOU?

I OH YOU has become pretty life consuming for me, in terms of the hat metaphor…I guess it’s just one hat, that never comes off.

Q: What kind of crystal ball do you gaze into, to figure out trends? And what should we be looking out for in terms of new music?

I wish I could pick trends but I can’t! I just try to work with music that I love and hope that others will love it too.

Q. Give us hopeful kids some advice – what do you reckon is most important when pursuing anything?

Be passionate.1393548_10153568397460068_440372874_n

Thank you so much for your time Jo, Say Hi to Flume for us. Feel free to slip him our number. Have the best Christmas mate and an even better New Year!



* Johann has informed us that he will never slip us Flume’s number. Success changes people kids.

** Flume – Call me

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