August 10, 2010

Running The Wiggles world is a joy…

Posted in Between Us column, Business, Entertainment at 6:58 pm by dinaheng

Becoming the world’s most famous rock band for toddlers didn’t happen overnight for The Wiggles.

Four Australian musicians, known for using childhood development theories to empower kids through song and dance, began making a name for themselves after releasing their first album in 1991. But the development of their brand went big time in 2001 with the help of business manager Mike Conway.

Conway, a friend of original Wiggle Greg Page (who left the group in 2006 due to health reasons), was working for Ernst & Young in England when Page asked him to give the group some advice.

“ ‘Do you know anything about trademarks,’  Greg would ask me,” Conway remembers. “Or, tell me about strategy.’ He’d pull me into conversations with the guys for about four years. Then they asked me to work with them. I said it had to have been the longest interview in the world.”

This summer, the group’s newest themed show, “The Wiggles Wiggly Circus Live!” tours  26 cities in the United States, with music and acrobatic antics, along with their buddies Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus, and Captain Feathersword. (See http://www.thewiggles.com.au/us/events/63 for cities and tour dates.)

“It’s a dream come true for me, working in the music and entertainment industry with children,” Conway says. “The heart of The Wiggles is great fun, entertainment and music, coupled with early childhood principles for pre-schoolers. My job is about sustaining this, preparing for the long term, as well as the next CD.”

In 2000, after The Wiggles had conquered Australia, Conway recommended that The Wiggles concentrate their efforts on building a fan base in the United States. In 2001 and 2002, the group began playing at small venues in the States, and within a year, booked the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

Today, The Wiggles world has expanded with separate shows for Dorothy the Dinosaur, The Kingdom of Paramithee and Baby Antonio Circus, all part of a portfolio of products that Conway offers to different countries.

“We are starting to make programs in international markets that I thought would be difficult at first,” Conway says. “I wasn’t sure dubbed shows would work, but Disney found that it worked for them when they dubbed The Wiggles series in Japan. We’re now in countries like Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, working with NBC Universal’s KidsCo.”

There are no accidents in life, and the joy of entertaining youngsters while teaching them to be safe, eat healthy foods, and accept all people is a blessing Conway never takes for granted.

“My sister Julie died of a brain aneurism in 2001,” Conway says. “Three days later, Greg called, and asked me to run the business for The Wiggles. You never know what’s going to happen in life. I was trained in managing hospitals in the UK, and never expected to be working in entertainment.

“Yet my real passion has always been music. Combining business management with music and entertainment, and seeing the joy it brings to so many people is just an incredible experience. I’m a very lucky guy.”

Clearly, The Wiggles brand is in safe hands.

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