Mixing and matching two diverse careers has proved a winner for Wellington identity Chris O’Shea.
Better known as ‘Shady’, an appellation he acquired when working in radio, O’Shea has successfully maintained a long-time focus on the music industry while establishing a rapidly growing distribution and reseller business, Observatory Crest, with business partner Paul Grover.
O’Shea has worked both directly and indirectly in the IT industry since the 1980s. He established a number of legacy customers, developed through personal relationships, and set up Observatory Crest to service them while he continues his lifetime love affair with managing bands.
“I thought I needed to do that because my former employer was concerned I might be spending too much time dealing with the bands,” he says. “Paul was happy for me to do that and to explore online edutainment [O’Shea’s description of his online learning company].”
Observatory Crest has become firmly established. It started three years ago selling GFI Faxmaker, then became the distributor for the full range of GFI products, which includes email and network security. It also sources other hardware and software for customers.
“Then we picked up the rights to distribute F5, which has enabled us to set up a strong reseller channel,” O’Shea says. F5 — load balancing, firewall and remote application software — has been a major success with telcos and financial institutions. The resellers include EDS, IBM, Unisys, Datacom and Optimation.
Customers for Observatory Crest’s other prouct lines include Crown Law, the Stock Exchange and the Police Complaints Authority.
The company currently employs five staff and, says O’Shea, has longer-term plans to open an Auckland office.
O’Shea got into the music industry at age 17, joining a Wellington record store, which six months later he was managing. At 19 he moved to Melbourne to work for RCA. That was the year Elvis Presley died, which O’Shea says saved the company in Australia because there was a surge of nostalgia for Presley’s records.
“I was then given the job to turn songs into hits. I looked after visiting artists such as Abba, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Boz Scaggs, Blondie and Fleetwood Mac, road managing them in Australia.”
The latter career move was so successful that O’Shea was hired to go to the US to road manage Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac were big. “They thought they could do anything — and they probably could. They used to get shitty when I told them they had to share one limo rather than have a limo each. There was too much ego. I eventually got sick of the lifestyle — frankly, I thought it might kill me — and I moved back to New Zealand where I got a sales job at Rank Xerox.”
In the 1980s, he was selling currency-handling equipment to banks and stamp vending machines to the post office.
Throughout that period he kept his hand in band management. For the past decade he has promoted and managed The Waratahs, and currently also manages Crumb (The Lord of the Rings star Liv Tyler’s “favourite band”) and four singer-songwriters who are putting out albums this year.
O’Shea’s online e-learning company, Brainfuel, has recently published its first content, for the National Certificate in Computing (level two). It so far has 30 customers in association with a polytechnic and, says O’Shea, this year will greatly expand the content base.
He’s also working closely with former New Zealand rugby league coach Graham Lowe to market Lowe’s motivational skills to government and corporates. This is supported online and with DVDs and workbooks.
And every Sunday he hosts the Americana Show on Wellington’s Radio Active. “We’ve got quite a number of US listeners, who listen to me playing their music back to them — plus, of course, the good New Zealand stuff.”