Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Mysterious Leonardo Pavkovic

The Mysterious Leonardo Pavkovic

By James Joyce

Leonardo Pavkovic (left) Arlo Hennings (right)

The first time Arlo Hennings met Leonardo Pavkovic was at an ad hoc music business conference held in conjunction with an event “IMEX 2012” aka Indonesian Music Expo (now defunct) on Bali, Nusa Dua, Indonesia.

At the conference, Leonardo learned that Hennings was the former Director of Universal Music Publishing, Los Angeles.

After the event, Leonardo sent Hennings an email and offered to meet him in Jakarta. From that first meeting going forward, Hennings has not stopped wondering who is the real Leonardo Pavkovic? Who he met in person and did business with for two years didn’t match the articles and interviews he read.

Music writers proclaimed Leonardo as a “music visionary” for his curatorial taste in the unusual, the beyond, non-categorizable genres of music he released on his MoonJune label, which he claimed, “made no money.”

Before I get into the story, a little background on Pavkovic. Leonardo Pavkovic is in his early 50s, raised by an Italian stepfather, grew up in Bosnia, went to college in Italy, and North Africa, majoring in Literature, (unverified) somehow landed in Brazil, married a Chinese woman, immigrated to New York in the 90s, where he landed a job at a graphics shop in New York City. Fast forward, befriended a few musicians, namely the members of the old progressive rock band Soft Machine, and Allan Holdsworth, which he went on to manage and book.

Hennings sat at the restaurant table of an expensive hotel at his first meeting when he got the sales pitch about Leonardo’s latest vision “MoonJune Asia,” which he failed to offer any detail. Only it was going to be great! And, there was room for Hennings at the top like all his special pals who play along. The overweight man who talked with a hard to understand Slavic accent could sell popsicles to Eskimos.

Hennings got a brief overview of his record label and booking business.

When Leonardo told Hennings about his 30 bands, none he had heard of before, and after deeper research revealed they were so obscure that MoonJune records were smaller than a microbrewery it was more like a shrunken Ant-Man lab. No wonder it didn’t make any money it was a one-man operation and the content cool but not commercial. Talented artists, however, don’t get it wrong. Just unknown.

Afterward, Leonardo changed the subject and shared he was to undergo knee and eye surgery using American medical welfare insurance? Hennings took a long sip of coffee and wondered, how does a person travel around the world with a bankrupt label, booking obscure oldie acts afford the impresario lifestyle which included living in a multi-million dollar condo in Manhattan? Nevermind, Hennings thought. he added more sugar to his coffee. This was rock 'n' roll, and he was a “visionary?”

Judging by Leonardo’s summation of his label, Hennings gathered it operated by the seat of his pants. Leonardo admitted his experience in the music business was limited, and one of the reasons he wanted Hennings's help. In particular, music publishing.

Google search produced articles that presented Leonardo on a pedal stool, “lifelong hipster,” “visionary,” etc., etc. anacronyms and accolades that are generally associated with people in the embellished, self-promotion world of the entertainment business.

They concluded their breakfast, and his sales pitch ended. Would Hennings like to be his “associate” under the “auspices” of MoonJune engaged in what he called a “pal” deal? Leonardo continued, “I don’t sign contracts. Moonjune is one big family. I only work with friends.” What that means is his business is basically air, and as long as there’s nothing in writing, he can’t be held accountable for anything.

How could Hennings say no!

After being in the music business near 50 years, when Hennings heard words like “pal deal” following vague details, the don’t worry trust me, and promises of the extraordinary, experience told Hennings to run and don’t look back. But, who was this moon-man with the 15 Indonesian jazz CD releases, which don’t sell, and the apparent pot of gold in Indonesia?

They struck a deal, for 50% of his air and hotel expenses (only three trips were covered) amounting to less than $200 USD. Hennings would traverse one of the largest, and most difficult cities in the world, in Leonardo’s name, carrying a business card he made with his name on it. A business card Leonardo refused to reimburse the $4.00 printing charge.

Hennings mission, to forge new relationships, spread goodwill on his behalf, and get his Indonesian roster to sign an American music publishing contract. Money from the publishing royalties would be split 60/40 (if there were any monies). Whatever else was in this pal deal, Hennings didn’t know.

Even though Hennings was aware that another music industry expert had worked with Leonardo, and departed citing his disbelief in Indonesia, Hennings was looking for something to do. So he went along with the crazy scheme. It was crazy for a number of reasons. First, everything musically Hennings tried to put together throughout his life, and most recently on Bali, disintegrated under similar handshake, pal deal agreements. There were significant challenges, which included, talking about business in Indonesia of any kind required a work VISA, the artists knew nothing about music publishing or the music industry outside of Indonesia, not only was the CD sales business in the shitter, but less purchased MoonJune type music, and this opportunity was to blossom in a developing country? In a country that was 100% of piracy invaded?

Hennings agreed to take on this mission impossible, and chalked it up to his poor judgment in character, belief in fairy tales, and naive in trying to do business in a culture that is near impossible for a foreigner to navigate.

For two years, armed with his MoonJune business card, Hennings crawled through the worse traffic in the world. Leonardo’s A-list Indonesian music roster smiled, polite in varying degrees, but, either didn’t have the time nor the inclination to learn who Hennings was with one exception being a poor group from Yogyakarta and one guitarist. Leonardo failed to tell them who he was and why they should care. Perhaps, he was afraid of being less than #1 in the eyes of the Indonesians?

The gregarious Leonardo (Kota Tua Jazz fest 2014)

Hennings didn’t believe Leonardo knew what would happen, and assumed his VIP treatment by the locals would be bestowed upon Hennings too. Not even close. They ignored him.

Eventually, after much prodding on Hennings part, the artists signed their publishing agreement, but Leonardo threw them away without explanation. The artists, too na├»ve to understand, didn’t ask any questions. And or really didn’t care.

Several Leonardo visits Jakarta later, Hennings found himself sitting in the hotel lobby alone while Leonardo lied that an important local promoter didn’t want to meet him, (Tommy Pratama said that wasn’t true), a news conference where Hennings was not introduced, and other nefarious gatherings where Hennings found himself sidelined. Hennings caught on that anytime the spotlight was to shine it fell only on Leonardo. Moonjune Asia was to be parceled out on a TBD basis.

Adorned by the Indonesian press, Leonardo is revered as a hero for helping to introduce Indonesian jazz to the world. He is due kudos. Over ten years visiting Indonesia, and lost money on most of his Indonesian artists? What goes unreported, however, is that the artists receive no sales reports, royalties, and some even paid him? The way it works is the artist produces their own master recording, and Leonardo sometimes prints physical CDs and mailed them out to small music blogs in foreign countries and a few high profile publications sometimes garnering wonderful reviews. More accurately, MoonJune is a vanity boutique/marketing service than a record label. Starving for any recognition it’s “Better than nothing,” said one artist on the label.

Based in New York City, Pavkovic’s record label office is the size of a shoebox and doesn’t have staff. Everything is handled by one man, Leonardo or “Nardini” as his close friends refer to him as. How to juggle a catalog of over 60 CDs, and be a booking agent at the same time would be a good trick.

MoonJune Records, (2001) has no legal business registration in the State where it operates – New York. In addition, MoonJune Booking, the apparent bread and butter of Leonardo’s operation, according to the Association of Talent Agencies in New York, MoonJune or Pavkovic has no license to employ artists.

So what if he doesn’t pay his taxes, lacks a license, doesn’t file copyrights, collects medical welfare, and his business is a mess? In show business, such behavior would hardly produce a yawn. It’s gaslight rock 'n' roll, he’s a visionary, and the band loves an agent that can find them a gig!

Leonardo’s ten years of paying dues in Indonesia did come with a payback when two of the country’s wealthiest artists do business with the great Nardini, and what the value of those relationships means is anyone’s guess. Employment for his session player friends for one.

Leonardo did benefit greatly at Hennings expense when he got a wealthy Indonesian artist to partake in Leonardo’s services. Hennings received absolutely nothing for his help. One artist Leonardo called his "brother" was, in reality, an acquaintance until Hennings brought the two to work together.

Hennings was disheartened to read when an associate showed him an email from Leonardo. “Arlo is just not the kind of person I can work with. He’s a bridge burner, and look out many people are not liking him.”

Fragile egos get upset when people don’t play along or ask too many questions. Especially, in the ego sensitive music business. If Hennings collected a dime for every screwball deal and person that went awry on the blue guitar highway, he would be rich. Hennings is grateful that via Leonardo he learned about many new great artists however, there was nothing financially gained from it.

So, what is this just another colorful raw deal music business story? Or did Leonardo break the law? As a former paralegal for the California State Bar Association, I can share I’ve seen too many cases like this one. Therefore, in my opinion, had this happened in New York or California it would be considered an implied or verbal agreement especially one that infers a partnership by the term “Associate” with proof of a business card, email, social media, and other mechanisms promoting such a relationship is a “contract” under Music Business Law in those States. Hennings's case is, in my opinion, he produced business to the benefit of MoonJune without due compensation and then there’s the inappropriate defamation of character remarks. To be fair, if anyone was a bridge burner it was Leonardo, not Hennings.

Five years after the fact, Hennings went on to blaze his own history in Indonesia. He was also interviewed in numerous Indonesian media outlets about information regarding the music industry (Bali Advertiser, Tirto) including releasing his own Indonesian Jazz label, which landed a young pianist from Bali, Eric Sondhy, on worldwide music charts, curator for the music podcast show 107.3 2Ser Australia, featuring the latest in cutting edge music from the Indonesian archipelago, his own CD and book, the first foreigner to participate in the Indonesian music awards (AMI), managed an Indonesian band, I Know You Well Miss Clara, the Director of Business Development for the Ubud Concert Series and IMEX, and testament to Hennings popularity with Indonesians are his thousands of followers in his social media.

Hennings signing the I Know You Well Miss Clara band to Demajors record Co.

 Hennings working a music festival deal with Minster of Trade Gita Irawan Wirjawan

Hennings Director of Business Development

Hennings with former Director of AMI Tantowi Yahya (Ambassador New Zealand)

Bogus MoonJune music publishing agreement with Tesla Manaf

Hennings is a pioneer

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To learn more about Arlo Hennings