IMPALA’s Outstanding Contribution Award has been dedicated to the late Tony Duckworth.
PIAS executive Tony Duckworth died, aged 56, in 2021.
The posthumous honour was made during MENT festival and conference in Ljubljana, in order to recognise Duckworth’s career in music and his dedication to network development in the Central and Eastern European region for independent music companies.
Tony Duckworth first joined PIAS in the 1990s, working at Vital Distribution in the UK, making his way to become sales and marketing director. In 2004, he set up his own company in Poland, while working as head of label management at PIAS’ distribution partner Mystic.
In 2015, he was pivotal in setting up PIAS’ Poland and Eastern Europe office to expand their operation and reach in Europe. As the general manager of PIAS Poland and Eastern Europe, Duckworth was a driving force in developing the local artist roster in the country as well as building PIAS’ international labels and artists’ presence in the region.
In 2018, Tony Duckwoth joined IMPALA at MENT festival and conference to interview Helen Smith as a keynote speaker, as part of the trade body’s 15th anniversary events. He also kicked off a series of dedicated panels on the market for record labels in the Balkans, the EU’s Music Moves Europe initiative and strategies to conquer new music markets.
“It was a privilege to get Tony’s insight into the market and be inspired by his passion for European diversity and representation within the independent music sector,” said IMPALA in a statement.
MENT also organised a panel this weekend in collaboration with IMPALA entitled Mental Health: We’re All In This Together. The aim was to raise awareness on improving the working conditions for management and employees in music companies.
Helen Smith, executive chair of IMPALA, said: “MENT was Tony’s favourite conference and so it’s the perfect occasion to recognise his outstanding contribution to independent music. Tony made an incredible impact with his inspiring vision and infectious energy. He had a wonderful gift to make people feel empowered and motivated. His passing is a great loss. We will always remember Tony’s genuine kindness, incredible passion for music and great sense of humour.”
Tony had a wonderful gift to make people feel empowered and motivated
Kenny Gates, co-founder of PIAS, said: “Tony first joined PIAS UK, then called Vital, in 1994 as sales director and was instrumental in structuring the bunch of enthusiastic but naive kids we were back then, but also by setting up innovative sales techniques that were copied by our competition. He gave us the dimension we needed to grow to become the premier independent distributor in the country. A company is only where it is thanks to those who have shaped it and built it.
“After having mentored the team that would strive with hits such as Elastica, Gene, Bluetones, Sleeper, Oasis, Tom Jones, Aphex Twin, and so many more, Tony moved to pastures new. His second spell at PIAS, in the middle of the 2000s, was in the form of heading PIAS in Poland, until his tragic passing. PIAS is a family and there is nothing more devastating than losing a family member. His influence and imprint on the journey of our company will never be forgotten.”
Andraz Kajzer, MENT artistic director & festival manager, on behalf of the whole MENT team, added: "Since Tony's very first visit to MENT, he was a part of our international family. Definitely one of the brightest, experienced people, enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge and supporting the artists and other professionals. Tony Duckworth was a special person for us at MENT and we miss him greatly."
Previous recipients of the Outstanding Contribution Award include Didier Gosset, Keith Harris, Love Record Stores, Music Declares Emergency, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Armada Music/Armin van Buuren, Martin Mills and Charles Caldas (Merlin).