Brussels / Ljubljana, 3rd April 2023, 

This weekend, IMPALA’s Outstanding Contribution Award was dedicated to the late Tony Duckworth during MENT festival and conference in Ljubljana to recognise his remarkable career in music and his dedication to network development in the Central and Eastern European region for independent music companies. 

Tony first joined [PIAS] in the 1990’s working at Vital Distribution in the UK, making his way to become Sales and Marketing Director. In 2004, Tony made the bold move to set up his own company in Poland, while working as Head of Label Management at [PIAS]’s distribution partner Mystic. In 2015, he was pivotal in setting up [PIAS]’s Poland and Eastern Europe office to expand their operation and reach in Europe. As the General Manager of [PIAS] Poland and Eastern Europe, Tony was a driving force in developing the successful and talented local artist roster in the country as well as building [PIAS]’s international labels and artists’ presence in the region.

Tony was always a key advocate of network development of independent record labels in the Central and Eastern European Region. In 2018, Tony joined IMPALA at MENT festival and conference to interview Helen Smith as a  keynote speaker when MENT also hosted the full board of IMPALA for its board meeting. Tony 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.

(Keynote interview at MENT 2018: Tony Duckworth ([PIAS] Poland and Eastern Europe, with Helen Smith (IMPALA)) Photo: Maša Gojić)

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. It addressed the main questions people have but which too often remain unasked, as well as the latest research. The main theme explored as to what can be done to mitigate and prevent risk in such a passionate and demanding work environment?

Read MENT festival and conference’s programme here.

(Mental Health panel at MENT 2023 on the photo from left to right: Magda Chołyst (Artist in Bloom, PL), Arun Castro (Roadie Medic, UK), Rosana Corbacho (M.I. Therapy, ES), Sarah Joy (ATC Live, UK) and Tisa Frelih (University psychiatric clinic Ljubljana, SI))

Helen Smith, Executive Chair of IMPALA, reflected: “MENT was Tony’s favourite conference and so it’s the prefect 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”. 

Andraž 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.” 

Kenny Gates, Co-founder of [PIAS] concluded: “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 Elastika, 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 and this until his tragic passing. [PIAS] is a family and there is nothing more devastating that losing a family member. His influence and imprint on the journey of our company will never be forgotten”.

About IMPALA’s Outstanding Contribution Award

IMPALA’s Outstanding Contribution Award is designed to put the spotlight on European independent music and those who drive it, as well as initiatives that deserve particular recognition. Previous recipients include Didier Gosset, FONO, Kees Van Weijen, Keith Harris, Tom Deakin, Love Record Stores, Music Declares Emergency, Markus Tobiassen and newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, Jonas Sjöström (Playground Music Scandinavia), Plus 1  Refugees welcome!, Label Love, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Armada Music/Armin van Buuren, Martin Mills (Beggars Group), Charles Caldas (Merlin) and Mario Pacheco.

More here.


IMPALA was established in 2000 and now represents nearly 6000 independent music companies. 99% of Europe’s music companies are small, micro and medium businesses and self-releasing artists. Known as the independents, they are world leaders in terms of innovation and discovering new music and artists – they produce more than 80% of all new releases and account for 80% of the sector’s jobs. IMPALA’s mission is to grow the independent music sector sustainably, return more value to artists, promote diversity and entrepreneurship, improve political access, inspire change, and increase access to finance. IMPALA works on a range of key issues for its members, runs various award schemes and has a programme aimed at businesses who want to develop a strategic relationship with the independent sector – Friends of IMPALA

IMPALA – Independent Music Companies Association

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