Amplify Music Communities

Australia
Read Australia's Transcript

Storm Gloor

Hello, my name is Storm Gloor. Amplify Music Communities is a global continuation of the Amplify Music conference in which we take a journey around the world with leaders within music, ecosystems, various cities, states, regions, and countries. In our sessions, we’ll hear what’s happening at the ground level from leaders in these communities. We’d like to thank our sponsor of this particular episode, Bandzoogle. We go down under to visit with leaders from the sixth-largest music market in the world, Australia. We’re lucky to have with us in this conversation three recognized leaders in the Australian music ecosystem. Leanne De Souza is co-owner at Nightlife Music and the chair of the advisory board for the Electronic Music Conference. Joe Hay runs Creative Change Consulting and has worn many hats in support of the Australian music industry. And Emily Collins is the Managing Director of Music New South Wales. Emily, welcome, and I’d like to start by asking you what area of the music industry do you work in and within that role, what do you expect to be your biggest challenges going forward?

 

Emily Collins  

Thanks for having me Storm. Well, so the area that I work in specifically is, I run the state music body for contemporary music in New South Wales. So we are funded by state government to deliver programs and services for the music community. And we also are one of the key music advocates in the state, representing the industry to government and to other sectors. There are eight state and territory music bodies across Australia. So we’re just one of them. And yeah, it’s a really great network. In terms of challenges moving forward, was that the question? 

 

Storm Gloor

Yes, yes. You know, in this new normal. 

 

Emily Collins

The new normal? Well, I think one of the things, you know, we work with a lot of early-career artists and industry. And I think one of the biggest challenges is just the absolute disruption to normal career pathways. And I think if you’re an early-career artist, or early career industry professional, looking at the music industry, both domestically and internationally, at the moment, it’s really hard to, sort of, I guess, plot out a clear pathway for career development. So I think that’s going to be one of the big challenges we face as we try to discover what still, you know, is relevant from the old world, and what’s new, and what’s new, and what is changing, and what needs to be re-evaluated and how that impacts, you know, professional development.

 

Storm Gloor

Great. And, Joe, what do you see as the biggest challenges ahead?

 

Joe Hay

I see. Well, going forward, I think it’s really getting back to the issues that were there before. I think that, you know, they haven’t gone anywhere, I think COVID has really just put a hold on it. If anything, it’s probably magnified it because, you know, music is traditionally competing with greater, you know, other forms of entertainment. And with the lockdown, people stop going to see music, it’s really about getting them back out and getting into that whole new normal thing. Actually lead, you know, leadership, I think is going to be the big bit. We’re getting back out of the grassroots level and seeing what’s there and just getting people back out to music, all the things that were there before except I think it’s just, it’s amplified, great word choice there. And it’s really how we’re going to respond to that, you know, it’s, it’s the same things it’s, you know,  government regulations, urban development, gentrification, all that all the issues that were affecting you that you find. And you know, exactly what Emily was saying about, you know, career pathways and development and, and supporting the emerging.

 

Storm Gloor

Alright, thank you and Leanne, in, from your role and your perspective, what do you see as your challenges or the challenges ahead?

 

Leanne de Souza

Thanks, Storm. Thanks, Emily and Joe, that was interesting. answering that, I mean, we, as a private business in music technology space I’m sort of answering it from, at the moment actually feel quite optimistic at a local level. So we’re situated in the greater South East Queensland/Brisbane Gold Coast kind of areas where our headquarters are, but we work nationally. But I think the challenge is short-term around our clients, we got about 5000 clients in public spaces. So as rules change, and even though, yes, Australia’s open, there’s still that precarious nature to short lockdowns, that effects, whether it’s a gym or a bar, or live music venue. But that’s really a short-term challenge for us, too. It’s really around getting back to the export momentum. You know, we’re at a point pre-COVID, where Australian business can export globally in the tech space. So that sort of is all on ice. So that’s going to be a challenge. And also like just the sustainability of a workforce of keeping people employed. You know, I’ve got to keep the organizational culture, people connected, we have to pay them, all of that. But actually, what there’s no challenge with, is the amount of content. There’s more quality content than ever. So I think that’s that, you know, the upside in what we do. There is no shortage of great music being made.

 

Storm Gloor 

Well, I appreciate your optimism on that. And, it’s great hearing from your all’s perspectives on that. What I’d like to ask next, ask next is, from a community level, your governments, what have they done to boost music in Australia? And do they have anything in motion for next year and beyond? How about Emily, would you answer that one?

 

Emily Collins  

Yeah. Um, so as I said before, where I’m based specifically in New South Wales, and have had a lot to do with the New South Wales government, in terms of looking for ways to support the contemporary music industry, or through the pandemic and looking forward to the next couple of years, and, you know, we’ve just had one of the biggest largest investments into contemporary music ever. Been sort of announced in the last two months, which is $24 million of live music funding specifically for live music venues, which is incredibly, much needed. And very, I guess, you know, it’s a great sign of good things to come from this government in terms of understanding the role that contemporary music has to play in nighttime economies and in employment and jobs and, you know, community well being. So yeah, that particular investment has been really significant. There’s also been other state investment into, I guess, program subsidizing. So supporting artists and people putting on shows to do that by providing funding, there’s been a lot of regulatory change as well. A big suite of liquor, Liquor Act Amendments went through late last year, which is about making it easier for the live music industry to do business by removing some of those regulatory challenges we’ve had, which has been fantastic. And I think, you know, looking forward, there’s just really great ongoing conversations with the state government about, you know, various opportunities to support what is, you know, one of the largest music industries in Australia, and just the real potential that New South Wales has nationally and internationally to be a real leader. So yeah, that’s a really exciting conversations happening.

 

Storm Gloor   

And, Joe, from your community level government perspective…

 

Joe Hay    

From my community government, yes. Although, I mean, there was the federal, through the federal government and various segments is Emily and Leanne can talk about the government has been putting funding out there for live music venues and through job keeper, you know, for those musicians that could actually access those that sort of those funding streams. It’s been there. We’ve heard some good responses from Tasmania on the take out of some of the Federal music funding where their music Tasmania working with the venues to get them to actually apply for funding and to, you know, help them out through the lockdowns and the downtime. So I think going forward, I think it is going to be a very community-focused while the state governments will be able to do and it’s fantastic to see the turnaround in New South Wales, they’ve come from a pretty dark place. They’re not just from COVID, the work that Emily was doing and everyone else doing in New South Wales is, it’s just it’s so important. Sydney’s one of the biggest cities and from, not to have a live music scene. It’s just beyond belief. But going forward, it is really going to be, you know, those local councils and state governments working very specifically on the problems in those areas. There’s a real large focus for regional touring at the moment. And it’s exciting to see some of the programs that are coming out to actually develop that in Victoria, Some good responses to regional touring program that’s just happened there. So it’s, you know, as always, with these things it’s going to be, it’s going to have the big broad strokes of funding, but at the same time, if they’re not landing in the specific areas, and I think Leanne coming from the business side of things can talk about that as well, probably, if they’re not really hitting those targets, and what the people on the ground are actually saying, and it’s going to be a waste of funding basically. As always, I think that’s the hope going forward.

 

Storm Gloor    

I see. And Leanne, what have you seen?

 

Leanne de Souza    

I’m really seeing similar to Emily, but in the north, in the Queensland Government put their money into venues to sort of support venues with programming. I think, you know, there could always be more, they just announced a bit more, but it’s good to see that starting to get the pocket of artists. There’s also been investment by the Queensland Government in regional artists and capacity building some of those programs yet to see what they mean long term, but they’re there. I think, too, we’re in an interesting position, because Brisbane City Council, it’s actually the largest state government in the world as a bureaucracy. So we work very closely Brisbane City Council with the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, for the whole region. So there’s actually a little bit of some good conversations around what a 10-year plan right across the industry, it’s not just music, so But whether that you know, it’s not just a funding program. So going forward, a lot of the advocacy up here is really around procurement. So if the Queensland Government and the council can actually you know, when it comes to music, performances, venues, all of the procurement stuff of state government, the amount of money they spend, and particularly when, you know, it looks like the Olympic bid against bid is successful, so 2032. So that’s from a “Okay, how can we get as much government money staying in Queensland back into the creatives pockets as possible” is sort of where we’re at. But yeah, on the business side, you know, the federal government’s job keeper, what Joe alluded to, that helps prop up jobs and employment. We were a beneficiary of that it actually served us and now it was intended, but whether that actually with the really, you know, in the live sector and the small businesses that need that coming through, you know, without that income, I don’t think we’ve seen what that really means for small business closures for a few months. Yeah. That’s sort of my perspective. 

 

Storm Gloor    

Yes, yes. And you mentioned 2032. And speaking of I’m gonna ask you to look ahead now and think about and share with us what do you think will be the successes that will make the biggest difference in Australia’s music economy in the coming years? Emily, what are your thoughts on that? What will be the successes you think?

 

Emily Collins    

That’s a really tough one. I mean, look, I think, like Leanne said, there’s, there’s no shortage of talent. And I think, you know, Australia has an incredible advantage at the moment to really support and not propagate or proliferate. But one of those words that, you know, said, you know, make sure that Australian talent is not just like becoming more of a mainstay within Australia as the content that we consume, but also, internationally. And I think the success that we’re looking for, is to really see viable, sustainable, ongoing careers for artists. And that’s what we’re all I guess, working towards, yeah, that’s, that’s what keeps me going. And that’s what I think we’re banking on.

 

Storm Gloor    

Okay, and, Joe, what are your thoughts on that?

 

Joe Hay    

Well, I’d probably make a joke and say, you know, get a few more massive international acts, which again, I totally agree with Emily and Leanne. We’re, you know, we’re not lacking at all in talent from Australia. We’re constantly like, every other day, there’s another fantastic band. I think, for me, it just being in this industry is so exciting. It is that constant surprise, is that constant, new discovery. It’s probably wrong, but I’m waiting to see what comes out of the whole lockdown. You know, kids out there having illegal parties where they you know, are they developing new scenes, or they, you know, where is it? What’s coming? I mean, I’m, I know I’m getting old because I’m totally disconnected to kids going off having wild time, which is, you know, wrong. But it’s what they’re for. So I’m really excited about the future. I think it’s going to be you know, you know, we’re all we talk about mechanisms and levers and things governments can do to prove things that the best thing is really just get out of the way and just say yes, a lot more, and allow things to happen. Yeah, I can’t wait to see what the kids have been up to while we’re in lockdown and making sourdough, you know, where does it come in? Because it can all be done in your room now. So you know, I’m, I live in hope.

 

Storm Gloor    

All right. Oh, we will. Absolutely. And Leanne, what do you say is the successes in the future?

 

Leanne de Souza    

I sort of entered this as sort of like, we’re thinking more about the trends of what we’re sort of seeing that this age of optimism on the horizon. One thing and this is not based on any research, but completely anecdotally, because I’m in Brisbane, I mean, I went to see the middle kids concert hall last night to a full house like we’re sort of at this where they aren’t one of the only concert hall theater spaces in the world that is at capacity, doing contemporary music. So it’s kind of weird, but what I think is seeing,  that all the economics supply and demand has increased ticket prices for domestic artists. So anecdotally, both as a consumer and talking to managers and promoters I mean, punters are happily paying 20 or 30% more on the ticket price than they were pre-COVID. So I don’t, you know, if that becomes that we’ve added some value to that live experience because it was taken away. That’ll be really interesting. And if managers and booking agents etc, can hold their own on that, the pricing, I think that would be a trend. The second one is that and it was actually picked up this week also in one Mark Mulligan’s pieces, I think but the fitness sector, so in gyms and wellness, the amount of music and the importance of music and community in the health and wellbeing sector is actually really growing, whether it’s through the tech bits or the community that’s building around that and musics really integral in fitness in so many different ways. I reckon that’s a big growth. The third thing that’s quite niche to what we do, but it’s no by no means an Australia only problem but actually having data agreements with the PROs. So that actual accurate distribution of royalties back to the right pockets. I think that is a massive trend and it’s happening. A lot of progress has been made in Australia in our business and our sector with the PROs is while COVID has been happening. So I think that trend of both getting money from songs and sound recordings back into the pockets of the right people. And, you know, if we can keep as much of that in Australia to be a little selfish about it, not send it all over to the big names would be good. And the fourth thing that I touched on before but around government procurement, and you know, I think that will be really important that we back Australian-made content. And then finally two, I think it comes back to what Joe and Emily, there’s no shortage of content, but also artists are no longer, yes, they can make music, but we’re seeing them also be screen artists, visual artists, you know, this sort of real convergence of the creativity. I think that’s cool. It’s not just going to be, you know, songwriters, there’s a whole spectrum now of what creativity looks like, and how that screen-based flip of COVID is affecting the creative process, that’s sort of where my head was.

 

Storm Gloor    

Yeah, well, I hope that all of these predictions and in things we see ahead happen. Yes, we will cross our fingers for sure. Well, let’s talk specifically about the artists in your country. You all, several of you all have mentioned that you know, you all have a plethora of great artists, wonderful talent there and, and how are they faring? What programs or initiatives have been supporting them to be resilient in all this? Emily, would you share any that you know of?

 

Emily Collins    

Yeah, look, there’s a real, there are some really interesting programs happening across Australia. I mean, we just got funding from the state government to employ seven regional music offices, which are basically employees of my organization who live and work remotely across New South Wales, which is a huge geographical landmass. And so, you know, having people on the ground to provide the kind of support that my organization does, which is like resources, you know, advice around funding, connections to other people within the industry, capacity building, you know, and, you know, skill development. You know, having those employees on the ground for us is game-changing, you know, we’re normally a three-person organization based in Sydney. And so now that we’ve been able to extend our offering across the state, we’re really looking to see, you know, great capacity building for regional artists who are already, you know, doing amazing things, but just need a bit of a help. Like, everyone. So yeah, I think there’s like, that’s one program we’re really proud of. Oh, gosh, there’s so many interesting things happening. Yeah, I mean, I’m sure Leanne can give more detail. The resilience spaces. It’s really hard. And, you know, I think one of the things I want to say is that funding comes at a cost as well, for artists and, you know, often they’re expected to put in funding applications. And we are lucky in Australia to have quite a, you know, a lot of investment in music, or music and arts industries. But it’s often very difficult for independent artists to do that kind of work. And I, you know, I think there’s a lot of work been going on around supporting artists to better access those grant programs. Because there’s what people sort of referring to, as you know, grant trauma, you know, having so many funding rounds going around everyone putting in applications, because they’re all broke and getting to this point where they get rejection after rejection after rejection, because this is such a huge demand. And I think, you know, that’s one thing I’m really keen to make sure we keep doing as an organization, supporting artists to access that kind of support.

 

Storm Gloor    

Okay, and Joe, and Leanne, any other programs that you want to mention?

 

Leanne de Souza    

I think. I mean Emily covered some of them. Yeah, well, two things. I mean, one, we have a, like a National Artists Benevolent Association that, it’s called Support Act. And I think the government, the federal government have funneled a lot of money there to get out rapid, you know, $2,000 grants here and there and support some of the health and well being training and support for artists. And there’s a counseling hotline, that type of practical support, but then I sort of look on the other side, you know, when you think about artists, just in our local community, I think even now, yes, Australia is opening up and it’s feeling a bit, you know, back to normal, whatever that is. I still think there’s that deep grief and trauma, like we had a music awards night here last week, and just artists haven’t actually been in spaces with other artists. So there’s actually a lot of, you know, healing and talking to each other. And I’m as massive as Emily, you know. And I’m a big champion of peer support. So I just think I don’t feel like there’s enough mechanisms at the moment yet for artists to artists conversations and discussing and sharing that experience in order to kind of align, what’s the expectations of what it is to be now an artist, I don’t think I feel again, it’s a really precarious and without creating spaces for artists to have conversations and share experiences, we’re not sure and not just about co-writing or some sort of creative collaboration, it’s actually a human sharing of what’s just been through And out of that of how we really support the artists rather than sort of trying to design what we think they need. I don’t think artists themselves can articulate what they need yet. That’s a bit of a watch this space for me. 

 

Storm Gloor    

Joe, anything to add?

 

Joe Hay    

Well, just yeah, just following along, following on, but yeah, just internal support, I think the thing that’s been really, really good to watch over the last five/six/ten years, is the development of these, of an understanding of you know, mental health and community looking out for each other, and, you know, ending really bad behavior, you know, unacceptable behavior, across the sector. I think it’s so nice to hear the event earlier in Brisbane. I think everyone’s sort of feeling, you know, get a massive feeling of isolation. And as touring and all that sort of stuff starts to come, you know, happen again, everyone’s getting out. I went saw a gig in a very small venue, the other night and you’re right, the artists were really excited to see each other, you know, just realize how, you know how locked off you get from everybody, especially when you’re not able to go out and do what you love, which is like performing live music or whatever, really. So once we can get back to, you know, the conferences, and, and the, you know, the larger festivals, where everyone gets to mix again, people begin to feel that they’re not alone, that they’re not, you know, sitting in the room by themselves feeling this is the only person in the world. I’m sure people don’t, it’s probably not that simple.  It’s, it’s nice. Anyway, when you get a group of artists and a group of, you know, professionals in a room who, you know, share a common experience. But no, it’s definitely something that needs it’s, it’s, it’s definitely going to be a plus, one of the upsides of coming back and getting it like you say back to a new normal. In South Australia, we have a thing called Umbrella Festival. And it was sort of developed to sort of activate a particular time of year in South Australia, but the heart of it was getting venues and artists to think about what performances and what their show is and getting them to experiment. So giving the space and permission to experiment, but it’s also giving permission to, to audiences who traditionally don’t go, haven’t gone see music for a long time, or wouldn’t have gone to see live music to go and try things out. Now, that’s a very Adelaide culturally specific thing, because we also have a few other really successful open-access festivals. And it just seems to be culturally something that really works here. But with that sort of event coming up, I think it’s been delayed here this year, but we’re getting people to go back out again, and share ideas and share experiences and encourage people to get back out again, it’s definitely gonna be a way of sort of helping people come back to helping people feel like they’re not alone. And it’s, it’s this process, basically.

 

Storm Gloor    

I see. And, and it sounds like you all have a lot of great programs happening and in play. But I appreciate that you all also mentioned, you know, existing issues that still need to be addressed. And that’s part of it, too. So thank you for sharing those thoughts. Well, that brings our conversation to a close for now. And I absolutely want to thank all of you, Joe, Leanne. Emily, thank you so much for your time and sharing your insights, very much appreciated. I also want to thank our sponsor Bandzoogle, check them out at bandzoogle.com. And that concludes this session. Thank you for checking out this edition of Amplify Music Communities. You can learn more by going to amplifymusic.org/communities. Subscribe to our podcast feed for more episodes. And thank you.

Our Australia Speakers

Emily Collins

Emily Collins

Managing Director, MusicNSW; Board Member, Night Time Industries Association (Australia)

Joe Hay

Joe Hay

South Australian Festivals License Reform Roundtable Member; Live Music Commentator, ABC 891 Radio, Fringe Pilot Festival, Adelaide, Australia

Leanne de Souza

Leanne de Souza

Co-owner, Nightlife Music; Chair, Electronic Music Conference

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