You’ve heard it a thousand times and you’re about to hear it again. It’s been one hell of a year. An unprecedented (yep, I said it) pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works for all of us; careers, plans, hobbies, freedoms and ways of life forever changed. And for those of us invested in the music industry, the pandemic was detrimental. Cancelled festivals and tours, postponed album launches, restricted studio time… artists, workers and fans alike were hit hard when the music industry as we knew it had to adapt or die.
True, the Australian music industry wasn’t perfect before it was hit hard by the pandemic. At times marred by tall poppy syndrome and inequality, it is not uncommon for local musicians to be overlooked, underpaid and underappreciated.
Yet Music Australia has estimated "the music sector contributes $4 to $6 billion to the Australian economy...our copyright industries generate more value to the Australian economy than manufacturing and health care; with recorded music being one of the most significant contributors". And even more importantly its such an iconic Australian cultural pursuit for artists and audiences alike.
So let’s turn our lemons into (Dope) Lemonade, allowing this crisis to shine a light on the importance of supporting our Australian music industry and encouraging ourselves and others to do our part to keep this bright, brilliant industry alive, starting with these five simple actions.
1. Support Your Local
“What I’ve definitely seen at the moment with COVID is this idea of support your local. I think we need to push to support our own in the music industry and it’s exciting that it’s starting to happen." - Leah Horn, Local Safari
At least one positive to come out of COVID-19 is the “support your local” movement. With the intention of supporting local industries to help them through these trying times, this concept translates flawlessly into music, providing us with the perfect opportunity to discover the homegrown talent blossoming all around us. Embodying this "support your local" mindset is also hugely important in helping to tackle the inequality and lack of diversity within the industry as we continue to expand our listening. So I want to take you on a beginners guide to opening yourself up to new local music and artists. A whole realm of undiscovered talent awaits.
I used to be an unadventurous binge listener. Unable to let go of my favourite artists, albums and songs, playing them constantly and refusing to make room for new discoveries. The trick to overcoming this affliction? Making time. Your favourite songs and artists will always be there, you just need to make room within your listening habits to uncover new talent. Weave some new songs in with the old, or spend a block amount of time (doesn’t have to be long) dedicated solely to searching out music and artists that you haven’t heard before. Same goes for you playlist fanatics. Drop the Top 50 and explore the Local Hub. Streaming services like Spotify have plenty of playlists that help you find local artists according to your listening habits. Let their algorithms bring some flavour into your listening as you support budding local talent.
If you’ve graduated to a novice level of music discovery, hit up Triple J Unearthed. One of my favourite Unearthed tools is the search bar. Type in a favourite artist and a list of similar sounding, local artists will pop up for you to check out. It’s that easy!
Another plus, with your gaggle of new artists, you might be surprised how many gigs and events you notice popping up in your own backyard! So look around. What gigs do your local bars and venues have coming up? I bet you see some familiar names. And if not? Doesn’t matter. You might have just discovered your new favourite artist and who knows, they could even live down your street.
2. Knowledge Is Power
Immersing yourself within the music industry where possible is another surefire way to help keep the scene alive. Knowledge is power after all.
Social media is a quick and easy way to keep up to date with headlines and current events. Follow your favourite artists and see what they’re up to. Do the same with your local bars and venues. Same goes for music publication socials. If you're reading this, you already know that there are plenty of quality Australian music publications at your fingertips e.g. Pilerats, Acid Stag, Best Before Co. to name just a few (and of course LivewireAU #likeandsubscribe😘). Bookmark them and sign up to their newsletters. You will soon find yourself privy to exciting music news and announcements, plus you will have the opportunity to read about artists and their music on a more personal level. Listen to Triple and Double J. Locate some local music related podcasts. Attend events like BIG SOUND, designed to support the industry and promote up-and-coming artists. We live in the information age - make it work for you. Bonus, you’re supporting music journalism!
3. Build Up, Don’t Cut Down
"The Australian music industry is rife with Tall Poppy syndrome. We should be stoked when our artists achieve these amazing things overseas, and instead you get people putting the artists down." - Jack Pierce, the Pierce Brothers.
Although seemingly obvious - treat people with respect rather than bringing them down with negativity - unfortunately it still needs to be said. There’s a dark aspect to our industry that is ingrained in Australian culture as a whole and is becoming more pronounced. Yes, I’m talking about Tall Poppy Syndrome. Put simply, Tall Poppy Syndrome is Australia’s answer to keeping everyone “grounded” and “humble”. For every flower that grows too quickly, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to cut it down a bit, "take them down a few pegs". We’re all guilty of it at some level, I mean, who doesn’t love an underdog? However, in certain industries, especially in entertainment and music, this way of thinking is extremely detrimental and works against us all. Clearly demonstrated by the speed at which us Aussie’s turn on certain artists, primarily women, when they start making it big overseas. Up-and-coming, esteemed and trending quickly becoming overexposed, overrated and so two-months ago. Tones & I, Tash Sultana and Courtney Barnett are just a few artists who, in recent years, have experienced Tall Poppy Syndrome firsthand.
It seems astounding that Tones & I, currently the only female and Australian artist in Spotify’s all-time top three streams, her smash hit ‘Dance Monkey’ destroying records around the globe, is a victim of overwhelming negativity. But sadly this is the case. Social media posts are riddled with distasteful and hateful comments directed at the artist, crossing the line from respectful opinion (of course music taste is subjective and you can’t please everyone) to downright bullying. Not cool.
Many artists have faced similar situations, revered for their talent and unique sound, collecting local fans who push for them to be played more because they’re “criminally underrated” and should be the “next big thing”. But all too often when these artists do start growing, attracting media attention and achieving success overseas, many local fans start to turn on them and haters appear out of the woodwork. Even local media outlets can turn on them at times in response to their readers’ thinking. So our mission is simple. Be mindful of your comments and how they affect others. Identify the difference between sharing your music opinions and attacking a person for no good reason, especially in a public forum. Let’s spread positivity for our homegrown talent, show them our support and that we are rooting for their success.
4. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Besides attending local gigs (Restrictions permitting), which are usually extremely affordable, the aforementioned strategies to help our music industry don't require big, if any, spending. But if you can swing it, now's the time to show me the money!
One of the best ways to do this… merch! Buying your favourite local artists merch is a great way to support them financially whilst proving your loyalty. The merch game is on fire at the moment, with a huge range of different artist-repping products to get your hands on. Bucket hats (DMA’s), surf wax (Hockey Dad) and of course, what could be better than delving into an artist's new album on fresh vinyl? Let's not forget the ultimate merch item… the trusty band tee. Which leads me to one of my favourite days of the year… #AusMusicTShirtDay.
Ausmusic T-Shirt Day, is a nation-wide celebration of Australian music, acknowledging how lucky we are to have so many highly talented and successful artists within our local music scene.
This day is created to raise money and awareness for Support Act, Australia’s only charity delivering crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers as a result of ill health, injury, a mental health problem, or some other crisis that impacts on their ability to work in music.
Support Act provides many vital resources including the Support Act Wellbeing Hotline, First Nations Dedicated Support Line and Mental Health Matters workshops. These are all aimed at providing much needed support to people in the industry suffering from poor mental health.
You can donate to Support Act at any time by clicking here.
5. Speak Out And Share
So don your merch, post your photo, become part of the conversation! Talk about your favourite aussie music, share stories, make posts! Rep your Ausmusic T-Shirt today and do what you can to involve the people around you: family, friends, workplace colleagues. You would be hard-pressed to find someone that wasn’t a music fan, therefore we are all affected by this industry and should all be doing what we can to keep it breathing.
Although I haven't touched on every way we can help the Australian music industry, I do believe that attempting these five actions will set us on the path to helping lift up the industry. This past year has gifted us with the unique opportunity to wake up to the issues facing our music industry and realise that we all have a part to play to ensure it can thrive. To all the talented people working within our industry, I want to say a huge THANK YOU for everything you give to us. A life without music is a life without passion and I absolutely cannot wait to see what the next decade brings for Australian music.
If you or anyone you know working in the Australian music industry needs to talk about any aspect of their mental health, call the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline on #1800 959 500 or the First Nations Dedicated Support Line on #1800 861 085.
For more information visit supportact.org.au