Building a vibrant Australian Live Music scene

| August 4, 2015

We all love to see artists perform live at venues. It’s the lifeblood of the music industry and is more and more the financial backbone of an artist’s livelihood. Hearing a song on radio, streaming service or record, is the trigger for a fan to see the act live and where the artist can really showcase their work. Australia’s illustrious history of producing domestic and international artists success stories have often been built on live performance. Just think AC/DC, The Rubens, Hilltop Hoods, Midnight Oil, INXS and The Jezabels to name a few. Their reputations are all built on solid touring and relentless gigging. For many of us attending local shows is a fundamental part of our cultural and social lives.

Maintaining a healthy and sustainable venue based live music scene is essential to a healthy music industry. Over the past few years, venues have been under extreme pressure and we have seen closures in both regional and metropolitan areas. Fortunately it’s not all bad news, as there have been new venues opening too.

The Live Music Office was established in 2013 to support the growth of the venue-based live music sector in Australia. Supported by funding partners the Federal Government, the Australia Council for the Arts and APRA AMCOS, it has two main aims; to increase live music performance opportunities and to support live music audience and sector development. Policy Director John Wardle and Audience and Sector Development Director Damian Cunningham work to provide the vision and strategic direction.

Essential to policy development and regulatory reform is identifying the local needs and issues facing the sector. The Live Music Office has seen good results in bringing together representatives from the local industries involved with live music to host open forums for venues, performers, arts organisations and regulatory agencies. These forums identify issues and form the basis of strategic planning for live music in that region.

Key issues identified nationally include:

  • Strategic Planning and Capacity Building.
  • Better Regulation and Built Environment Policy.
  • Reducing Land Use Conflict.
  • Ensuring Sustainable Venues – Regional, Outer Metropolitan and Metropolitan.
  • Venue Best Practice – Business Practices, Publicity and Marketing Guidance.

Building capacity through live music strategic planning at both state and local levels support the deployment of sector development strategies like best practice resources and the Live and Local precinct model. It’s crucial to the development of live music across the country that we also include representative organisations such as AHA and Clubs Australia and the broader hospitality sector into supporting new and existing live music venues.

Initiatives developed by the Live Music Office underpin best practice and aid these venues to approach programming live music in an effective and sustainable way.

The Live Music Office has developed the Live and Local precinct model, which is a grassroots endeavour that promotes live music in communities. It brings together venues, local businesses, musicians and the public for an event in their community that creates opportunities for employment and cultural development. Established live music venues, showcase local artists and aligned to an already established “ host” event.  Retail outlets, cafes and restaurants in addition to regular venues are transformed into temporary live music spaces. The ancillary industries to live music such as local providers of sound and lighting equipment are also engaged within the event. It’s also a chance for the public to experience what their local live music scene has to offer and develop a narrative with the venues, while businesses can witness first-hand the impact live music has on their revenue. And for musicians, it’s a well-paid gig that can lead to future opportunities. The IGNITE event series is an example of this model. In Nov 2014, 44 artists performed live at over 10 venues in Kings Cross in conjunction with ARIA week.  The positive feedback from venues, performers, attendees and the local community has resulted in planning for a 2015 event.

Live music can seem like a complex business, so to ensure the Live and Local precinct model is effective, the Live Music Office have put together assets and guides on ways to bring shows into all types of venues including Cafes, Restaurants, Clubs, Bars and Hotels. A venue may have one show a month or seven shows a week, but building a plan for presenting live music and knowing the process involved is essential to a successful gig. There is advice on the processes involved for both venues and artists, along with examples and templates of key documents that are commonly used to ensure the successful delivery of live music events.  Assistance to venues is covered with topics such as how to book artists, working with artists and managing shows. While artists have access to information on finding and playing shows, dealing with venues, marketing and budgeting, Media, ticketing and touring.

Through initiatives like these we have developed the foundations to building a more sustainable live music practice and to up skill and educate all involved in the business of live music.

More information can be found at the Live Music Office website


  1. Eric Erickson

    Statistics, statistics, statistics – I love statistics. I need statistics. Everyone needs statistics.

    Have you ever tried to put a business plan together for a music industry project or a pitch to investors? You need numbers from past and present to quantify (and qualify) the industry and even predict trends (positive and negative). There are some dollar figures thrown around and even some broad attendance figures, but I can never find them broken down region by region to cover Australia.

    It seems that some States have a rush of blood to the head and do some great number gathering (surveys and studies) one year and then all goes quiet. The problem is that these studies happen sporadically and cover different regions and periods of time so you can’t get a picture of, or quote statistics for, the industry across State borders for particular years.

    And then each State study doesn’t quite provide the same data that matches any previous study or that from the State next door or on the other side of the country, so you can’t do comparisons over periods or regions.

    What we need is a co-ordinated, national industry breakdown, scheduled to happen every few years. A census, if you like.

    The AUSMUSIC “Stayin’ Alive” project was a great start but it was never able to be followed up because the organisation lost government support. Can the bones of that national survey be included in future reports?

    We had a huge cultural industries advisory group report published in the 90’s. If that was replicated every ten years (the shorter the periods, the better), it would be of massive benefit for entrepreneurs and industry startups.

    Can you tell me how many active, earning, bands and musicians there are in Australia right now – and how many venues (grab for those APRA license stats) are presenting live music on any particular night of the week – and in total per week… or month? The numbers are out there – somewhere.

    If the numbers exist, is there a central repository of that information?

    So – when is the next national survey happening, guys, eh?

  2. Pingback: National Contemporary Music Roundtable -Industry Commits to National Business Development Plan - Live Music Office

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