Keeping up with any kind of news this year can be tough. Even music news is getting stranger and harder to track.
Rather than exhaust yourself trying to swallow an endless stream of push notification updates, MTV Australia have knocked up a bite-sized rundown of the most important happenings in the Aussie music biz this week, and why they matter.
The ARIA Awards go online for the first time
The ARIAs were the first major Australian awards show to announce they will go ahead online and in an adapted physical format this week. The new event will look a lot like the recent Emmy Awards, sans the hazmat suits – some nominees will attend the event at The Star in Sydney to perform and accept awards, while the rest will be filled in by pre-records and Zoom live crosses. There will not be a live audience of any kind for the first time, but it’s still set to be broadcast in full on Channel 9 come November 25. We’ll hear who the nominees are sometime in October.
The Logies and The Helpmann Awards (for live performance) canned their shows completely earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and chose not to hold alternative events online. The ARIAs will be something of a guinea pig for awards shows in Australia going forward under COVID normal – there is a lot less money going into these hybrid broadcasts locally than there is on US or UK award shows, but the flexibility of our coronavirus restrictions might make it one of the bigger physical events worldwide this year.
As to the likely nominees, expect Lime Cordiale, Cub Sport, Tame Impala and The Chats to be duking it out for Album of the Year. The Kid LAROI will be a firm favourite for Breakthrough Artist and Tash Sultana’s “Pretty Lady” has a strong shot at Song of the Year.
Victorian government announces funding for the struggling live music industry
The Victorian government has announced a very welcome $13million in grants to live music businesses in the lockdown state. The bulk of those funds – $9million in grants – will go directly to 106 pre-allocated live music venues, predominantly to help them survive the rest of the lockdown. Included within those grants are set funds to assist in the costs of reopening, like cover for reduced capacity.
Another $3 million will go to the government’s Victorian Music Industry Recovery program, which dispenses smaller grants to help individual managers, artists and music workers to adapt to COVID working conditions. The last $1.2million is set to be dished out between ten music industry organisations for music development programs.
It’s vital funding, and is far more targeted than the $15million Victorian Live Music Program announced back in July. That’s in part because, as the state’s strictest lockdown restrictions continue, the issue of the live sector’s survival has become more existential. Melbourne famously has the most live music venues per capita in the world, which also makes the scene trickier to support than other cities that may only have three or four major venues. But as you’ll see in the next news item, it might all be too little, too late.
...But a new live music survey says 18,000 jobs and 400 businesses could disappear next year
The results of a new survey from the Australian Live Music Business Council have spelt out an extremely bleak picture of the industry over the next six months, with 18,000 jobs and 400 businesses expected to vanish. Nearly 70% of all of the businesses surveyed think they won’t survive the next six months, and 30% believe they’ll go bust by Christmas.
Perhaps the most important statistics are that 69% of those live music businesses with rental commitments have not received any form of rent relief, and that only 17% expect to be eligible for any of the federal government’s RISE arts funding. This is something to consider when reading mindlessly gushing headlines about a new arts funding package from a state or federal government – that arts funding is mired in bureaucracy, and is often not distributed quickly or equitably.
More details of the Australian Live Music Business Council report are available via The Music Network.
….And NSW music venues are crying out for help
A group of NSW music venues have banded together to launch a new campaign requesting urgent funding from the state government to ensure their survival. The Enmore Theatre, Oxford Art Factory, The Lansdowne Hotel and more are behind ‘Save Our Stages’, asking for a stimulus package from the Berejiklian government similar to that of Victoria’s given this week. The situation is so dire, they claim that 85% of the state’s live music venues are at risk of shutting down in the next 12 months if nothing is done.
A big part of the campaign is collecting signatures from NSW residents on a petition to the state government – sign that here. It’s important to remember that although NSW’s coronavirus restrictions permit limited capacity gigs, they are not profitable ventures. Most music venues have to sell out their full capacity in order to be profitable, and thus they are just as vulnerable as lockdown Victoria.
John Farnham doesn’t want to be ‘The Voice’ of anti-lockdown protests
Most artists would like to leave their art with some room for interpretation – leaving fans with a rich array of possible meanings for their work. But this week John Farnham was forced to shut down one unfortunate view of his megahit “You’re The Voice” when a small group of anti-lockdown protestors were caught on camera singing the track. In a demonstration at Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne, they reportedly used the song to indicate they weren’t going to live in silence – an interpretation Farnham’s manager John Wheatley did not approve of.
“I’m personally concerned people will hear the song and think John Farnham is personally endorsing these protests, and in this case it’s not right," Wheatley told The Age.
"It’s something that John and I do not condone, the use of that song, particularly in a time in Melbourne where we are in stage four lockdown."
Wheatley also said it wasn’t the first time the track had been co-opted with dangerous rhetoric, after previously appearing in far-right protests. One suspects the fight to disassociate “You’re The Voice” from those views – thanks to the “silent majority/minority” affectations of the chorus – is far from over.
Aussie Album Of The Week: A.Swayze & The Ghosts – ‘Paid Salvation’
The undercurrent of A.Swayze & The Ghosts’ debut album is anguish at not being able to experience it live – but the Hobart band still make a strong case for their seething punk mess in the studio. Frontman Andrew Swayze uses his nails-for-breakfast voice on two-minute bursts of drilled guitar, and anti-society paeans. “Paid Salvation” is socially conscious, torching the toxic masculinity historically attached to the genre but steering away from the didactic tone of IDLES. The Ramones, Television, and Strokes influences are obvious but the band plays past their creative debts with sheer spirit.
Aussie Track of the Week: Baker Boy & Dallas Woods – 'Better Days' featuring Sampa The Great
It’s thrilling enough to hear Baker Boy rapping over a neo-soul beat like this – the Yolngu MC typically prefers more percussive production – but the Sampa The Great feature makes this the most exciting local pop-rap release in some time. Baker Boy’s native language Yolngu Matha intersects with Sampa’s verse in the Batu language of Bemba from her birthplace of Zambia, in a multilingual declaration of radical positivity. It sounds like The Isley Brothers incarnate.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
Sydney musician Brendan Maclean articulates the sneaking feeling many have had about gig promo in the age of COVID.
Got a question for gaz?
Struggling? Feel like today’s advice columns don’t speak to you? Tropical Fuck Storm’s Gareth Liddiard hears you. He’s taking questions for MTV Australia’s new advice column, The Moment Of Truth – send Gaz a question via our Twitter DMs and he'll answer them right here on mtv.com.au.
Main Image Credit: Baker Boy, Freya Esders