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Live Music Lives! Why Our Great Pasttime Isn’t Dying


July 6, 2016 by Josh Forner

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There have been rumblings around the industry hype machine lately that the independent music scene – in particular: live music – is a dying art form, or worse even still, that it is dead already. We at Melting Pot have never been ones to play into such hype, and this time is no exception.

One such article in the Daily Review has linked the death of live music to ‘Council Regulation,’ in relation to forced restrictions and sound-proofing of venues whilst high-density housing projects keep their coffers well and truly full.

Of course, up in Sydney, we’ve seen the new short-sighted lockout laws wreak havoc on the live entertainment industry, as the Sydney Morning Herald has reported, seeing live music attendances down by up to 40%.

Conflicting and competing entertainment options have always been around, most notably live sport (in Melbourne especially), theatre, cinema, just to name a few, but none moreso than the recent reach of social dating apps, whisking away a whole generation from the dance floors and mosh pits of our time-tested live music playgrounds.

Being able to see and hear some of the talent making its way around Melbourne is one part of why we can’t agree with this overall sentiment, and one of the others is the fact that there has never been a time in history where an independent musician has had so many resources at his or her disposal.

Factor in the raging success of a guy like Wally DeBacker (Gotye), or Courtney Barnett, for example; Grammy Award-winning independent artists whose success was built upon live performances!

Kim Lajoie, man in charge at Obsessive Music, a label and studio based in Moonee Ponds, and author of the aptly titled, ‘The Golden Age of Independent Music’ is on the side of the Melbourne indie scene growing ever-stronger.

“Artists move to Melbourne for its music,” says Lajoie, “Artists don’t leave Melbourne to pursue a career in music.” This starts the ball rolling on a very long discussion about our central role as a place in Australian music culture, and very much as the ‘go-to’ geographical centre for all things indie music. Which lead me to ask Kim about one of the major obstacles outlined as the death of independent music, being market ‘over-saturation.’

“I don’t think that’s the case,” Lajoie begins “‘Over-saturation’ tells me that too many people are competing for the same audience. For the independent musician, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They know their audience on a much closer level;”

“This really is the best time it’s ever been to be an independent musician,” he boasts, with steadfast authority and undeniable absolution; “There are no external barriers; you do not need to ask anyone for permission to create your art; you don’t have to be the ‘cool kid’ or the ‘face’ of anything – you don’t even need instruments! You can gain access to some high quality backing tracks, chuck them through a loop station, and all of the sudden you have access to your very own expert recording studio!”

“The importance of fame will diminish as a career goal and an indicator of success. Working artists will be able to earn a living without being famous. Their tribe may only consist of a few thousand people to whom they are well known and loved. Outside the tribe they may remain unheard of. It may be difficult to truly know the number of working artists, as they will be hidden in relative obscurity, earning a living from a small audience – much the same as most other professionals.” – The Golden Age of Independent Music

This certainly plays into our argument surrounding the availability of advanced technological resources that wouldn’t have even been dreamed of 15 years ago. An artist can record a decent quality video or audio track in their bedroom on their smart phone and upload it to the world within minutes. “You can touch people’s hearts and give them the words that they long to hear. Just like that!”

The redundancy of record labels, radio airtime, being ‘discovered,’ TV reality talent programs and the like falls greatly into the independent musician’s favour. It’s well-known that the majority of new music is discovered via Internet-based media like YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify these days, particularly amongst the younger group of consumers.

“The importance of fame will diminish as a career goal and an indicator of success. Working artists will be able to earn a living without being famous. Their tribe may only consist of a few thousand people to whom they are well known and loved. Outside the tribe they may remain unheard of. It may be difficult to truly know the number of working artists, as they will be hidden in relative obscurity, earning a living from a small audience – much the same as most other professionals.” – The Golden Age of Independent Music

Steve Palfreyman, a freelance Social Media expert and Creative Business Consultant, has recently set up ‘Music Launch Hub’ – a space for creatives to advance themselves and provide peer support to others – his timing to deliver this to the independent music community is no coincidence.

“Too many of us are sitting around waiting for someone to tell us what to do,” Palfreyman explains “When this whole time, the biggest opportunities are in front of us… There are more opportunities and pathways than ever.”

Palfreyman echoes Kim Lajoie’s sentiment that personal approaches need to be paramount for each individual’s situation, however, reaching out and using communities as a resource rather than seeing your peers as competition is an integral part of this process.

“Indie music is more alive than ever… A lot of the pessimistic talk comes from artists who haven’t found a way that they can make their mark”

The group, ‘Music Launch Hub,’ aims to connect artists and creatives together. Palfreyman describes live music and independent music as a “lonely process,” so he hopes to instil collaboration into an artist’s repertoire. Possibly not in the traditional sense – of collaborating musically – but collaborating through ideas, strategies, support, guidance and relationships.

“Regardless of where you’re at in your career, you can do more by being open to others; whether it’s a fan or an industry pro. We’re all in it together…”

Uncertainty and battles will always face the Live Music scene, and that is certainly something that we do not discount here at Melting Pot. Being in the business of procuring live music events to cater to niche audiences, we understand what struggles may sometimes lie before us. The doom and gloom reports, however, we feel tend to overshadow what is good about Live Music, and what DOES work.

Live Music can’t die in Melbourne: it is a staple diet of our cultural palette. Many, like us, live and breathe it.

The scene certainly goes through its peaks and troughs, and we see that through the cyclical nature of venues catering more for live music, or conversely when they cater more for gaming or other forms of entertainment, coupled with the state of the economy and the willingness of the punter to get out and spend that extra $10 on an entry fee.

We feel, however, that the tide has turned in favour of the musician, who will now drive the process. To sit by and wait for the crowds to come is setting yourself up for failure. Opening yourself to new communities, new technologies and the widest range of opportunity at your feet will do wonders into building your live show.

“In broad terms, art is exceptionally valuable and useful. Art helps us to understand ourselves and each other. It helps us to reflect on our lives, our values and our culture. It allows us to safely explore uncomfortable ideas and taboos. Art gives us the words we wish we could say or those we wish we would hear.

This is as important as it is difficult. To create art that matters, artists must deeply understand the culture and people with whom their art will resonate. They must understand their audience that they are making their art for. And they must understand their audience so intimately that they can express the inexpressible.” – The Golden Age of Independent Music

To order a copy of Kim Lajoie’s book, ‘The Golden Age of Independent Music, visit http://goldenageofindependentmusic.com

To find out more about Steve Palfreyman’s ‘Music Launch Hub’ community, please visit www.musiclaunchub.com or @musiclaunchub on Twitter.

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.


Author Details

Josh Forner

Josh Forner is a folk/pop songwriter from Melbourne, Australia and Virginia, USA. Forner was born in Melbourne on July 2 1988, and spent the first 18 months of his life there before moving with his parents to the town of Reston in Virginia, USA. At the age of 3, Forner and his mother returned to Melbourne, where he has stayed ever since.

Josh sings of love, primarily (wow, what a shock right?), but also on his list of ‘hot topics’ are politics, famine, poverty and - of course – landscapes: the folk writer’s favourite.

He’s played with some of Melbourne’s stalwarts including Timothy Cannon, Bridget Pross, Mr Brady, Pro Rata, Gabriel Lynch & Kyle Taylor, and has contributed two of his tracks to non-profit compilation CDs in the past.

Josh’s repertoire continues to grow. He released his first album, a 10-track LP entitled ‘Leading to Nowhere’ at The Workers Club on May 28th, 2013. Forner has since returned to the studio to begin work on a 5-track solo EP to be released by the end of 2013. Following that, he has plans for album number two in 2014.


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