Banding Together series tackles biz’s ‘brutal’ pandemic struggle
So far, the easiest way for the Australian music industry to cope with this devastating year has been to view it in facts and figures.
The $340 million worth of work which vanished in the first weeks, the 400% leap in calls to Support Act’s helpline, the 1 million who tuned into the Music From The Home Front TV special, the $50 million needed by Melbourne’s music venues to survive until early 2021.
Banding Together is a three-part video story series from the Australian Music Vault, which puts a human face to the tragedy, innovation and resilience from the viewpoint of 32 people.
They include artists, managers, media, publicists, label heads, crew, government officials, doctors and psychologists, from Michael Gudinski, Jimmy Barnes, artist managers John Watson and Michael Parisi, to ARIA chief Dan Rosen, Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp and Victoria’s Arts Minister Martin Foley.
“We’re an industry where we put on our work face, our bravado and our swagger,” said Vault music industry advisor & special projects manager Carl Gardiner, who co-produced the series with Vault advisory board member Marcus Knight.
“But there was none of that from anyone in the interviews.
“In fact, it was much the opposite, a great humanity came through in every instance, an addressing a far broader theme to what the music community has been doing.”
The first episode, posted at the Australian Music Vault this week is titled The Silent Voice.
It looks at the community members’ often-lonely response to Friday, March 13 when health authorities shut everything down.
“It was brutal, no one was expecting it,” Gardiner remembers.
“2020 started out as an exciting year, the live scene was buoyant, and people were heading off to tour abroad.
“There was a global excitement about Australian music post-Tones and I, or people were mortgaging their houses to work on events that were financially sound, just doing business as usual.
“Then the rug was pulled from under them, and so suddenly.”
The Silent Voice looks at how social isolation affects mental health and wellbeing of music people, who are by nature gregarious and primed on social interaction, but also prone to depression and anxiety and with a ‘sweet’n’sour’ addiction to success and approval.
The following two episodes celebrate the creativity and adaptability that followed.
Episode 2, Isol-Aid (out September 22) looks at the live-streaming festival co-founded by long-time venue booker Emily Ulman.
Isol-Aid was meant to last a few weekends, paid for by credit cards and made with sheer sweat, with a focus on marginalised artists (female, of colour, with disabilities etc) and on the way to raise some money for Support Act.
The festival is now heading to its 30th edition, and recently received government funding to amp up production values and pay the talent.
According to Banding Together talking heads, Isol-Aid was a game-changer, creating a close-knit community and pushing a new generation of artists up a rung.
Episode 3 (out September 29) is titled Our Essential Service, and explores the leadership and ingenuity that went into pushing the community into survival-mode, finding ways to cope personally, and now slowly setting up signposts for recovery.
The episode got its title from a comment by an interviewee, doctor and musician Andy Ward, that music is as much an essential service as it is an art form and entertainment.
“I loved that comment,” enthused Gardiner, “and contemporary music has done more than any other art form since COVID started to prove that.
“We started filming the interviews in April and it’s a matter of pride for me that people were already showing innovation and resilience and finding alternate ways to perform and create.
“Because the music industry works on ‘chaos management’, for want of a better word. You can’t go to the library and borrow books on how to guarantee success in the music industry.”
Check out episode one below: