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Features July 18, 2019

Why Melbourne’s live scene remains Australia’s biggest drawcard

Christie Eliezer
Why Melbourne’s live scene remains Australia’s biggest drawcard
Now Sound: Melbourne’s Listening documentary

The old music industry adage is: if you want to land a record deal, you move to Sydney. But if you want to create great music, it’s Melbourne where you want to be.


This was accentuated again this month when the Victorian Music Development Office released the findings of its Music Consumer Insights.

Out of 30 questions directed to 2,025 music lovers from around Australia, the significant statistic was that Victorians scored the highest in terms of supporting local acts: 55% preferred Australian live music to 45% of international.

This was higher than the national average, of 49% for locals. Breaking it down, preference for Australian live talent was 48% in NSW, 45% in Queensland and WA each, and 47% in the other states and territories combined.


Says Dave Novak of Polish Club, “Melbourne’s the only place in Australia where a band can go from busking to selling out five Corner Hotels within a year, without being able to sell a single ticket outside of Melbourne.

“People obviously have a different, more involved way of viewing live music there and we’ve experienced it with things like being offered 2am slots at small venues, which is something that would literally never happen in Sydney.”

Slum Sociable had a similar quick rise: within six months they were doing their first headliner show.

Says the band’s Ed Quinn, “We had a lot of help from radio stations but it happened quicker than anyone expected.

“We’d always loved going out to see shows as much as we’ve played. There are so many awesome venues in Melbourne, and people are so open to new music.

“After heading over to Europe and America, I’d say Melbourne’s venues are right up there with the best. And a lot of overseas acts will tell you they rate Melbourne venues right up there.”

Emerging in a buoyant scene had two effects on Quinn. One, the magical shows underlined how making a career out of music was a distinct option. Secondly it provided the courage to take risks.

Slum Sociable have generated 25 million streams and toured abroad, and their August 2-due EP takes a massive step in experimenting with more sounds.


The second Live Music Census conducted by Music Victoria found that Melbourne has the most live music venues in the world per capita, with one live music venue per 9,503 residents.

The report stated, “By comparison London has 245 venues (1 per 34,350 residents), New York has 453 venues (1 per 18,554 residents) and Los Angeles 510 venues (1 per 19,607 residents).”

James Young, co-owner of The Cherry Bar points out, “Melbourne has a great network of community radio stations, which have for years helped generate great bands out of the underground and created a focus on the sense of community.”

This allowed the Cherry Bar to, over the past 20 years, showcase live music seven nights a week.

“That’s a thousand acts a year. And without a doubt, 90% of them were total unknowns. That’s common with Melbourne venues and that’s something you can’t say about Sydney venues at the moment.

“The Chats, Amy & The Sniffers and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard played their very first shows at the Cherry Bar, and look at what they’re doing around the world.”

He adds that the current exodus from Sydney to Melbourne is not confined to musicians and their live crews.

“It’s the whole spectrum, including chefs and bar workers, that’s making a difference not just to entertainment but the whole hospitality sector.”


Put it down to the music biz’s relationship with its state governments. In the last two months, Sydney’s has been focussed on griping against the lock-outs and festival licensing, in the submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into Sydney’s night time economy, DJ John Ferris estimated that 40,000 patrons have been lost to venues, while the Beauchamp Hotel on Oxford St estimated it lost 50% of trade.

In the same period, the Victorian state government continued as part of its $22.2 million Music Works package. The Govt relaxed its existing freeze on new late night licences in the inner city, funded live professionals to be mentored, and doled out grants for everything from all-ages gigs to 60 music projects to matched renovations for venues.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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