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Image for How did indie get so safe?

How did indie get so safe?

Has living in the Lucky Country increased our appetite for vanilla flavoured bands? EDWARD SHARP-PAUL reports.

Sound Alliance, FL’s parent company, recently conducted a survey, asking 1900 people between ages 18–29 about their values, their habits and their aspirations. The responses painted a stark but unsurprising picture of risk-averse comfort, a familiar 21st-Century malaise. According to the survey, the young adults of Australia are high-minded but lacking purpose, placing a high value on experiences, and yet too busy on Facebook to actually experience anything – not first-hand, anyway.

In light of these results, it’s worth wondering what such a status quo-leaning attitude means for the way we experience music, and the sort of music that we seek out. Does prosperity and stability lead to a soft-bellied musical environment? Are we paralysed by the almost limitless choice with which we are faced? Are we getting the music we deserve? I know those are rhetorical questions, but I’m going to go right ahead and say that the answers are “yes”, “yes” and “yes”.

And if this comes across as a “kids these days” nostalgia trip, it’s not. I’m not old enough for that.

The Lucky Country

Life in Australia is pretty good, all things considered. The sprawl mightn’t be your thing, but the living standards here are pretty excellent. Our location at the arse end of the world may be a source of embarrassment, but it has largely protected us from the poisonous ripples of the global economic downturn. Australia is politically stable, too – we might be faced with an uninspiring choice, but it’s still a choice. Rule of law, reasonably transparent public institutions, all good stuff. Culturally? I guess Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are running shit on an international level, and if you really want to claim Baz Luhrmann, that’s OK as well. Musically, though?

Well, there are about two dozen Australian bands that can hold their own in a mid-afternoon slot at any given festival (Last Dinosaurs, The Rubens, et al), and a half dozen that could take second-to-top billing at that same festival (The Temper Trap, Tame Impala, et al). And then there’s Gotye. Given the calibre of international acts that Australia is able to attract, that’s pretty damn good. It’s a strong scene, quality-wise, but it’s hard to recall a time when Australian music was this toothless, bland and homogeneous. It’s hard to think of a disruptive, challenging band having any sort of wider impact on Australian music – The Drones, maybe, arguably. This is not to say that if a band has to be disruptive and challenging in order to not suck (this goes for all bands mentioned in this article – they have been chosen to illustrate a trend, rather than to imply that they themselves suck). It’s the lack of variety, of meaningful aesthetic choice, that sucks.

The tyranny of choice

There’s this thing called the internet, and you can find new bands all by yourself, if you want to. It’s full of Australian acts that are doing terrific things, who are nonetheless roundly ignored outside of more niche publications like FL sister site Mess+Noise. It’s never been easier to seek out new music, and yet rather than embrace this empowerment, audiences are more passive than ever before, more intimidated than they are excited by the possibilities.

What I’m trying to say is that Australia is not culturally and musically shit. Rather, we are risk-averse both in the creation and the consumption of music, and I suspect that this is largely down to the way we live.

Does material comfort lead to safe, dull music?

On the Sound Alliance survey, a quarter of respondents named their parents as role models. Which is lovely, obviously, and a positive reflection on the nation’s values, as banged on about by every politician in recent memory. However, if your future looks rosy, and your parents are your number-one role models, do you really need freaks like the Butthole Surfers to tell you what’s what? A fellow misfit like Morrissey to articulate your troubles and soothe your pain? Of course not. You need Cut Copy to pump you up for a gym session, and Lisa Mitchell to chill you out, after said gym session.

This alters the creative side of the equation, too. There is almost no social cost to starting a band – your parents won’t kick you out of the house, and it won’t cost you a white-collar job or a tertiary education. Again, this is obviously great, but it means that one can dabble in a career in music, while putting very little at stake. What exactly are you rebelling against when your parents cleared out the rumpus room to make room for your shitty punk band’s rehearsals? I’d argue that this diminished social cost has an effect on the sort of people that choose to actively pursue a career in music – the freaks and outsiders, with nothing to lose and a genuinely interesting perspective, are being crowded out, and the musical gene pool diluted.

The path for an unknown band has never been clearer. It goes like this:

1. Listen to triple j’s Hottest 100
2. Mimic the sound and aesthetic of roughly half the bands on the list
3. Create an Unearthed page
4. Wait.

You might have a needle-in-haystack chance of making it, but still one can’t underestimate the effect of young bands fretting over their “like” count rather than fulfilling the more primal urge of self-expression. I’m not talking boy-band levels of contrivance, merely the danger of becoming brand-aware at a stage where your aesthetic identity is not yet strong enough to resist the urge to compromise, to pander. If you know that the weird, dissonant guitar riff you just came up with might keep you off Home and Hosed, are you going to keep it? You’d have to be a right duffer. It’s not a huge deal, but there lies the road to compromise – before you know it, you’ve got your head all painted in Pepsi colours, and a duffel bag full of komplimentary fried chicken.

Is today’s music fulfilling today’s needs?

Without doubt, though, the biggest change has occurred in the way we consume music. Encouragingly, 93 per cent of Sound Alliance survey respondents reject materialism, favouring experiences over material possessions. Strangely though the same proportion of respondents used Facebook every day: are these online interactions the experiences that they so treasure? A diffuse, impersonal version of a social life, with none of the daunting challenges (but conversely none of the rich rewards) of real-life friendship? What would the soundtrack to such a life sound like? And where would it fit amongst the sponsored links and promotional offers that populate our lonely online existence? I’d argue that it would sound peppy, pleasant, and undemanding, rather like San Cisco, or Of Monsters And Men.

Pop quiz: When did you last listen to an album – CD, LP, mp3, stream, whatever – in its entirety? I mean, really listened. Not while exercising, while catching the train, while browsing an attractive friend-of-a-friend’s tumblr. When did you last listen to an album in its entirety at all, in any circumstance? If you can remember at all, well done. You are in the minority. The rest of you? I get it, you don’t have time: none of us do, and that’s part of the problem.

This is a broader cultural issue with particular implications for the act of listening to music, a purely indulgent leisure activity that doesn’t produce anything, and which can look suspiciously like sitting on your arse doing nothing. Furthermore, the value of such a pastime has plummeted, in line with the plummeting value of music itself.

When you don’t make a monetary investment in music, it’s far less likely that you will make the sort of time investment that might lead to an emotional investment. You stream an album at work while working through a backlog of emails: you give James Blake a spin, it doesn’t really jump out at you, you try something else, and it’s gone forever. Besides, it’s already done what you asked: it wafted through your distracted mind, and made your life a little more pleasant.

RELATED: IS THE CLASSIC ALBUM DEAD?

Music is a cultural pressure valve

In summary, times are good, too good to be rocking the boat. Good music can come from such an environment, but the really vital musical moments of the past 50 years have been borne of cultural schism.

Punk rock lanced the boil that had been festering under the skin of British society. The Keynesian post-war economic miracle had facilitated steady growth and nigh-on full employment for 30-odd years. It came crashing down in the ’70s, and issues that were swept under the carpet in the good times came to the fore in the bad. The era was characterised by race riots, youth unemployment and an increasing sense of desperation, and yet Peter Frampton was all over the radio – the stylised swagger of glam and he soft-bellied escapism of Pink Floyd no longer cut it. The young were being sold a lie, and punk yelled “bullshit!” in a language that they understood. Grunge was a similar story, with Corporate America and hair metal playing the pantomime villain roles, and the cry of “bullshit!” was delivered in a north-eastern accent.

The counterculture of the ’60s was the obverse of punk – it largely came about because times were good, rather than bad. The message was the same, though: your reality is not our reality – your culture is not our culture. It came about because the baby boomers, growing up in a time of unprecedented prosperity, couldn’t comprehend the asceticism of their parents, who had lived through food stamps, rations and, in Britain, bombing raids.

While we eulogise the music that we inherited from these great cultural schisms, it’s important to remember that we, the Lucky Country, never had to actually go through all that unpleasantness. It’s moments like these, though – bland, cosy periods of cultural consensus – that are most ripe for upheaval. It could be that a galvanising rebel song – the next ‘Anarchy in the UK’, the next ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – is just around the corner, ready to shake us out of our stupor. Of course, it could already be here, and we’ve all been too distracted to notice.

Comments

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MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 20th Jun, 2013

More lamenting and corpsefucking. Can't wait for the comments.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 20th Jun, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYLqvfckh-U

Oflick

Oflick said on the 20th Jun, 2013

^literally just about to post that.

br4ve

br4ve said on the 20th Jun, 2013

there's no doubt some truth to the article but then i remember we've got king parrot
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cinvir-o1k8

i'm pretty sure that triple j board members sit there and decide what sort of music they're going to play for a period of time? so people desiring fame over true expression try and replicate other acts that already have some success.

there a still a bunch of bands out their doing their own thing and most people who actively go to gigs and seek out bands will see their fair dose of less than culturally acceptable or watered down fake rock. i think (hope) a revival of some sort is in the works.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 20th Jun, 2013



http://images.wikia.com/degrassi/images/d/d9/Thumbsup-alec.gif

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 20th Jun, 2013



Totally dude, that's what goes down.

"Yeah, nah, I was thinking we play Daft Punk for a bit?"
"Sweet. That's lunch."

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 20th Jun, 2013

The type of person that participates in an internet survey shits and breathes vanilla, great data there...
A quarter of respondents named their parents as heroes? Who the fuck did they survey, Hillsong? In my social circle, those who haven't murdered one of their parents are at least currently serving time for attempted murder.

This article in jpg form...

http://hawkwind.sweb.cz/100lbsfulldraw.JPG

jglazebrook

jglazebrook said on the 20th Jun, 2013

you, sir, are full of shite. smells like teen spirit and anarchy in the uk were cretinous signposts of vapid acculturation. it's laughable that you think a song that can sell millions of copies is confronting anything. the best music is never going to be popular. kirin j callinan is railing, aesthetically, against exactly what you are talking about. how much have you (i.e. fasterlouder) promoted his music as a legitimate form of cultural rebellion against the comfortable bullshit you are supposedly criticising?
also, 93% reject materialism? 93% believe they reject materialism.

mjudge93

mjudge93 said on the 20th Jun, 2013

misleading headline. it's not about the bands, it's the audience and the mainstream press that promotes the bands. every batshit-boring successful band from the past five years have reached their success (often solely) due to triple j. it's time for a change.

big_dane_200

big_dane_200 said on the 20th Jun, 2013

the majority of people in australia are not the thinking type. business is about the majority. triple j are government funded but success = more funding. it's not for the music searcher, extreme early adopters anymore. if you want that listen to the new music shows on community radio. not everyone on there has the same affected radio geek accent. it doesn't have high rotation lists. it's people who love music and a chat doing what they want. they like music more than they care about their own popularity - it's the only formula that will foster a playlist with new, diverse, interesting music. it's out there it's just the j have hit a formula. honestly, that chino cuffed, banjo, 20 drummers in the end bit formula with an attempt at a viral film clip should be done. it's wave is over. i haven't seen a trend stick around after it's welcome period like this since cooper's pale ale truckers caps. this isn't genre bashing. the good thing about it at least is that these indie pop bands have made trendites go to gigs and support live music venues. when one of these high rotation bands that crosses over the j/nova line plays a wednesday night gig that venue is prob going to make some cash. but it's spoon fed sugar. the macro economic environment may be sweet for aussies but there are still artists tortured by their own demons. it's still a very conservative environment we live in particularly with underground hate directed at minorities. out there someone is a gay refugee whose dad just got made redundant by the queensland government picking up a guitar ready to shit it in. hopefully they won't have to slot in a cheeky swear word and a banjo solo to get it played.

big_dane_200

big_dane_200 said on the 20th Jun, 2013

the majority of people in australia are not the thinking type. business is about the majority. triple j are government funded but success = more funding. it's not for the music searcher, extreme early adopters anymore. if you want that listen to the new music shows on community radio. not everyone on there has the same affected radio geek accent. it doesn't have high rotation lists. it's people who love music and a chat doing what they want. they like music more than they care about their own popularity - it's the only formula that will foster a playlist with new, diverse, interesting music. it's out there it's just the j have hit a formula. honestly, that chino cuffed, banjo, 20 drummers in the end bit formula with an attempt at a viral film clip should be done. it's wave is over. i haven't seen a trend stick around after it's welcome period like this since cooper's pale ale truckers caps. this isn't genre bashing. the good thing about it at least is that these indie pop bands have made trendites go to gigs and support live music venues. when one of these high rotation bands that crosses over the j/nova line plays a wednesday night gig that venue is prob going to make some cash. but it's spoon fed sugar. the macro economic environment may be sweet for aussies but there are still artists tortured by their own demons. it's still a very conservative environment we live in particularly with underground hate directed at minorities. out there someone is a gay refugee whose dad just got made redundant by the queensland government picking up a guitar ready to shit it in. hopefully they won't have to slot in a cheeky swear word and a banjo solo to get it played. also, i listened to tv colours whole album yesterday and it was the first time i listened to it, so yeah ppl still do that.

d-ren

d-ren said on the 21st Jun, 2013

> kirin j callinan is railing, aesthetically, against exactly what you are talking about. how much have you (i.e. fasterlouder) promoted his music as a legitimate form of cultural rebellion against the comfortable bullshit you are supposedly criticising?

http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/features/35970/kirin-j-callinan-ive-never-been-deliberately-confrontational

Forming a band

Forming a band said on the 22nd Jun, 2013

great article. really cool and definitely takes notice of what's happening right now, i think. i think that the "safe" - if you want to call it that - trend will pass. i think the current trend is just a bit confused. a lot of people don't want to be pigeon holed as this or that, so all genres of music are embracing this kind of homogenised hipster, ray ban, rolled up tight pants, cute wooly coat, a little hat that sits on the back of your head, and a cute little acoustic guitar in the lounge for the mrs. all trends come and go. i'm just keen to see what shakes things up next!!

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 22nd Jun, 2013



People don't actually fucking talk like this, do they? Like, there's got to be some sort of thought process that would prevent something like this being written or even thought.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 22nd Jun, 2013

I like ray bans, rolled right pants, woolly jumpers and hats...

I also fucking love Slayer.

shazie

shazie said on the 23rd Jun, 2013

I like ray bans, rolled right pants, woolly jumpers and hats...

I also fucking love Slayer.

I search "slayer hipster" and sure enough there's a band called hipster slayer. They sound exactly what a hipster version of Slayer would sound like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcI3apDIunU

sushi_rat

sushi_rat said on the 24th Jun, 2013

i feel as though our generation already had "our rebel song" just it was a mtv-watered-down version. grunge was dead, it's post 9-11, and you've got avril lavigne and green day jumping on the teen angst bandwagon what would later become the anti-bush-bandwagon (with help from michael moores film fahrenheit 9/11). i know many people would look onto them songs with disgust as i suggest they are "our" generation theme song. but really, it is a clear representation of those times. the world was going into what felt like tremoil, yet the organization of social movements was a complete joke. everything was a little too "safe" and these songs reflect that.

but musically what came out in the years after 9-11, us invasion of afghanistan & iraq that could be related to as a song that reflected teen angst? sure there was plenty of underground hardcore, punk and metal that were political and new subgenre's emo and metalcore. however i feel there was no overwhelming song, style or movement that can reflect this period. and those examples i gave might be the best, unfortantly.

it's 2013, a decade on. musically daft punk is everywhere today, the sound of soft indie and folk bands dominates triple j. if something is to come, it's going got to be strong and smart.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 24th Jun, 2013

To be fair, people have been complaining about music becoming too safe for years now. I imagine in twenty years people will be talking about how much more dangerous music was in 2013.

Anyway, here's some hate about "modern music" from the late 1980s/early 1990s:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfvVpKQ0qac

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 24th Jun, 2013



Yeah, REAL new. Genres that were also over a decade old at the time of you calling them "new." Usually the process is KNOW what you're talking about before you actually SAY it, but you're just a lil' Maverick now, aren't you?

billroyguy

billroyguy said on the 24th Jun, 2013



do you try to be a dick to everyone that sits below your self-appointed hegemonic status around these parts? or is it natural? nah, it has got to be natural.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 24th Jun, 2013

You could have been an alt or something. Whatever. Thanks for stopping by.

shazie

shazie said on the 24th Jun, 2013

i feel as though our generation already had "our rebel song" just it was a mtv-watered-down version. grunge was dead, it's post 9-11, and you've got avril lavigne and green day jumping on the teen angst bandwagon what would later become the anti-bush-bandwagon (with help from michael moores film fahrenheit 9/11). i know many people would look onto them songs with disgust as i suggest they are "our" generation theme song. but really, it is a clear representation of those times. the world was going into what felt like tremoil, yet the organization of social movements was a complete joke. everything was a little too "safe" and these songs reflect that.

but musically what came out in the years after 9-11, us invasion of afghanistan & iraq that could be related to as a song that reflected teen angst? sure there was plenty of underground hardcore, punk and metal that were political and new subgenre's emo and metalcore. however i feel there was no overwhelming song, style or movement that can reflect this period. and those examples i gave might be the best, unfortantly.

it's 2013, a decade on. musically daft punk is everywhere today, the sound of soft indie and folk bands dominates triple j. if something is to come, it's going got to be strong and smart.

It's because we live in a time where everything is connected now. Because music is so much more easily accessible, there is no defining genre really anymore, it's way too diversified and decentralised. I think that's what this generation will be known for; the explosion of the online music scene and the wonders that have come from it. Just last night I was discovering shoegaze bands from Norway, Sweeden and a post-rock band from Finland; the current state of music is amazing. Hell thanks to Hotline Miami, I know now there's a whole specific 80's synthpop gaming-style sound scene (With artists like Perturbator and Tommy) and damn it's awesome to hear all this great music.

And of soft indie and folk is going to dominate jjj, the most popular stuff is usually the most easy listening an digestible.

Forming a band

Forming a band said on the 25th Jun, 2013

there is a lot of truth in here. great work, yo! you obviously put a lot of work into it. i, too, am exited about what might shake things out of this current slumber. i think there is something very interesting going on with music pop culture at the moment, though. i mean, there have always been big fads, like nu metal, nu rock, emo, etc. but those fads were very islandised and didn't cross into each other that much. but the new indie, wow, wow, bear tiger city, colonial sailor, triangle, ray bans thing - that is big at the moment - has got every genre from rap to hardcore donning the look, or taking a bit from it. it's almost like fashion has hijacked music, rather than music hijacking fashion. a lot of folks want to be "token" indie right now. like everything else, this is temporary.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 25th Jun, 2013

Fashion and popular music have been intertwined since forever.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 25th Jun, 2013



Genuine questions: Is English your first language? And have you ever suffered some form of brain damage?

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 25th Jun, 2013



Some people shouldn't be allowed near the English language.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zDUkaAn2eAY/UF6Ew9SvbAI/AAAAAAAAAFE/nuuDqy1Pc9A/s320/Bender.+I%27m+Back+Baby!.jpg

I'm trying to read the original piece, I really am. But every second line, all I can think is 'Citation needed'.

ausmanx

ausmanx said on the 27th Jun, 2013

from jon rose...
you can't stop the music.
but you can certainly hinder public debate on the matter.
i've earned my living as a musician for 40 years, mostly playing music that could be described as "unpopular", but somehow i've survived while the situation for both popular and unpopular music has recently reached impossible low levels of general interest and sustainability. the public won't pay what it costs to support live kicking musicians of any genre - they will pay for expensive meals, holidays, and the latest shiny piece of technology, but they will not pay the true cost of live music. without government subsidy (i.e. arts funding or the dole %u2013 most performing musician's income) the entire edifice of music performance in sydney (and most places in europe) would crumble, leaving the practice of music as an amateur pastime. i care about this situation. so much so that i wrote a small book on the subject suggesting options for changing the situation.
and so i went along to sydney city council%u2019s %u201ccity conversation%u201d at sydney town hall on june 26. i left wondering if the whole event was trying to transform the dire situation for live music in sydney for the better%u2026 or for the worse.
a colleague and i had with us a small flyer advertising the existence of two books published by non-profit making sydney publisher currency house. "history is made at night: live music in australia" by clinton walker, and my own "the music of place: reclaiming a practice". both relevant reads to the task in question. could we leave these flyers on the seats? no we could not, i was informed. why not? i asked. because this event does not allow advertising, was the reply from the official who was flanked by corporate logos and sydney morning herald banners. i explained that the books are essays on the very subject we are discussing, the publisher is not-for-profit, etc, to no effect. i asked a gentleman sitting in the next row if he would like one. yes, he said. so i handed one to him. the official in black swooped - and demanded he give it up immediately and if i continued i would be removed from the proceedings. i acquiesced, wishing to hear what the panel of experts had to say and not wishing to add to my list of confrontations on the subject of live music (such as being apprehended by security guards for playing the violin in front of the sydney opera house).
on taking my seat, one thing became clear. the sydney morning herald was the sponsor and they told us so on three huge screens. i wondered, was this the same newspaper that ran several pages of arts reviews in the 1970s, and these days is mainly free of such content? ah, and here is the first speaker %u2013 you guessed it, from the sydney morning herald. he is described as the senior music reviewer, implying there is a whole team of others out there reviewing concerts right, left and centre.
it quickly becomes clear what kind of live music is on parade here. the panel, with the exception of the representative from fbi radio, is really only talking about one kind of music %u2013 rock bands. okay, so we are having a discussion about pub rock, sticky carpets, moshpits, and large pa systems. then why is the whole event set up like a corporate or party political function with 20 or so goons in black patrolling the aisles to make sure no one causes trouble? why are there three or four rows of vips %u2013 some look much too young to have ever experienced rock in its sydney heyday, others look like successful accountants, or maybe the real estate crooks who run sydney? and why are our questions moderated through sms texts or bloody twitter feeds? i'm sitting 5 metres from the people talking - why can't i ask a question directly to them, face to face? this is symptomatic of our paranoid society, and the control freaks who run and censor free debate, and it has as much to do with the decline of live music as the rise of poker machines, building codes and public liability insurance. the music this panel is discussing used to be in opposition to such hierarchies. i want to ask mark gerber, "the boss" of the oxford art factory, how much he pays his bands when he has his freebie nights %u2013 in other words how much does he think live music (without a minor celeb involved) is actually worth? but i know if i stand up and ask him, i'll be ejected from the meeting, so i bite my tongue. actually, if you listen to the opening remarks from "the boss" and the agent (brett murrihy), you would get the impression that everything is going great guns for live music, lots of talent, lots of new "acts" %u2013 for these two blokes at any rate, it couldn't be doing better. then w t f are we all doing here if there%u2019s no problem?! anybody who comes out with "it's all about the music" and is in arts management, well you better wash your hands after dealing with them. their breed has not changed since the characters i first met in the late 1960s. the atmosphere in the town hall is compliant and conformist %u2013 and if that%u2019s what rock n roll has become, then it deserves to die. the hosting of dave faulkner only reinforces that we are talking about one kind of live music from the past. the truly mediocre soft rock that ends the proceedings confirms it.
the only one who seems to be engaged with the problem of live music in all forms as a necessary component of culture is the quietly spoken and thoughtful john wardle. as it turns out, he is chair of the city of sydney live music taskforce. so perhaps there is some hope after all.


ausmanx

ausmanx said on the 27th Jun, 2013

from jon rose...
you can't stop the music.
but you can certainly hinder public debate on the matter.
i've earned my living as a musician for 40 years, mostly playing music that could be described as "unpopular", but somehow i've survived while the situation for both popular and unpopular music has recently reached impossible low levels of general interest and sustainability. the public won't pay what it costs to support live kicking musicians of any genre - they will pay for expensive meals, holidays, and the latest shiny piece of technology, but they will not pay the true cost of live music. without government subsidy (i.e. arts funding or the dole %u2013 most performing musician's income) the entire edifice of music performance in sydney (and most places in europe) would crumble, leaving the practice of music as an amateur pastime. i care about this situation. so much so that i wrote a small book on the subject suggesting options for changing the situation.
and so i went along to sydney city council%u2019s %u201ccity conversation%u201d at sydney town hall on june 26. i left wondering if the whole event was trying to transform the dire situation for live music in sydney for the better%u2026 or for the worse.
a colleague and i had with us a small flyer advertising the existence of two books published by non-profit making sydney publisher currency house. "history is made at night: live music in australia" by clinton walker, and my own "the music of place: reclaiming a practice". both relevant reads to the task in question. could we leave these flyers on the seats? no we could not, i was informed. why not? i asked. because this event does not allow advertising, was the reply from the official who was flanked by corporate logos and sydney morning herald banners. i explained that the books are essays on the very subject we are discussing, the publisher is not-for-profit, etc, to no effect. i asked a gentleman sitting in the next row if he would like one. yes, he said. so i handed one to him. the official in black swooped - and demanded he give it up immediately and if i continued i would be removed from the proceedings. i acquiesced, wishing to hear what the panel of experts had to say and not wishing to add to my list of confrontations on the subject of live music (such as being apprehended by security guards for playing the violin in front of the sydney opera house).
on taking my seat, one thing became clear. the sydney morning herald was the sponsor and they told us so on three huge screens. i wondered, was this the same newspaper that ran several pages of arts reviews in the 1970s, and these days is mainly free of such content? ah, and here is the first speaker %u2013 you guessed it, from the sydney morning herald. he is described as the senior music reviewer, implying there is a whole team of others out there reviewing concerts right, left and centre.
it quickly becomes clear what kind of live music is on parade here. the panel, with the exception of the representative from fbi radio, is really only talking about one kind of music %u2013 rock bands. okay, so we are having a discussion about pub rock, sticky carpets, moshpits, and large pa systems. then why is the whole event set up like a corporate or party political function with 20 or so goons in black patrolling the aisles to make sure no one causes trouble? why are there three or four rows of vips %u2013 some look much too young to have ever experienced rock in its sydney heyday, others look like successful accountants, or maybe the real estate crooks who run sydney? and why are our questions moderated through sms texts or bloody twitter feeds? i'm sitting 5 metres from the people talking - why can't i ask a question directly to them, face to face? this is symptomatic of our paranoid society, and the control freaks who run and censor free debate, and it has as much to do with the decline of live music as the rise of poker machines, building codes and public liability insurance. the music this panel is discussing used to be in opposition to such hierarchies. i want to ask mark gerber, "the boss" of the oxford art factory, how much he pays his bands when he has his freebie nights %u2013 in other words how much does he think live music (without a minor celeb involved) is actually worth? but i know if i stand up and ask him, i'll be ejected from the meeting, so i bite my tongue. actually, if you listen to the opening remarks from "the boss" and the agent (brett murrihy), you would get the impression that everything is going great guns for live music, lots of talent, lots of new "acts" %u2013 for these two blokes at any rate, it couldn't be doing better. then w t f are we all doing here if there%u2019s no problem?! anybody who comes out with "it's all about the music" and is in arts management, well you better wash your hands after dealing with them. their breed has not changed since the characters i first met in the late 1960s. the atmosphere in the town hall is compliant and conformist %u2013 and if that%u2019s what rock n roll has become, then it deserves to die. the hosting of dave faulkner only reinforces that we are talking about one kind of live music from the past. the truly mediocre soft rock that ends the proceedings confirms it.
the only one who seems to be engaged with the problem of live music in all forms as a necessary component of culture is the quietly spoken and thoughtful john wardle. as it turns out, he is chair of the city of sydney live music taskforce. so perhaps there is some hope after all.


OFFICER NO

OFFICER NO said on the 3rd Jul, 2013

i had a read of the article and the comments so i could understand other peoples opinions on the matter, but i kept getting disrupted by annoying, moronic comments by morning after boy.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 3rd Jul, 2013



Welp; ya know what they say - always good to hear from an expert on the matter.

nos235

nos235 said on the 17th Jul, 2013

1. Listen to triple j%u2019s Hottest 100
2. Mimic the sound and aesthetic of roughly half the bands on the list
3. Create an Unearthed page
4. Wait.
5. ??????
6. PROFIT