Is Australia’s live music scene dying, thriving, or the same as it’s ever been?


Everyone has their opinion on how well the music scene is faring in this digital age. With live venue attendances of roughly 26 million per year, you’d be mad to say that live music isn’t relevant. However, upcoming artists involved in the culture are struggling to fill seats, and consequently their stomachs.

We interviewed some musical veterans and friends of Parlor to get their take on the state of the industry, including Michael Spiby of The Badloves, Kim Salmon, and Steve Kilbey of The Church. First, we asked if they think live music is at risk, which was met with the following by Kilbey:

“It seems there are less opportunities for young players than back in my early days. There were millions of venues then, and there aren’t now. So where can they all play?”

Asides from the increasing availability of music at home and on-the-go, live music is also largely impacted by changing legislations and venue requirements. Australia just isn’t as accommodating for the culture as it used to be, and venues such as The Cherry Bar and The Tote, both crucial Melbourne rock staples, have been brought to their knees by noise complaints and mandatory renovations/cutbacks. Gig spots are finding it less and less profitable or secure to host live performances unless they can tone it down and avoid noise complaints.

Although gig spots are becoming scarce, more avenues are becoming available for live performances. Alternatives such as Parlour, that can bring musicians literally to your doorstep, would’ve been impossible fifteen years ago. Asking a band like The Church to play a show at your home could have likely been viewed as ridiculous, but the culture has shifted. Thanks to the internet, communications between the audience and the performer are clearer than ever before, and having your favourite band or musician perform at your location is not only possible but actually quite reasonable!

While there may be a shift in the availability of venues, the culture has shifted in a way that live music is no longer restricted to specific gig-spots. Spiby responded differently, however, attributing the changes of the music scene to technology rather than venue availability:

“Venues come and go but the scene is still as vital and productive now as it was in the early days. It’s the distribution of recorded music that has changed drastically and, through technology, anyone can release their music without a label… with varying success!”

Where engaging with live music used to be a large part of musical discovery, we now have a free (or dirt-cheap) personal curator in our pocket saturating us with literally thousands of immediately available musical options. If you aren’t a music-lover, a gig-goer, or a musician, looking for music can often be like trying a new restaurant and discovering that their menu is 62 pages long. More often than not, it’s overwhelming, and a lot of people stick to what they’re already familiar with rather than seeking new developing artists.

On the other hand, the listeners that do actually want those options and are trying to discover new musicians, have more avenues of discovery than ever before! Music blogs, Youtube channels, streaming services and social media platforms are but few of many ways to find new music,  allowing for artists to extend a further reach than ever before. Hell, my first Jessica Pratt gig was attended solely by luck; my Spotify app decided to inform me that she was performing live that very night in Northcote.

And from there I discovered Aussie musicians performing at the same venue, such as Leah Senior.

Businesses and venues can send out newsletters and notifications at a drastically smaller cost than what used to be available (physical media), events can be hosted with little to no physical advertising, and the word can spread like wildfire very easily.

“There’s loads going on all over the country.” - Kim Salmon

Whether or not technology is filling seats or killing interest, Kim Salmon boasts a strong confidence in the current generation. Citing interest in an array of punk-rockers of this generation ( Nun, Wet Lips, Aus Mutants), Kim Salmon went on to explain that as a music teacher himself, he only teaches the basics, and allows for his students to make their own sound and take their own artistic approach.

“If anything, I’ve learned a lot myself since teaching.” - Kim Salmon

Though there are new challenges in venue availability, and artists have a hard time standing out, the current generation is also equipped with so much in the way of distribution and creative freedom that the culture is now also adapting to the artist. The mainstream may not seem to have as passionate and engaged a following as when rock was at the forefront, but the niche and sidestream audiences are more viable than ever.

We’re in an age where fans of low-key folk artists or obscure genres like Vapourwave can be crowdfunded and directly endorsed by the fans. Hell, Chance the Rapper recently won a Grammy without even being signed to a record label.

The need for official venues is no longer as constricting as it always has been, artists are able to sell themselves independently, and fans can engage at a more direct and personal level.

Oddly enough, in an age of digital communications, music is often more intimate and real than ever.

Playing festivals and concert halls is great fun but is slightly isolating due to the scale of the events, where intimate settings like Parlour shows are … real!  Music is meant to be shared between humans, that’s when it’s most fun. - Michael Spiby

by Leonard Bernardone

The Future of Live Music is Local

Jack Carty playing to a full house in Warranwood, VIC

Jack Carty playing to a full house in Warranwood, VIC

By Matt Walters
Founder / Director – Parlour

For the past two years, we’ve witnessed the birth of a new live music era in Australia. You’re unlikely to hear about it. But it’s there – bubbling away in the background – in suburbs and towns – all around you.

When we launched Parlour in 2015, we were told by plenty of people that established artists would never play gigs in fans’ houses. We heard every defiant argument against the idea – “too scary”, “too risky”, “not great for an artist's brand”. Slowly, we’ve seen perceptions change. We’ve always known that once an artist experienced playing a Parlour gig – they’d be hooked. Since launching we’ve facilitated over 600 gigs in Aus & NZ with some of the biggest names in the country – from Boy & Bear to Bob Evans.

We regularly espouse the financial benefits of playing these gigs – low overheads = high returns (we pay artists an average of $950 per gig) - but the feedback we get from artists tells us so much more.

Here are a few quotes from musicians that have embraced the platform:

“Firstly, it’s very important to note that Parlour gigs don't just feed your pockets, they restore your faith in humanity. We've done 30 Parlour gigs around Australia now, and they always bring a connection between us and our audience like no other show can.”Jordie Lane

“It’s the purest exchange of music you can have with someone.“Fraser A. Gorman

"The most difficult thing about our show at Green Street was finding a park and getting out through the maze of one-way streets and cul-de-sacs. Everything else was easy. The gear seemed to want to work, and the crowd was receptive and spirited. If we wanted a drink or something good to eat that was no problem either. It makes you wonder why at some gigs everything seems so damned hard."Mick Thomas

“Playing Parlour house concerts has been a real joy. By the time I leave each house concert I feel like I have spent the afternoon or evening with my own family and friends.”Bob Evans

Digital technology has made it easier than ever to record and release music. It’s also made it easier to find fans – so are there fewer live performances happening?

Back in time
Sarah Taylor, a PhD student at RMIT University in Melbourne charted the shift in the landscape just a few years ago. (see Sarah's article here)
Back in 1983, it wasn’t unusual for bands to play Countdown (national TV), and go on to play every night of the week. Bands would go suburb by suburb, hitting smaller pubs – and even playing twice in one night if they could wrangle it. Well known, working bands were self-sufficient back then – they often travelled with their own production – PA’s & lights. Anywhere they could play and get paid, they would.

So what changed? Why did artists suddenly play less often?

Through the 90’s, suburban venues began to close due to noise restrictions, pokies and breathalysers and newer venues in the inner city began to open. Touring a band is expensive in Australia, so bands simply began to tour less often. That’s when change happens. Tastes shift. But the impact on the live music landscape has been enormous.  

There has also been a shift to hypersensitivity around over-saturation, which, I feel is quite ironic. Artists are encouraged to post every day on social media by their label & management but are way too careful about how many shows they’re playing. It’s a strategy guided by the fear that overplaying will reduce demand for an artist. As a result, artists are spending more time on self-promotion online and less time honing their live show. This is not necessarily a good thing for the longevity of the act. This also explains why an artist's image / social media strategy is often far more advanced than their live show.

Part of the issue is that at present, there is a strongly held belief in the industry that demand for an artist can only be handled by the venues & festivals. With artists lucky to walk away with only 35% of the gross from a venue show, it’s hard to understand why this is the case.

As much as Parlour would not exist without Artists, the amazing people who host Parlour Gigs are equally important to the formula, these are the people opening up their home, bringing people together and supporting local live music. As we’ve gotten to know them – a pattern has started to emerge. So many of these people love live music but they feel alienated from it. Many have families and live in the outer suburbs or in regional areas where there just aren’t quality venues. A trip into town to see their favourite band at the Corner Hotel is an expensive logistical challenge – babysitters need to be organised and transport can be hideously expensive. Many would rather save to attend festivals where the kids are welcome. And so, now we are seeing a return to a hyper-local approach with Parlour gigs.

Artists from all walks of life are starting to go direct to fan. Parlour is appealing to artists because we make it easy – just turn up, play and get paid. It’s also appealing because 95% of gigs are privately crowdfunded by hosts. Recently Jordie Lane played a massive 30 date national Parlour run with us. In Victoria, he played the same suburb half a dozen times over the course of the month – because – why not? The demand was there.

I believe this is just the beginning. In the past 6 months we’ve put together tours for the likes of Holly Throsby, Sally Seltmann, Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Bob Evans, Fraser A. Gorman, Henry Wagons, Oh Pep!, Jack Carty and many, many more. Artists have been known to play 3-4 times a week – some even squeeze in 2 gigs a day if they can. Because – why not? The demand is there.

Artists are ready and willing to take charge again and technology can facilitate the return to a thriving, hyper-local live music scene. Who would have thought that it would all take place in the home?

Bob Evans, Hosts and attendees at a Parlour gig in Torquay

Bob Evans, Hosts and attendees at a Parlour gig in Torquay

5 Artists we're listening to at Parlour HQ

Article by Leonard Bernardone

Leah Senior has recently released her sophpmore album, 'Pretty Faces'

Leah Senior has recently released her sophpmore album, 'Pretty Faces'

The superbly melancholy and under-recognised Leah Senior has only recently dropped her sophomore album “Pretty Faces”, continuing to deliver with her signature folk sound. Leah Senior draws inspiration from classic folk singers such as Nick Drake and Joni Mitchel, and although her inspirations are clearly present in her music, she still does more than enough both lyrically and in her acoustic offerings to wholly distinguish herself from her roots and the current Australian folk market. 

Leah eloquently captures tones of regret, love, love lost and woeful nostalgia over beautifully soft-spoken fingerstyle guitar. Leah’s storytelling style of music is very immersive, often describing a setting, environment or point of focus rather than a strict narrative. In doing this, she offers a very personal look at the emotions behind her song.  Leah goes as far as describing the way she’s treated by a lover as being akin to a winter coat left in the cupboard, and through very sincere twists of poetry backed by her lovely vocals, she makes it work! 

Her production is also quite varied, utilising studio-quality string arrangements, drums and piano sparingly throughout her latest tracks. Even when she does utilise these elements, it is to a quaint effect. Not to say that the arrangements are not powerful, they most certainly are, just that she never uses more than necessary. Leah takes a skeletal approach to instrumentation, and completes her songs with her strong range of evocative vocals. 

Bringing a sound that is relaxing and emotionally intriguing, and swooning emotional tales of love and longing, Leah Senior is a go-to pick for reflecting, indulging in emotion, or relaxing to some soothing, dreamy music. 

The Rollercanes have an album set for release later this year

The Rollercanes have an album set for release later this year

Bringing a distinct pop-rock/garage-rock sound to the table, and firing it at the audience with charming charisma, the Rollercanes are definitely a band to stay tuned in to. 

I first saw the Rollercanes front-lining for The Vanns sometime in 2016. We were a small crowd (as frontline crowds typically are), but frontman Daniel Wright and band still bought an energetic, confident performance. Thrashing their guitars and shouting their vocals, they engaged with the few of us that they had to work with to bring the room to life and get things popping.

The biggest difference between their performance and the headliner for the evening was simply the mixing. The talent, the swagger and the energy were all there in full force and with the appropriate hype and set-up, the Rollercanes could have very well been an awesome headliner!

Their recently released single “I Know You’re Lonely” teases their upcoming late 2017 album, which we’re anticipating with bated breath. If the tight structure, solid vocals, punchy drums and melodic licks layered throughout this track are any indication of what to expect from their next album, we’re in for a great listen.
 

We're keeping our ears peeled for more from Jade Imagine, after her debut EP, "What The Fuck Was I Thinking?"

We're keeping our ears peeled for more from Jade Imagine, after her debut EP, "What The Fuck Was I Thinking?"

Jade Imagine dropped their debut EP only recently in May, titled “What The Fuck Was I Thinking?”.  A fuzzy dream-pop collection of tracks vaguely exploring self-esteem, aspirations and life-directions. Normally these kinds of themes would make for an anxious listen, but front-woman Jade Mcnally keeps it cool and breezy, delivering an album of the same qualities. Sleepy, dreamy, and totally befitting of this drifty, Winter season, Jade Empire makes a quiet racket that soothes the senses and rides along with the listener.

The band utilises a lot of instrumentation, but to a very quaint effect. Electric guitars, bass, drums, synths, piano, tambourines and a collection of soft, quirky sounds comprise this album, yet it never feels cluttered or over-packed. Without intentionally trying to pick out the instrumentation, every track floats by as smoothly as a cloud of smoke. 

It’s hard to distinctively critique Jade Imagine’s sound, because it down-right demands the listener to chill out. As soon as that signature dream-scape sound hits my ear-drums, I’m relaxed and in tune with the rhythm at a thoughtless and automatic level. Whatever McInally was thinking, she’s gotten herself and the band signed to Courtney Barnett’s Milk Records label and has kicked (or casually nudged) down the door to our playlists, and we’re eager for more.

Going Swimming have just come off supports for Polish Club at the Corner Hotel.

Going Swimming have just come off supports for Polish Club at the Corner Hotel.

Punk rock outfit, Going Swimming, deliver such energetic and fast-paced tracks, and produce so many anthem-worthy thrash-a-long moments, it’s a crime that they haven’t received suitable recognition outside of the punk-rock and gig-goer communities. 

The band is currently performing from their debut self-produced and self-released LP, Deadtime Stories (with an album cover that any 90’s baby will gush over). Frontman Nicholas Leggatt howls about coming-of-age struggles and shortcomings over some speedy, radical instrumentation. Sharp guitars, punchy bass plucking, and tight, tight drums are the game here. Charismatic and rhythmic bass/guitar licks bridge tracks together, entering and exiting in a way that demands repeat listens. You’ll find yourself thrashing along involuntarily while you wait for that one awesome lick or solo, and before you know it you’re hooked.

The lyrical content fits perfectly with the band’s high-energy performances. The track ‘Careers Counselling’ brings me back to that high-school uncertainty in an appropriately noisy and anxious rhythm, and hearing Leggatt shouting down at the counsellor in this track gets me pumped enough to call my old career counsellor and retroactively tell him to "fuck off". They make for a great group-listen as well, with moments such as the anthemic “Oi, Oi, Oi”  chants on ‘Hooligan’ that are sure to get any beered-up Aussies shouting along in unison. 

The cherry on top of Going Swimming’s style is that they manage to blend in some surf-rock to their punk, and although I was initially apprehensive to the concept their intro track “Them Shakes” quickly proves that surf and punk blends together as unexpectedly well as peanut butter and chocolate! They aren’t the only doing it, but they’re one of the only contemporary Aussie bands to do it right. The band is currently touring Australia with their latest single “Debt Collector,” which we’re hoping is an indicator of another upcoming thrasher!
 

Ziggy Ramo released a new tune, 'Same Script' last week. Go check it out!

Ziggy Ramo released a new tune, 'Same Script' last week. Go check it out!

Last but certainly not least of these up and coming Aussie musicians, is the talented hip-hop conscious rapper Ziggy Ramo. Ziggy is not only an interesting listen, but also a vastly important one. He primarily delivers on the topic of Indigenous Australians and black rights in Australia, pulling no punches and always cutting right to the point. With presence, punctuality and passion, Ziggy responds to the current treatment and perception of Indigenous Australians and brings to light social behaviours or issues that the Australian community at large is not appropriately aware of. 

Ziggy wears his inspirations on his sleeves, with flows akin to that of Nas, Common, or the more recent Joey Bada$$. Classic piano-laced hip-hop instrumentals back Ziggy up he slams out statement after statement on Australian and Indigenous relations, each one solid and nearly irrefutable. He delivers these statements with some clever word-play, utilising double-meanings in almost every verse, and does so with some sincere passion and anger. To quote the man himself, he doesn’t “beat around the bush” in regards to his frustrations with Australia. 

Through his use of music, witty lyricism, passionate delivery and some shocking samples which highlight cases of Australian racism, Ziggy spreads awareness and empathy for his culture to an Australian audience, much alike the work of many American hip-hop artists and civil activists are doing for theirs. An important and topical artist that we hope to hear more from soon! 

A Q&A with Nicky Bomba

What's the biggest difference between playing a Parlour Gig and playing a venue show?

Definitely the intimacy you get when you are in that environment  People also seem more relaxed to let their hair down amongst friends and in a familiar environment.

I've had some classic scenarios where the host has come up to me after the show saying...'That is the first time ever that we've seen so and so have a dance'

 

What was the best thing about your Parlour Gig?

They are all different in their own little way but I did one out bush and the whole place was decorated like a Calypso party and they even learnt 3 of my songs.

(I had to learn the words in a hurry to save face!) 

 

What was the most difficult thing about the shows?

Getting the flow of the evening is crucial. You don't want the performance happening while people are queuing at the BBQ for food. It happened once... and only once..

 

Is it weird to play at people's houses?

Not at all. I'm very comfortable with that environment. I always manage to get into the kitchen to see what's in the fridge too. Sometimes even during my set..

 

Would you do it again? Why?

Absolutely! I think these type of performances are close to what music and songs are designed for. Storytelling, singalongs etc in a small group where you can feel the energy 

 

What would you change if you did it again?

I'd have someone set up and set down the sound gear for me.   It's the last thing you want to do when you're energy is spent!


Any other comments/feedback about Parlour?

I think you could develop a national touring circuit of house parties. Australian House Party tour. I'd do it in a flash!

A Q&A with Fraser A. Gorman!

Fraser A. Gorman has just wrapped up his first Parlour Tour and we've had one of the best responses from hosts and guests yet! So we thought we'd ask him a few questions about his experience; here are his answers.

What's the biggest difference between playing a Parlour Gig and playing a venue show?

I'd say the biggest difference is the space and the intimacy that comes with it. Obviously playing in people's houses/backyards is usually a smaller, more intimate affair so the literal connection between you and the audience is up more close and personal. I say that in a nice way, it's a lovely environment to play tunes to a really receptive audience.

What was the best thing about your Parlour Tour?
The best thing about the parlour tour was the lovely reception from the guests/punters, the very adequate and efficient payment system and the super fun shows I got to play and music I got to share with heaps of really nice people from across the country. Also at pretty much all of the shows, I got fed a meal (or some kind of food, that was lovely, thanks hosts!).

What was the most difficult thing about the shows?
To be honest, nothing was really difficult about them at all. 
I had to set up and pack up my own PA at the gigs, but that's no big deal. As a musician, I'm used to bumping in and bumping out of venues so doing more or less the same thing in houses and backyards was just as easy. I had no crew so I had to do sound too, but my PA is very simple and I know how to make it sound great.....
So nothing was difficult about the shows at all.

Is it weird to play at stranger's houses?
This question comes up a lot from many different people... and the answer is, not at all!!
I'd played a few house concerts in the past, and they were always wonderful experiences. It's basically the purest exchange of music you can have with someone, so I really like it.....
And as far as "weird" goes..... try doing a regular extensive tour of Australia in regional venues.... then you'll really know what "weird" is... haha
Playing original music outside of the capital cities of Australia can be quite difficult sometimes, for a variety of reasons.

Would you do it again? Why?
Absolutely, I honestly had a really fun time doing the tour and found it to be a really positive experience. I want to try and figure out a way to do one with a band one day...

What would you change if you did it again?
THIS IS KEY (for musicians considering doing a parlour tour)
You can get an iPhone attachment from Officeworks called "square" I think, it's an EFTPOS machine for your phone.
It allows you to sell merch after your gigs to people who don't carry cash (AKA everybody in the world these days).....
I only had this EFTPOS attachment at my last 2 shows of the tour and it made a big difference....
Every working musician in the world should get this app/attachment thingy.....

Seriously.

Any other comments/feedback about Parlour?
I think the concept is great and especially important for being a touring artist living in Australia where there are very limited cities and venues to play music in nationwide.....
I would strongly suggest to any musician that I know considering doing a parlour show or shows to get out there and do it. The Parlour staff are total legends too and are very helpful and easy to work with, for the musician and for the gig host.

Top Parlour Gigs of 2016

As we come to the end of yet another exciting year of live music, let's go back down the lane of memories that was 2016 and revisit some of our favourite Parlour Gigs from the year.

Big Smoke at Em's place "Big Smoke are undeniably one of the best bands kicking around the traps of the Melbourne music scene. The lyrics, the harmonies, the on-stage banter, they’ve got it all and they’ve got it in spades. They stripped down their usual folk-country-rock setup, to a much more ‘uncooked rice in a bottle’ type vibe. And they even do that brilliantly."

Big Smoke at Em's place
"Big Smoke are undeniably one of the best bands kicking around the traps of the Melbourne music scene. The lyrics, the harmonies, the on-stage banter, they’ve got it all and they’ve got it in spades. They stripped down their usual folk-country-rock setup, to a much more ‘uncooked rice in a bottle’ type vibe. And they even do that brilliantly."

Oh Pep! at Kat's place "While the dark beauty of their music kept us quiet and eager for more, there were many moments where the duo’s dry sense of humour broke the ice, and the night became an entertaining and sentimental experience for everyone present."

Oh Pep! at Kat's place
"While the dark beauty of their music kept us quiet and eager for more, there were many moments where the duo’s dry sense of humour broke the ice, and the night became an entertaining and sentimental experience for everyone present."

Eastward at Wild'n'Free HQ "Eastward’s lose-yourself instrumental tunes got WildnFree‘s guests deep in the dreamy vibe, sitting close together getting their minds blown by all the beauty."

Eastward at Wild'n'Free HQ
"Eastward’s lose-yourself instrumental tunes got WildnFree‘s guests deep in the dreamy vibe, sitting close together getting their minds blown by all the beauty."

Tinpan Orange at Steph's place (and the first Parlour Tour) "Enter Tinpan Orange. A band that has been on the scene and on the touring circuit for the best part of a decade. An unbelievably talented trio; every one of their live performances I’ve witnessed has been as incredible if not more than the last. And this gig was no exception."

Tinpan Orange at Steph's place (and the first Parlour Tour)
"Enter Tinpan Orange. A band that has been on the scene and on the touring circuit for the best part of a decade. An unbelievably talented trio; every one of their live performances I’ve witnessed has been as incredible if not more than the last. And this gig was no exception."

Jordie Lane & Clare Reynolds at Kath's place "Jordie and Clare Reynolds stopped the whole room in their tracks. Such powerfully talented musicians, songwriters and storytellers, Jordie and Clare took us through a journey of old and new tunes, including songs from the latest album, Glasshellland"

Jordie Lane & Clare Reynolds at Kath's place
"Jordie and Clare Reynolds stopped the whole room in their tracks.
Such powerfully talented musicians, songwriters and storytellers, Jordie and Clare took us through a journey of old and new tunes, including songs from the latest album, Glasshellland"


This is just a small selection of the hundreds of unbelievable gigs we had a hand in throughout 2016. We can't wait to see what gigs 2017 has in store and we hope to see you there!

Happy New Year!


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