Mid-year report on the Australian music industry


There really is no business like showbusiness. For a moment, however, I felt like the lights were going out.

Australia deflected the GFC, but could not dodge the COVID ball. The pandemic has blasted a new hole in the live music industry which, until March 2020, had felt bulletproof.

Fleets were grounded, sites closed for months, years. Tours and festivals have been cancelled, rescheduled, postponed and rescheduled again. Awards ceremonies and conferences have become “virtual”, then “hybrid”.

The streaming business soared, the vinyl kept rolling. But without live entertainment — show biz — the music economy was treading water, at best.

Now, as we reach the cooler mid-2022 period, business is heating up.

As the industry looks ahead to better days, TMN unpacks some of the big local developments in 2022 so far.

Group of mushrooms 2:0. Life after Michael Gudinski

Michael Gudinski would be delighted. The Gudinski “family” reunited under the sprawling Mushroom group continues to put some leads on the board, putting the toughest times behind them.

The industry great left us suddenly in March 2022, after keeping the indie powerhouse humming through a dark age for live music.

Gudinski’s son, Matt, took the lead and led the company to memorable victories. Among them, a global partnership with Virgin Music Label & Artist Services; the launch of an artist management division, Mushroom Management; a new leadership structure at Frontier Touring, further integrating Mushroom Group’s business with partner AEG Live; and a busy touring schedule, including Foo Fighters and Billy Joel stadium dates via the Always Live campaign, a partnership with Visit Victoria.

Frontier Touring is behind Ed Sheeran’s 2023 tour of Australia and New Zealand, which has grown to 13 stadium dates. Don’t bet against Sheeran smashing his own all-time mark at the box office.

Live music is (mostly) back

Perth Festival

It wasn’t too long ago that the concert landscape in Australia was scorching hot, generating billions, welcoming the biggest international names and putting them in front of massive audiences across the country. And then it wasn’t.

For two years and change, the good times had been sucked out of Australia. Now, with vaccines injected into all but the most stubborn among us, the good stuff is on its way back. The concert calendar for 2022 and 2023 looks like a fairy tale for music lovers, too long lacking in action.

There is a caveat. With this deluge of live entertainment, concert producers are facing labor shortages, a shortage of venues and COVID mutations are buzzing.

For live music in mid-2022, that’s eight steps forward, one step back.

Sony Music’s first female lead

After nearly four decades, finally, a changing of the guard at Sony Music. Vanessa Picken will take over the top job at Sony Music later this year, leading the major music company’s business in Australia and New Zealand, and becoming the first woman to do so.

Announced in June, Picken’s appointment was greeted by the industry as a “monumental milestone” and a “history in the making”, and a fresh start for a company led by Denis Handlin for 37 years, a reign that ended ended in controversy a year. earlier.

Since then, Sony Music’s domestic operations have been overseen from the US headquarters.

The Picken era at Sony Music begins in September.

New government, new problems

federal election

There is change in the air. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received his marching orders, but who knows when he will finally march. Former US President Donald Trump is facing the heat for his role in the horrific January 6 uprising. And in these regions, a new government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

After nine years of profanity and bluster from Tony Abbott, then Malcolm Turnbull and, finally, Scott Morrison, the music industry breathed a collective sigh of relief as Albo and his ALP took the power on May 21.

The new boss is a music anorak, like the Minister of Culture Tony Burke, who has positioned himself as a friend of the music industry, and is pushing forward the national cultural policy, currently in the consultation phase.

Ahead of the election, the music industry presented a three-point plan, focused on direct investment in the creation of great new Australian music, skills development and global exports, incentivizing the use of content local on streaming and broadcast platforms, assurance of providing certainty for local audiences, and programs to build industry sustainability through strong intellectual property and national mentorship programs.

Whether the policy adopts these points will determine how long the music industry’s honeymoon period with the new government lasts.

In Liberal-ruled New South Wales, a bad smell is in the air. Just days away from Splendor in the Grass 2022, a new enforceable rule that requires under 18s to be accompanied by a “responsible adult” at all times during the event and exhibit venues. “Police will be present at the event, scanning the crowd to verify that minors are accompanied by a responsible adult,” read a statement from organizers.

#MeToo is always on the move

culture change in the music industry

Change is coming, slowly and sometimes without warning.

The rotten culture that has spread through the halls of some music companies is set to be brought to light by an ongoing national review, set up to investigate sexual harm, harassment and discrimination in Australia’s music industry.

The Examination of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment and Systemic Discrimination in the National Music Industry was announced late last year, with the ambition to learn and speak with all communities and roles within the music industry to understand what the industry will look like in 2022.

Led by ‘outside’ consultants Alexandra (Alex) Shehadie and Sam Turner, the review is under the auspices of the music industry charity Support Act, and unveiled with support from lobbying organizations APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA and Australia Council, and has a total target budget of $400.00.

The project launched as the Australian music industry finally faces its #MeToo moment, with companies and industry leaders sending the message in 2021 that offensive actions in the workplace would no longer be tolerated.

Two of the top three music companies, Sony Music and Universal Music, have launched investigations into their own corporate cultures, and several high-level employees have been fired following investigations. WBU recently unveiled a restructuring of its management team following the departure of a co-chief executive as part of a review of its corporate culture.

For many, change cannot come soon enough.

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