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Industry: Say it louder for the people in the back, Melbourne is the world's greatest music city

There’s an ancient music biz adage; if you want to land a record contract, move to Sydney. If you want to make great music, head to Melbourne.

Statistics released by Music Victoria last week showed that in 2017, Greater Melbourne hosted 73,605 advertised gigs compared to 62,000 in 2012, representing a 19% increase. Gigs drew 17.5 million visits and accounted for more than $1.42 billion spent in small venues and at concerts and festivals in 2017, a 16% increase on the $1.22 billion spent in 2012.
 
Music Victoria stated, “Melbourne has one live music venue per 9,503 residents, making Melbourne the live music capital of the world. By comparison London has 245 venues (one per 34,350 residents), New York has 453 venues (one per 18,554 residents) and Los Angeles 510 venues (one per 19,607 residents).”
 
Other figures from the second Live Music Census, taken on Saturday November 25, 2017, showed that on a Saturday night, 112,000 punters are going to gigs around the city – about the crowd size at an AFL Grand Final. Over 12 months, live music attracted more than the AFL, Spring Racing Carnival, A-League, Basketball, Netball, NRL, Cricket and the Australian Grand Prix combined.
 
There are a number of reasons. The live music industry sector, spearheaded by Music Victoria, has worked with the state government to implement initiatives as the agent of change, matched grants for soundproofing and updating facilities and mentoring younger venue operators.
 
The census’ project officer Dobe Newton says that 55% of venues reported their audience had increased in the past 12 months with only 16% recording a decrease. He remarks that venues are marketing themselves better through social media, and many have initiated policies for hearing protection, sexual harassment and sustainability, and have kept prices low. “People want to go to venues and feel safe and know that the venue is concerned for their physical and mental health,” he says.
 
This week, Melbourne is again at the centre of the global live industry, as it hosts the two-day Music Cities Convention. Delegates from 40 countries – academics, town planners, government policy makers, artists and music industry – will learn from Melbourne’s success as a music city while we learn from their solutions.
 
For Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan, one aspect is that many Australian government policymakers and academics are also attending, and listening to fresh ideas. They have money and can make changes. “If Melbourne can adopt three or four of the best ideas brought up, it’s been worth it. It’ll make it easier for us [in the music industry] to work with them in the future to bring advantages to music”.
 
One initiative that Melbourne could see is a Night Mayor to generate ideas for the night economy.  Music Victoria is also going back to the state government with two others:  revive the under-age gigs circuit and do more music tourism studies on festivals (especially the 350 regional ones) and see how to help them.