Nick Cave, Gender Politics, and What it Means to be a Fan: Inside the Australian Music Vault Talks

Featuring some of Australia's biggest musicians, open in discussion at Arts Centre Melbourne.

“As soon as you get music lovers together, they start talking and networking and coming together, and amazing things come out of it.”

The Australian music industry is fuelled and built upon beautiful, personal connections. That spark when music lovers come together, as described by Amy Bennett, the Creative Learning Producer at Arts Centre Melbourne, is what ignited Australian Music Vault to launch a series of talks to run at Arts Centre Melbourne over the course of 2018.

“At the moment, we’re really in a time of conversation and the public contributing to discussions instead of just observing from the outside,” Bennett says.

“I think the music industry are really keen to have a forum where they can present these issues from the general public side. It gives the public a front row seat to the inner workings of the industry, because it can be a bit hard to understand how it works.”

The Australian Music Vault Talks will tackle what it means to be a music fan, roping in mega-fans of the likes of Nick Cave, Crowded House and Kylie Minogue to talk about their obsessions.

But the first talk will see a panel of women from all facets of the industry come together to talk about gender representation in the Australian music industry.

The panel will focus on the path to change the gender imbalance, and the challenges that stand in the way of such a thing. Facilitated by journalist and author Jenny Valentish, the panel features Grace Kindellan of Wet Lips, Mohini Hillyer of Habits, Dr Catherine Strong, who is conducting APRA approved research into gender inequality in the Australian music industry at RMIT University, and Tracee Hutchison from the Music Victoria’s Women’s Advisory Panel.

“It’s a really big one,” says Bennett of the inaugural talk. “There has been a lot of discussion on it. It’s really important to us, to the Australian Music Vault, to make sure there’s equal representation, and we felt we had a role to play. It’s really moving forward at a rapid pace.

Bennett, who is a musician in her own right, is happy to report that she’s definitely seeing a shift in gender representation within the industry. “There are more female mentors available for younger musicians. There are more women who want to be leaders, and show younger women that this can happen,” she says.

“That being said, you still go to gigs and 15 out of 16 people are dudes, so in the music industry, it really needs to stay active. That's why some of these young musos like Grace (Kindellan) are so important, because they’re actively choosing lineups based on this.”

The Australian Music Vault was launched at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2017. Set to run for three years, the free exhibition is a celebration of the past, present, and future of the Australian music industry, and an insight into the history that has shaped it.

“The idea is to celebrate Australian contemporary music, there's such a rich history and there’s so many amazing people involved in the history and the present, and obviously the future, but it’s been something that the Victorian Government and us at Arts Centre Melbourne, the music industry, and major stakeholders like Michael Gudinski, have wanted to celebrate for a long time,” Bennett says.

The vault, and these talks, are there to remind the audience that it’s not just musicians who make up the scene, it’s every audience member, and the stories they have to tell.

“When it was announced that Festival Hall would become apartments, that was a change in the city, a change in infrastructure. But what it did, whether or not it’s bad or good, is it made everyone tell their stories of Festival Hall. That’s what we want to encourage,” Bennett says.

We all have stories of Festival Hall, of our youth, no matter how recent that was. “The members of the music industry are really passionate about a lot of issues that are a massive part of their everyday lives.

“Having these talks helps to give wider context for these issues. We want it to generate discussion, to excite people who then give back their stories. It’s a two way street.”

Australian Music Vault Talks will take place at Arts Centre Melbourne from March until June 2018. It’ll open with Gender Imbalance in the Music Industry on Thursday March 1.