Why Aussie acts should be releasing more new music than ever before
19.05.2020

Why Aussie acts should be releasing more new music than ever before

Clowns, pic by David Harris
Words by Christie Eliezer

Now’s the time to get your name out there.

Yes, yes, we know. Live music venues are yellow-taped. Record stores are more restricted than ever before. Festivals are falling over like dominoes, and working out if their insurance covers COVID-19 cancellations, which 98.5% of UK festivals have just discovered doesn’t.

So why release any new records unless we can hit the road, Jack?

But a new study is suggesting that now is the time that musicians should be frisbeeing their records out at a faster rate than before.

The third instalment of Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s US survey series, COVID-19: Tracking The Impact On The Entertainment Landscape, found that 53% of those surveyed are listening to new music from known artists while housebound but 43% are checking out new music from acts they’d never heard of, or gave a shit about before.

Three other takeaways from the study also signified the positives of releasing records now:

  • People are embracing music videos than ever before, and audio streams are rising after a slump immediately after restrictions began.
  • The percentage of those who started or expanded entertainment subscriptions exceeded those who cancelled presumably because they lost their jobs.
  • The genres that are most successful during the lock-ins are children’s, country and classical.

Major record companies in the northern hemisphere have told their weeping investors they’d be releasing very little new music. This is because COVID-19 restrictions are making it difficult for their artists to meet with others to write songs and record; they are also reluctant because they won’t be able to tour the new music.

However, Aussie promoter and manager Michael Chugg told Beat Magazine that the situation is the reverse in Australia.

“There’s never been more Australian music out there than for a very long time,” he said. “We’re going through a honeymoon period.”

Part of the reason for this great interest in Australian music, especially new, is that housebound consumers are tuning into local livestream festivals such as Isol-Aid, The State of Music and Delivered Live.

Emily Ulman, the Melbourne band booker and festival programmer who’s one of the masterminds behind Isol-Aid, suggested that livestreaming offered emerging acts more of a level playing field.

“Unlike in physical venues, there are no headliners and support acts,” she said. “After each set, the act tags the one after, so there is a greater potential for music discovery there.”

If Aussies are going to be canny about what types of songs are going to work in these troubled times, what should they go for?

Misery loves company, so very sad songs about feeling very sad are go-ers. Advertising agencies are also looking for something different. These are “songs of hope, unity, togetherness”.

In a marketing report, Billboard looked at how Amazon has picked up Andra Day’s ‘Rise Up’ for a new ad, Facebook’s Messenger Desktop ad uses Black Eyed Peas’ ‘One Tribe’, Samsung opted for Marc Scibilia’s ‘How Bad We Need Each Other’ while Walmart had its staffers yowling through Bill Withers’ ‘Lean on Me’, and David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ as part of its isol-branding.

If you particularly dislike The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ or The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ or Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ or Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)’ or Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’, you’ve been warned that they’re heading your way.

The big winner in all this is Ben Lee whose 15-year old ‘We’re All in This Together’ has been used in the past by Coca-Cola and The Salvation Army. Now it’s waved around as the COVID-19 anthem, and used by every irritating polly trying to whip up our fighting ANZAC/Dunkirk spirit.

The track is from Lee’s Awake Is The New Sleep album from 2005 which, interestingly, also has tracks with titles as ‘Catch My Disease’, ‘Ache For You’, ‘Get Gotten’ and ‘The Debt Collectors’. Maybe Benny is a visionary.

Another hit comes from the Northern Territory, via Darwin label Skinnyfish Music and members of Saltwater Band, Ripple Effect and B2M.

High on catchiness, ‘Wash Your Hands’ was released as a health message for Top End kids. It has now been translated into nine languages and picked up 100,000 views.

The boom in Australian music is expected to play out more when local acts go back on the road without competition from international names, who are not expected at least for another 12 months, or even later.

Falls Festival has already announced it’s going ahead in summer with an all-Australian bill. UNIFY Gathering has done the same. Laneway and CMC Rocks are also considering it. However, promoters of other large festivals confidentially told Beat that all-Australian bills could be financially risky.

When Aussies do return to venues and festivals, what would have changed?

Triple j’s recent survey of 1500 listeners found that 43% would not show their faces unless a vaccine has been found. An earlier US study had 60% staying away.

The new Nielsen Music/MRC Data study indicated that its recipients were eager to experience live music again. But 61% wanted extra precaution such as hand sanitiser stations throughout the venue, 50% wanted a cap on the number of tickets sold, and 35% wanted temperatures checked when patrons entered.

There is also the possibility that we’ll have a situation where patrons have to offer proof that they’ve been checked for coronavirus and that they’ve downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

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