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MUSIC VICTORIA: The voice of the music industry

Words by Rachel Short


Established just before the last state election in 2010, Music Victoria was born from a desperate need to cure the ills that the government and liquor licensing board were causing for live music in Victoria.

Patrick Donovan, Music Victoria’s CEO, has long been a true devotee to Melbourne’s music culture. Before being appointed as the CEO in 2010, he was a music writer at The Age for fifteen years and has interviewed many musical legends including Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, David Bowie and Lou Reed. He also led the campaign that re-named Cherry Bar’s street location to ACDC lane in 2004.

Music Victoria submitted their first ‘white paper’ in 2012, which was called ‘The Case for Regulatory Reform’. It addressed the initial plans for the Agent of Change clause and the banning of all age gigs as well as updating building planning codes and the EPA’s review of noise standards that hadn’t been updated in twenty-five years. In the two years since, the government has fixed everything that Music Victoria has asked them to.

Perhaps the most important is the introduction of the Agent of Change clause, which means that all venues will be protected from new developments complaining about noise.

“Every time there’s a new development from now on, the planning permit will trigger the Agent of Change, which statewide means everything has to be taken into account of who was there first. It’s very cool,” beams Donovan.

The government has also put up half a million dollars in rebates for anyone who fell through the cracks during those two years of trying to introduce the clause. Following the development of a large apartment building at the end of ACDC lane, Cherry Bar’s James Young set up a crowd-funding campaign to soundproof his venue, raising $50,000 in 24 hours.

“We’re arguing that Cherry fell between the cracks because the government took too long,” says Donovan.

“It’s important to fix what’s broken and that’s been done. It’s inspiring for other countries around the world.” Donovan is a firm believer that the thriving music culture in this state has lead to an increase in Victoria’s growth in tourism.

It’s important to him that the new laws that come into effect in the metro areas are carried out statewide. As well as traditional venues, rehearsal studios and non-traditional venues will also be covered. Fortunately, live music fans won’t have to furiously sign any more petitions to cease the potential closure threats of any of their favourite venues.

In March this year, Music Victoria submitted their second white paper, which addresses artist opportunities. Included in the five sections of this paper is a regional action plan to increase confidence in the regional touring circuit to connect regional Victoria to the bigger areas.

With the impending state election this month, the paper also addresses the issue of quick response grants for artists with career-defining opportunities. Donovan cites Melbourne songwriter, Courtney Barnett as an example.

“She got asked to play on Jimmy Fallon to twenty-five million people and she had to borrow some money to get over there; she should have been able to grab some funding at short notice.” There are precedents for this kind of grant. If a Victorian filmmaker is accepted at Cannes, they have access to Film Victoria’s emergency funding. Donovan assures that grants will be available for venues as well, not just artists.

November is a busy month for Music Victoria. Conferences like Face the Music, AWME (Australasian Worldwide Music Expo), paired with Melbourne Music Week and the Age Music Awards are all held over two weeks and invite hundreds of artists from all over Australia to partake in conferences, showcases and other networking events. Music Victoria are a major partner in Face The Music and this year they are bringing out some huge international names like musician and sound engineer Steve Albini (Shellac), Ayisha Jaffer from Lorde’s management team and Marshall Betts of the Windish Agency. Representing the Aussie industry are Nai Palm, Wally Kempton, Ben Thompson (Director, Corner Presents), Dom Alessio (jjj), James Young (Owner of Cherry Bar) and Johann Ponniah (I Oh You), among other local gems.

AWME is the only conference of its kind in Australia, focusing heavily on world, roots and indigenous music. It also flies out bookers and buyers from Glastonbury to see the showcases and performances.

Music Victoria also runs the Airplay program around the same time as the conferences. They choose bands from AWME, Face the Music, MMW and the Age Awards and book them to play at Melbourne Airport. Donovan is particularly excited about this.

“People get off the plane and hear the music. We’re a very proud city that has bands at its airport.”

The Age Music Awards – which Donovan founded and ran while he worked at the Age – are now in their ninth year and have Daddy Cool reforming to be inducted. The event sold out in four days.

“We’re trying to get Tourism Victoria a bit more excited about these two weeks of the year and promote it as a really exciting time to visit. We are encouraging people from the industry to come out from all over the country and see our music industry at its best.”

For more info on Music Victoria, head to: www.musicvictoria.com.au

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