Where has all the music gone?

April 13, 2018

Dead Letter Circus 2015 Carlton Dry Independent Music Awards held in Melbourne at the Meat Market. If you want to see this stuff - head to music city.

Some things are surprising in an eyebrow-raising kind of way.

Your dog does what when he wants your attention?

Or — are you really going to name your new baby Audi?

That sort of thing.

Then there is the head shake, jaw-drop kind of surprise.

For instance — more people went to music gigs in Melbourne last year than all the sporting events combined.

A lot more.

Like 17.5million people attended live music events in 2017 compared to a 4.6million crowd total at AFL matches.

Now for namby-pamby music lovers and tough-minded sports followers that has to be a jaw-dropper.

And it gets even more unbelievable.

A census by RMIT University, inner-city councils and Music Victoria collected data from venues across Melbourne and found more people went to live music events than all the AFL, NRL, basketball, cricket, soccer, Spring Racing Carnival and Grand Prix events combined.

Yes I know it sounds like voodoo mumbo.

The mantra says Melbourne is the nation’s sporting capital.

For goodness sake, Melbourne is the eternal city of sporting tribes, flag wavers, ball throwers and cup kissers.

Well nope.

Not only is Melbourne Australia’s music capital, it also outshines London and Los Angeles as the place to see live music.

The census found Melbourne has more music venues per person than any other city on Earth, with one venue for every 9503 residents.

This compared to London, with one venue per 34350 people and Los Angeles, which has one venue per 19607.

On any Saturday night in 2017, 93 per cent of Melbourne venues hosted a gig, generating more than $1.4billion in ticket sales, drinks, food and merchandise.

I have never really been a numbers man, especially census numbers, which eventually drift over my head like clouds.

When it comes to numbers, people take what they want and bend them into a shape that fits their world view.

Well, that’s what government departments do.

And who am I to argue with RMIT data boffins?

I choose to believe the truth of these numbers because I have always felt music to be the food of love and liveable cities.

Now I have the numbers to back me up.

What does this all mean for our neck of the woods?

It means that here in Shepparton we have a lot of work to do on the music front to keep up.

On any Saturday night, there are only two live music spots in Shepparton.

There used to be a lot more, but the scene has gradually dwindled away to leave just one or two people who are prepared to take a risk and pay bands.

Why don’t bands include Shepparton on their tour itinerary?

Because there are no dedicated music venues to play.

Are there young, keen, developing musicians here eager to get a spot on their local turf?

Of course, but apart from the odd seasonal festival, they have to go to Melbourne to get a gig.

There is a music scene here in Shepp, but it’s confined to garages, sheds and kitchens.

We are just a couple of hours away from the greatest music scene on Earth, but when you’re 16 and trying to get a gig, or you’re a grown-up Courtney Barnett fan, you might as well live on Mars.

Which is more than surprising — it’s annoying.

It’s also a big negative if you’re someone with employable talent who would live and work here but who also happens to enjoy live music.

John Lewis is chief of staff at The News.

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