What the future of Australian music looks like, according to the labels defying it

What the future of Australian music looks like, according to the labels defying it

Representatives from some of our most exciting indie labels share their plans, and what they want to see our industry look like in the coming years.

Generally speaking, Australian music is always ahead of the curve, and while some top-tier industry figures would deny it, it’s generally independent labels and artists pushing it this way. Think along the lines of Future Classic, the Sydney electronic label world-recognised as being the forefront of electronic experimentalism and growth, or labels like Milk! Records, which host some of our country’s most defining acts in indie and rock - Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney, Hachiku, and label boss Jen Cloher amongst the biggest.

These labels - amongst others we’ll introduce you to in a second - are the ones pushing the boundaries when it comes to music and ensuring Australia has a place in the future of our industry. There's Roolette Records, a Melbourne-based punk label including Girl Germs and Wasterr on their roster; Spirit Level, led by Tim Shiel with a billing including Braille Face, Hemm and Shiel himself; Rice Is Nice, one of our indie scene’s more defining labels with acts including Donny Benet, Seekae, Rebel Yell and more; Hysterical Records (now known as Future Popes), a management-PR-bookings triple-threat including Moaning Lisa, Cry Club and Candy; and Barely Dressed Records, which features Denise Le Menice, Huntly, Jess Ribeiro and Oh Pep!

All of these labels (plus Bad Apples Music, Chapter, Dot Dash, Soul Has No Tempo, Our Golden Friend and more) will be showcasing at the upcoming Melbourne CHANGES Festival; two days of live music and music/tech panels and keynotes that’ll fill up the greater Melbourne area on July 3rd/4th - more info HERE. Ahead of the festival’s beginning, we asked these labels about the future of the Australian music industry - what they have planned, what they want to see, what they don’t want to see, who to keep an eye on and more - and considering just how big of a part these labels are likely to have in defining this, we’d consider this must-reading for anyone interested in music and its industry.

CHANGES 2019 Curator & Label: Roolette Records 

Showcase venue: The Old Bar

Showcase date: July 4th

What's something about the future of music that excites you?

Seeing Australian bands like Amyl and the Sniffers do so well overseas is something that really excites us as a label, but also myself as a musician. The fact that they’re doing so well in such a grassroots kind of way is a big inspiration to so many up and coming Australian artists and it’s really promising for the future of Australian music. 

What's something that you think will change the shape of music/the music industry in the future? 

There’s a constant birthing of new indie labels around the world that really help democratise the way artists can release their music. This, in conjunction with music sharing platforms such as Bandcamp, allow artists and indie labels to stand on their own two feet and take control of their sales and marketing. Recently, Bandcamp announced their plans to offer a vinyl pressing service to bands, innovative ideas like that are changing the industry as we know it.  

What's something currently present in music or the music industry, that you don't want to see in the future?

Gender, racial and LGBTQIA+ exclusionary bias are currently some of the major issues plaguing the music industry, so the goal is to remove these biases going forward. Being aware of this is the job of every label, mgmt group, punter etc… It’s just really not that hard to make it a priority.  

What are some Australian artists that you think will be dominant in the future?

Two bands that instantly come to mind are Hexdebt, who just released through our good mates Poison City Records earlier in the year and Pinch Points, who just released their debut LP Moving Parts through Roolette last month. We love the way both bands go about their music as they’re both bringing something new to the table, along with incredible live performances. We’d love to see them on the same bill together one day! 

What does your label have planned for the rest of the year?

We’ll be releasing some amazing local artists, we’re currently working on debut releases from Club-Med and LVIV which we’re really excited about. We’ll be planning Roofest II, our official festival as well as focusing more on our New York City counterpart, Roolette Records NYC run by Jenny Hussey in Brooklyn. 

CHANGES 2019 Curator/Label: Spirit Level

Showcase venue: Laundry

Showcase date: July 3 

What's something about the future of music that excites you?

The things that excite me about the future of music sometimes tend to be the things that frighten other people. As just one example, I think we've only really seen the start of how machine learning and automation can disrupt the music industry at all levels, both on the creative side and in terms of all the traditional scaffolding of the music industry. A lot of roles have already been replaced or at least partly supplemented by data-driven analysis, but I think we are only really at the start of that shift and people probably underestimate what that change might look like in the future. I've got no clear idea on where it heads, but it does excite me.

What's something that you think will change the shape of music/the music industry in the future? 

So, here is a thing that might make me sound like a crazy person. People often talk about how the overwhelming quantity of music being made now as opposed to 50, 20 or even 10 years ago. I think what people don't talk about as much is the 'quality' of music being made today (as problematic an idea as that is). I think it is hard to overstate the volume of "great" music being made in the world every day. Advances in technology have allowed for the democratisation of music making tools, the democratisation of the means of distribution and promotion, for sure. But beyond that, the accumulation of these vast archives of culture and knowledge on YouTube and other places online - it's never been easier to educate yourself about what makes "great" music "great". Then it's pretty simple to get the tools required to make it, and then push it out into the world. 

This is often sold as a really positive narrative - and I think in lots of ways it is, I want people to make great art and to express themselves - but I guess I'm really curious about where it all goes. I'm not sure the number of people listening has actually changed that much. So, who is meant to listen to all this great music? And what is it for? I think what we are already seeing is that listeners are starting to want more from music than just it being 'good' - they want it to mean something, and for its creator to have a vision and a story and a purpose. I think - I hope - we see a trend among listeners that leans even further into that.  

What's something currently present in music or the music industry, that you don't want to see in the future?

I think there are still a lot of misconceptions and myths around the idea of 'success' in the music industry, and around the concept of 'making it' that can really do a lot of damage especially to young artists who are trying to visualise what their future might be.  I think that a lot of the versions of 'success' that still underpin the conversations that artists have with each other - or the people they work with on their teams - are very toxic, and I honestly think everyone working in the industry has an obligation to think about this and consider it in their dealings with artists, especially young ones. I'm not sure exactly how this changes in the future, except for more people being more honest at all levels of the industry about what reality looks like for a working musician, and about how rare it is to find financial sustainability as a musician (or any kind of artist). 

What are some Australian artists (preferably, international is okay) that you think will be dominant in the future?

Five Seconds of Summer. 

What does your label have planned for the rest of the year? 

Most of our artists will be releasing new music, and we'll be announcing some new artists soon too.  Behind the scenes, we're putting a bit of time and energy into experimenting with new technology, specifically around innovating the experience of presenting and listening to music.  We'll also try to keep building a community of support around our artists, and might experiment with some new ways of doing that too.

CHANGES 2019 Curator/Label: Rice Is Nice

Showcase venue: The Fitz

Showcase date: July 3

What's something about the future of music that excites you?

A larger space for independent labels/artists + females in the industry.

What's something that you think will change the shape of music/the music industry in the future?

In Australia, I think the media landscape being more supportive of a wider range of independent music would help Australian music hugely. Being proud and supportive of the level of creativity we have here and not waiting for larger/international ‘industry’ to give it a tick of approval before you wise up.

What's something currently present in music or the music industry, that you don't want to see in the future?

People working in the industry because they think it’s ‘cool’. Heads up - you’re a douche bag.

What are some Australian artists (preferably, international is okay) that you think will be dominant in the future?

Sarah Mary Chadwick.

What does your label have planned for the rest of the year?

Amazing records from SPOD, Summer Flake, Sarah Mary Chadwick, Rebel Yell and The Laurels. Phew.

CHANGES 2019 Curator/Label: Future Popes (formerly Hysterical Records)

Showcase venue: Bar Open

Showcase date: July 3

What's something about the future of music that excites you?

I'm excited to see how technology will really transform the parameters of live music performances in the coming years. We're already seeing 3D mapping, holograms and some augmented reality and virtual reality through festivals like Blue Dot and Coachella, however, I'm really looking forward to seeing how it really transforms a live music experience and the production and consumption of music over the coming years.

What's something that you think will change the shape of music/the music industry in the future?

Technology; whether it's being able to deliver music and communicate with audiences more directly, transform live performances and deliver the performances directly into someones home, to providing a better and faster recording process, there is no doubt that technology will continue to transform the music industry. It's just a matter of keeping up. 

What's something currently present in music or the music industry, that you don't want to see in the future? 

Keyboard warriors and negative online comments! The detriment some of the negative online comments online do to artists and humans is really saddening. While it's especially disappointing when people or artists are trying their damned hardest to challenge industry truisms and be progressive, however sometimes for keyboard warriors these things are never good enough. If you're not out there showing up and doing the work, then one should not comment.

What are some Australian artists (preferably, international is okay) that you think will be dominant in the future? 

A special shout out to my own fam, Cry Club. I think they really have people guessing at each step they take, as well as Moaning Lisa! I also think garage-punks Pinch Points will be ones to watch, following in the footsteps of King Gizz, however, I feel like they'll get more recognition overseas than in Australia (typical). Spacey Jane and also Teen Jesus and The Jean Teasers are also on the list! The New Zealand scene has also been really flourishing in the past couple years and it's so nice to see them finally getting a little more recognition in Australia, I'm looking forward to seeing what The Beths, Mermaidens, Miss June and those group of artists do next. 

What does your label have planned for the rest of the year? 

Having just left Hysterical Records, I'll be focussing more of my time on Future Popes and building the company. We've recently branched into Artist Management, which we'll be growing and focussing on over the new 12 months. We'll also be headed back to BIGSOUND to throw another party and hopefully get a couple of our artists overseas very soon!

CHANGES 2019 Curator/Label: Barely Dressed Records

Showcase venue: The Old Bar

Showcase date: July 3

What's something about the future of music that excites you?

That diversity (gender, race, sexuality and genre) is legitimately the most exciting thing driving new music and new sounds. Good A&R means exploring and recognising diversity in all its facets - it’s not just a buzz-word for quota policies and doing the “right” thing. 

What's something that you think will change the shape of music/the music industry in the future?

See answer one. Also - increased influence and importance of growing markets like China, South America and India as well as new social media platforms like TikTok. 

What's something currently present in music or the music industry, that you don't want to see in the future?

Ed Sheeran and sound-alikes. That music is calculated and cynical….

What are some Australian artists (preferably, international is okay) that you think will be dominant in the future?

We don’t know how to pick this, but here’s who we hope. Vagabon, Beverly Glenn-Copeland (from Canada - he’s 75), Eilish Gilligan, RVG, Sunflower Bean (from the USA), Baker Boy, Ceres, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers and obviously all the fabulous Barely Dressed Records artists - check them out at CHANGES festival next week!!!! 

What does your label have planned for the rest of the year?

This year we have already had albums out from Jess Ribeiro and Huntly. Jess Ribeiro released her third record LOVE HATE in April and is about to embark on her Australian tour. Huntly gave us their debut album in Low Grade Buzz in March and have since licensed the album to a US label and been featured as the new Vinyl, Me Please ‘Rising Artist’! Our newest signing Denise Le Menice will also be releasing some more banging singles in the lead up to her debut album. And don't forget to watch out for Ryan Downey - he has just spent some of his summer touring with Marlon Williams across Europe and the UK and is currently writing a follow up to his debut album Running. Lost of stuff going on!

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