Tips of the Trade: Touring Australia

Thursday, 09 Apr 2015

Australia is an enormous country with some rugged terrain, but there’s a lot more to our country’s music scene than Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We listened to industry experts at the recent Australasian Music Industry Conference (AWME) and learned about why touring to regional and remote areas is worth the effort and can be an amazing experience.

Unforgettable experiences

James Winwood from the Winanjjkari Music Centre in Tennant Creek (NT). ‘Winanjjikari’ translates as ‘belonging for singing’ in the local Warramungu language. It was set up in 2006 to support musicians living in the region. James shared a memorable anecdote about working in the music industry in this part of Australia.

“We went to Kirakurra – one of the most remote communities in Australia. There was a football carnival so we decided to put on a show. We thought it’d get started around sundown and finish up by midnight. It wasn’t until midnight that the bands even arrived. Then the sound got plugged in and the bands kicked off. It went on until 4.30am.The amount of people that came was unbelievable and everyone was dancing. It was an incredible vibe.”

Michael Hutchings, the National Representative of the ATSI Music Office agrees. “In these communities, it’s all about the music. Sometimes, music is like food - it gives people a reason to live. Some bands travel 300 kilometres to play a 35-minute set! 

It is possible for contemporary, non-Indigenous Australian artists as well as international artists to do these tours,” James Winwood chimed in. “But it’s a completely different experience - often it’s an unmanaged venue or you have to take a generator.” 

Rob Scott from Source Music was part of the ATSI Music Office’s Inbound project last year. He travelled to the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal music and cultural festivals to witness the vibrant music scenes in these areas. “What stands out in my mind was the storytelling in these remote communities – and the way they are told through music. There was this Booralla band that told me a story about a plane going down in World War II near their place. 

Untapped potential: these music markets are on the up

Miko Smith works for CAAMA Music, a branch of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. “Our key role is working with the bands to increase their capacity. Last year 5,500 people saw original gigs and 200 artists participated in our program. There are places here that don’t see any music apart from the bands from their local communities. We got The Basics from Melbourne (with Wally De Backer aka Gotye) to come on tour with Tjintu Desert Band. It’s about cultural exchange.”

Chloe Goodyear’s Festival of Small Halls also bridges the musical gap between city and country. “Coming to a small town near you’ is the tagline of this touring festival that brings large folk/acoustic acts to regional areas. The gigs usually take place in old-time country halls and there’s a desire to build each venues capacity, every time. We’d love to build up the skills and opportunities in that community so it becomes a regular spot on the touring circuit. We commit to a community for at least three years so they know we’re not going to go in there and get out when the going gets tough.”

Bush Bands Bash (BBB) is the largest showcase event in central Australia. There’s also a business element, to educate the songwriters and musicians performing at BBB on navigating the music industry. Michael Hutchings has watched the program grow over the years. “The sound of the Bush Bands is really diversifying, it’s partly because of the interaction they’re having at these festivals. Every year the songwriting and arrangements are getting better and better – it’s incredibly exciting.” 

Want to showcase at AWME? Entries close Friday 1 May 2015.


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