Turn down for what? BIGSOUND silences haters before it even begins

BENJAMIN PRATT

Compared to previous years, BIGSOUND 2014 will be featuring a heavier line-up. Photo: Tonedeaf

QMusic’s ultimate industry party is once again taking over Brisbane starting on September 10 and running until September 12.

Now in its 13th year, BIGSOUND has developed a reputation as the best, most relevant music event in Australia.

Featuring the BIGSOUND Live festival program, the conference draws top national and international industry talent to Brisbane each year, showcasing live and original music throughout Fortitude Valley across two nights. This year BIGSOUND Live will see 128 bands perform across 12 venues.

Alongside the festival portion, the internationally focused BIGSOUND conference built a substantial reputation in the music world for its up-to-date topics and discussions, tackling issues in a rapidly changing industry.

Over the past decade, keynote speakers and panels have featured industry icons like Neil Finn and Nick Cave, who have contributed greatly to the careers of emerging industry superstars and the reputation of Brisbane’s bourgeoning music scene.

One of those emerging superstars who are keeping the future of Australian music healthy is Tim Price, a manager, publicist and booking agent in Brisbane. Since starting in the industry in 2006 as the booking agent at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Rockhampton, Tim has gone on to become one of the more prolific and successful music personalities in Brisbane, self-starting three companies: Pricewar Music (management), Collision Course (PR) and Underscore Agency (booking).

Since Tim moved to Brisbane eight years ago he has gone from “the sound guy” to stage manager, artist liaison and owner of three businesses, all boosted by BIGSOUND and the quality of Brisbane.

“I got my start in Rockhampton, though once I got to Brisbane my start in the industry was as the sound guy at Ric’s in late 2008,” Tim said.

“I mixed a ton of bands there like Hungry Kids of Hungary, Velociraptor and DZ Deathrays who are killing it now, which really gave me a head-start in terms of breaking into the industry.”

“I have attended BIGSOUND every year since 2006 and have seen it seriously evolve over that time into something that is world class and has given me the experience to push onto bigger and better things,” Tim said. “Though, unfortunately, BIGSOUND is not without its detractors.”

One of those detractors is Brisbane Musicians United (an anonymous group of Brisbane musicians), who recently issued an open letter to Queensland’s Minister for the Arts Ian Walker, voicing discontent regarding the continuous low quantity of Queensland acts. The group also suggested that Melbourne-based BIGSOUND programmer, Nick O’Byrne, has skewed bookings in favour of Victorian artists and questions why Queensland Government funds are supporting the event when Queensland-based bands are underrepresented.

“Out of the 128 artists involved to play BIGSOUND 2014 there are only 27 Queensland artists versus 94 interstate and 7 international artists,” a member of the group said.

The open letter calls the lack of support for Brisbane acts “rather negligent” and in need of “urgent evaluation” considering that it fails to meet the charter of the conference, which is displayed on their website as: “focused on promoting the artistic value, cultural worth and commercial potential of Queensland music.”

Tim doesn’t completely agree with Brisbane Musicians United. Although the native state is only represented by 21% of bands at this year’s BIGSOUND Live, Brisbane gains a lot more in the aftermath of the BIGSOUND showcases. “For those two nights in the Valley the venues that showcase artists make some serious cash over the bar, which enables them to keep putting live music into their venue and pay artists more coin,” Tim said. “It tightens the Brisbane music scene, whether people want to admit it or not.”

Brisbane Musicians United didn’t comment on how the conference, in training and educating national and native industry workers like Tim, will provide future opportunities and build a stronger local scene, choosing instead to question the politics and selection criteria of BIGSOUND Live.

“Surely the idea of the financial support BIGSOUND receives is to assist in generating greater opportunities for Queensland artists,” a member of the group said. “So why are so few local artists not considered for inclusion when so much money is spent on securing international and national industry personnel to attend the conference and then have mainly interstate music playing ahead of the strong music community that exists in Brisbane?”

Brisbane Musicians United suggest a “mismanagement of the charter of BIGSOUND”, “a failure on the part of QMusic administration” and “a lack of monitoring by Arts Queensland as to the level of Brisbane bands involved.” They also propose an enforcement of a minimum quota of local bands that “near at least the 50% mark, or even 40%”.

BIGSOUND haven’t commented on the matter, nor issued a response to the open letter sent by Brisbane Musicians United. But with over a decade of experience, earning a reputation all over the world as the best of its kind, something indicates that BIGSOUND aren’t about to change their formula on account of a few anonymous local bands.

According to recent APRA figures just 12% of all musicians from Australia and New Zealand reside in Queensland, with 24% hailing from NSW and 22% living in Victoria. These statistics shine some light on the claimed “impartiality of the selection process” and why 21% of bands are from Brisbane, with 32% from Victoria and 26% from NSW.

Beyond the statistics and aside from an accused mismanagement, BIGSOUND 2014 slightly modified their formula from the last twelve years, though not in the way Brisbane Musicians United are suggesting. For the first time BIGSOUND Live have featured a predominately heavier lineup, with Melbourne punks, Luca Brasi, Brisbane heavy metal heads, Darkc3ll and psychedelic scumbags, The Murlocs all hyped as must-see acts.

“This year heavy music and heavy bands has been a huge winner in BIGSOUND,” Tim said. “The fact it has been given a lot of focus this year and the fact the lineup is so diverse means that in following years we are going to get more varied genre bands applying for showcases because they see the spots are there for them.”

While Brisbane Musicians United are up in arms about the comparatively lower representation of Queensland bands, what they fail to understand is that even if BIGSOUND is as skewed and political as they claim, the advantages that the Brisbane music scene receives from hosting such a conference is immeasurable. It is also a contributing factor as to why the scene is described as “the envy of the nation” by Sydney Morning Herald’s Marissa Calligeros.

“BIGSOUND facilitates changes in the industry and develops opportunity in a bunch of ways,” Tim said. “Brisbane music scene is on show to some of the most influential industry players in the country and our venues will be showcasing the best in Australian music. It’s not so much where bands are from, it’s the environment and the scene that showcases them and keeps quality bands on line-ups to come.”

“It keeps everyone striving further and higher, which in the end, is what makes a music scene so strong.”

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