Legendary music entrepreneur Robert Stigwood was born in Adelaide, South Australia. He's known for managing bands like Cream and the Bee Gees, as well as bringing films like Saturday Night Fever and Grease to life.
This week, Adelaide is channelling Stigwood's entrepreneurial spirit at the Music Cities Convention and The Great Escape Festival in Brighton, UK.
“There'll be representatives from 40 to 50 cities, from 30 countries. The convention is a day of global cities talking about how they develop live music in their part of the world,” says Becc Bates of South Australia's Music Development Office (MDO).
Three years ago, the extent of government support for the music industry in South Australia was a couple of grants tacked on to wider arts programs.
Now, there are teams like the MDO and Musitec dedicated to making a career in the state's music industry a sustainable, attractive proposition – linking artistic exploration, commercialisation and industry development.
In a word, they're the minds that help music's heart to keep beating in the state.
Martin Elbourne, founder of Womad, The Great Escape and Music Cities, and chief booker of Glastonbury, was invited to Adelaide in 2012 to develop a report on how to develop the local industry.
The Future of Live Music in South Australia was delivered over a year later, and serves as the basis for the Music Cities Convention's agenda.
“We'll be speaking first, to set the agenda and conversation for the day. Martin Elbourne gave us a global perspective and a mechanism to start a dialogue locally. It brought what was a fractured industry together to argue, talk, and bring about a resolution. Every music city has a plan.”
Bates will talk about the MDO's efforts in growing the music industry and dovetailing it with a wider state government initiative to turn Adelaide in to a more vibrant city with music at its core, through better licensing laws, less noise restrictions, subsidies and more.
“You've got 200,000 people coming out of their homes every day, going to the city to work and then they all go home to their flat screen TVs. If we can keep them in the city watching live music, it's better for us, and the flow on effects are fantastic,” Bates says.
Dan Crannitch is in charge of the MDO's Robert Stigwood Fellowship, a 12-month grant program that takes upcoming artists and pushes them towards an international career. They'll be presenting a live showcase at The Great Escape.
“The Great Escape is a bar setter. The Robert Stigwood acts are at an emerging level, but at a level where they show potential for an international career. To be there and absorbing and witnessing and engaging with these different acts, it makes people realise what level they have to be at,” Crannitch says.
Crannitch himself has chops – he was former frontman of Leader Cheetah and now Love and Other Crimes, and shadowed Elbourne on his visits to Adelaide. Now he's coaching Stigwood acts like Tkay Maidza and Bad//Dreems.
“It's an amazing indicative mark of where an artist has come in twelve months. All the acts we work with go through flagship events over the year.”
They've had tutoring from world-renowned figures like Tom Jackson, song writing collaborations, and professional and artistic development workshops in an effort to get them in shape.
“How long is a piece of string? Elbourne's report ended up covering so many things – but the majority was based on how to make Adelaide a sustainable place to be based as an artist, all the ancillary things an artist can do to have multiple income streams.
“It's such a multi-faceted thing, but it feels like in five, six, seven years time, that's when you'll really see the payoff. It's such an ever-evolving industry. What will be the next thing? It won't just be the traditional model anymore. There'll be new career paths.”
Musitec, run by David Grice, is dedicated to finding those alternate paths.
“If I had a dream for the music industry here, it would be that if a child went to a parent and told the parent that they wanted to have a career in music, that the parent would turn around and say great, go for it,” Grice says.
Musitec is essentially a cluster, a collection of people, businesses and technology, with the aim that they'll discover new ways to work together and new opportunities.
“A dozen creative minds in a room is better than two. The music industry doesn't have the ability to go out and pitch for a $65 million contract like a heavy industry cluster can. We have to more or less generate our own opportunity rather than going after an existing one.”
The Musitec cluster has been running for less than twelve months. So far its main focus has been in breaking down barriers, building a sense of community and trust in the music industry.
“You have to build a sense of community for collaboration to occur. As we roll that in to the next twelve months, it will be a three-pronged attack. There'll be the social element. We'll bring two disconnected industries together to work out how they can work together,” Grice explains.
“Then the third element is about actually building businesses. People with ideas will come together. They'll work out how they can work together and they'll build a business and start to employ people.”
A key point of Musitec is bringing musicians, technologists, graphics artists, filmmakers and more together and throwing them in to a creative pot.
“I had a phone hookup last week with the global CEO of Warner Music and they're asking how they can help us. When you've got attention from those guys, they're seeing the fact that technology has to be an integral part of how artists develop and how they can develop new products that they can sell.
“My little talk will be more about what a cluster is, what it means for our industry and what we're doing in terms of a more visionary, looking forward kind of approach.”
Musitec and the MDO were established to substitute what an industry mechanism would do in South Australia – in the absence of a thriving music industry. It's a proof of concept in providing an artistic or tech career in the industry to those who want one.
“There are things common to all cities, small and large. It'll be good to meet our global counterparts, to have that dialogue internationally. People need to leave Adelaide to build an international career, but I'd like to think those people will remain connected and proud of where they're from,” Becc Bates says.
The culmination of their trip will be the induction of Robert Stigwood in to the South Australian Music Hall of Fame. It will take place at Australia House in London, with the Robert Stigwood Fellowship artists in attendance.
“He embodies the creative, entrepreneurial spirit that comes down to all the stuff we're talking about. Whether it's being an artist or being in tech, or clustering things together. It's all about thinking outside the box and forging your own path,” says Dan Crannitch.
“That's what he did – very successfully too.”
Music Cities Convention is taking place on Wednesday 13 May.
The Adelaide Showcase Party at The Great Escape Festival will run at Black Lion from 6pm until 10pm on Saturday 16 May.
It will feature Robert Stigwood Fellows Tkay Maidza, Luke Million, Jesse Davidson and Bad//Dreems.Jump to next article