By Andrea Baker
Melbourne’s successful bid to host a prestigious international conference on music cities in 2018 has been hailed as a golden opportunity for it to cement its status as “Australia’s music capital”, and “a global music city”.
The Music Cities Convention brings together global music players from government, industry and the academy and aims to “create a tool-kit” about how to “cultivate [a] vibrant and lucrative music city”.
But is Melbourne really Australia’s music capital? In a recent paper, I crunched the numbers to find that the jury is still out on this claim. Indeed arch rival, Sydney (or even Adelaide) have a chance to claim this title.
UNESCO, the United Nations’ education, science and culture body, offers the only official accreditation of a music city. For a city to be awarded this title, it needs to have a strong music heritage, an excellent background in music-making, education, community involvement and regular high-profile local and international music events.
UNESCO has designated Melbourne a city of literature, and Sydney a city of film. But Adelaide that was recognised as Australia’s only city of music in 2015. Adelaide plays host to numerous international festivals including the annual WOMADelaide, and the OzAsia Festival.
Arguably Melbourne fulfils this criteria, however UNESCO does not allow for cities to hold more than one title in different creative industries. This leaves Melbourne and its music capital status in the dubious land of self-branding.
Show us the money
After extensive data mining I found three ways of assessing the vitality of a city’s music scene: economics, creativity, and heritage, although the data are patchy.
Firstly, we can look at the economics of music, including revenue from music, employment, audience participation, and the number of music venues. As the 2015 Mastering of a Music City report suggest, a “music city” is defined as an urban area with a “vibrant music economy”.
According to Victorian reports, Melbourne has 465 live music venues and its music industry earns more than A$1.04 billion each year. Although not included in the 2015 World Cities Cultural Report, this puts Melbourne ahead of Sydney with 435 venues. Adelaide, which was given music city status by UNESCO, has about 208 live music venues. Therefore Melbourne (and even Sydney) compares favourably with Los Angeles (510 venues), New York City (453), Tokyo (385), and London (245).
However a national study in 2015 suggest that NSW leads the way in music employment (13,832 jobs in NSW and 11,117 jobs in Victoria), audience participation, measured in live music ticket sales (A$342,544 million in NSW; A$275,748 million in Victoria), and music revenue annually (A$1.8 billion in NSW; A$1.4 billion in Victora).
As Martin Elbourne, co-founder of the inaugural Music Conventions, contends, most of the commercial music business is based in Sydney.
We can also consider a city’s creativity, calculated through measures such as technology, talent, tolerance and territorial assets. As US urban economist Richard Florida would argue, these measures show that a city is welcoming to the music industry.
The 2017 Start-up Genome project, which assesses the success rate of start-ups and their link to job creation and economic growth, ranked Melbourne 22nd in the world for technology and music start-up culture, just pipped by Sydney at 21st.
However Melbourne comes up trumps on musical talent. As 2003-2013 postcode data show, Melbourne had the most songwriters in the nation, with Sydney coming a close second.
Tolerance is harder to measure, because it is linked to lifestyle choices. Tourism Victoria contends that Melbourne is renowned for its creative leaders, who are community minded with a progressive mindset.
Melbourne has also earned the title of most liveable city in the world for the past six years. Adelaide was ranked fifth in the world, while Sydney came in seventh.
However, transport problems, housing affordability and geographical isolation from the Northern Hemisphere are points against Melbourne’s liveability.
Whether Melbourne is Australia’s music capital remains up for debate because the many different ways we can measure music activity in cities paint different pictures.
But to date, the claims that Melbourne is Australia’s music capital remain an abstract notion coined by cultural groups that have a vested interest in pursuing a policy agenda: to sell their city as a national and global music city.
Will Melbourne claim the national music crown? This will be discussed in Andrea Baker’s next book, The Great Music City, Music, Space and Identity, (Palgrave Macmillan: London) due for release next year
Monash graduates shortlisted for 2017 Walkley Awards
THREE Monash University graduates have been named finalists in the prestigious Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism.
Simons, Jarvis shortlisted for Amnesty media award
Monash University journalism’s Associate Professor Margaret Simons and senior lecturer Heather Jarvis have been named finalists in the Amnesty International 2017 Media Awards.
Global Correspondent unit launches in Europe
Take two groups of students at universities situated at the opposite side of the globe, put them at Monash Prato in northern Italy and mix in a few days at EU institutions in Brussels and you get Global Correspondent.
Not jobs and growth but post-capitalism
The term “creative industries” was first applied to the cultural sector by UK New Labour in 1998, … Continue reading Not jobs and growth but post-capitalism
Simons shares wisdom with journalism students
Award-winning journalist, author and academic Margaret Simons recently joined the journalism department in Monash University’s … Continue reading Simons shares wisdom with journalism students
Christiane Barro wins Walkley for Student of the Year
Monash journalism student Christiane Barro won the Walkley Award for student journalist of the year in Sydney last night.
Calla unafraid of challenging storytelling
For Calla Wahlquist, after giving up on becoming a vet it was working as a … Continue reading Calla unafraid of challenging storytelling
Journalism academics engage with Senate Committee
Dr Colleen Murrell from Journalism (MFJ), gave testimony on 11 July before the ‘Senate Select … Continue reading Journalism academics engage with Senate Committee
From screen to sound for Hayley
After completing her Honours in Film and TV studies at Monash, career success for Hayley … Continue reading From screen to sound for Hayley
Curiosity and critical thinking propels Anders’ career
For Anders Furze, studies in Film and TV has led to varied career outcomes. But … Continue reading Curiosity and critical thinking propels Anders’ career
John settles into a career behind the camera
For John Holdsworth, a clear vision of what he wants to achieve has led to … Continue reading John settles into a career behind the camera
Monash gives Alasdair access to industry
For Alasdair Mulligan having access to Monash tutors and lecturers active within the journalism industry … Continue reading Monash gives Alasdair access to industry