Australian youth love their music, from big artists to up-and-comers. Music in Australia is a billion dollar industry and will only continue to grow.
A recent study by medium.com found that in 2016 the Aussie music industry contributed $4-6 billion to the Australian economy, making music revenue one of the biggest contributors to the overall economy.
With Melbourne itself also having more live venues per capita than any other city in the world, why are young people struggling to make money and succeed through a career in music?
It is not difficult for young artists to release their music to the public in the modern world. Websites such as Spotify and SoundCloud are always uploading fresh music from new and breaking artists. Listeners aren’t strangers to these services either with around four million Australians paying for an online streaming service.
Even with this boom in online streaming, only 16 percent of professional musicians are making over $50,000 dollars a year. Leaving up-and-coming artists in the lurch when it comes to their hopes of financial independence off their dream career.
Jan Fran and Marc Fennell from the SBS podcast series The Few Who Do discuss in their recent episode – Please don’t stop the music – the challenges and difficulties young artists face as they try to make money in the music industry. They speak to singer-songwriter Clare Bowditch, creator of Big Hearted Business which helps musicians develop skills to manage and market themselves.
Fran and Fennell discuss the importance of Bowditch’s business and additionally other opportunities like this for young people. Putting emphasis on the importance of these businesses for young creatives.
I spoke to two young artists from Victoria on the challenges they believe young people face as they attempt to break into the music industry.
Jakson is a recent graduate from Collarts who is just starting to release his music to the public. As someone who makes music simply because he loves to do it, Jakson says he tries “not to have any industry expectations” and is well aware of how difficult it is for young people to get into the music scene, although he respects the hard work that goes into being a successful artist.
“Of course it’d be cool if there was an easy pathway to make me rich and famous, but it’s impractical. Let people earn success somewhat naturally, via fans and consumers supporting them.”
Jakson has just recently released his first single Guilt online. He’s concerned music uploaded to streaming sites by newer artists can go unnoticed at times due to the sheer quantity of new songs being uploaded every day. However, he emphasises the ease of exposure streaming services have provided for people looking to get their music out in the world.
“There [are] enough avenues to make music available to the public, but whether or not they find it and listen to it is a different story,” he says. “But if you compare it to the past when it was all via CD or vinyl releases, I’d say they’re very effective, a lot cheaper for an artist, and more accessible to the public.”
Jess has also had experience playing at venues such as The Workers Club in Fitzroy, a pub known for giving up-and-coming and inexperienced artists a platform to perform.
“I had never played my own gig before and didn’t really have a fan base and [The Workers Club] allowed me to play no problem at all. There are many [other] venues that also do this.”
Much like Jakson, Jess believes that the reason artists make it in the music industry today is through constant determination, and young people shouldn’t expect to have their dream career handed to them on a silver platter.
“If you don’t put in the hard work you will be shocked into [reality]. … The only way you’re going to get up there is by pushing for connections and relationships with people who are bombarded with hundreds of others every day. But the connections are what get you success. Nothing else.”
Jess says there are few dedicated pathways for artists to get discovered but lots of negatives that come with widely available streaming platforms.
“For someone who wants to turn their music into their career, there are only a couple of public avenues, [for example] Triple J Unearthed, where someone with influence will be able to help you. Even in this case however, there are hundreds of new uploads every day so it is extremely competitive.”
As more avenues become available for younger artists to get exposure and have their music judged by industry figures, the more people there are going to be who take advantage of these opportunities. Ease of experience and exposure will inevitably lead to more young artists.
As Jess and Jakson express above, each new artist is just one more needle in an infinitely expanding haystack, and the only way young artists can do well in the Australian music industry is extreme determination, hard work and a little bit of luck.