A push for pill testing at NSW music festivals + all the biggest Australian music industry headlines

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A push for pill testing at NSW music festivals + all the biggest Australian music industry headlines

Pill testing Australian Music festivals
Words by Christie Eliezer

Read the latest Australian music industry news, from the push from within the NSW government for pill testing at music festivals to all the latest Aussie signings.

Been out of the loop with everything that’s been going on in Australian music industry news recently? We don’t blame you. Here’s a wrap-up of all the biggest Aussie music biz stories from the past fortnight.

Read all the latest product & music industry news here.

The top headlines:

  • Put aside PM Anthony Albanese spending Record Store Day with Budjerah at Sydney’s Red Eye Records – the music industry’s championing of Labor’s elections chances is paying off.
  • There’s a push from within the NSW government for pill testing at music festivals, and the SA government has formed an advisory committee of music names for live music issues.
  • This week, we look at the latest signings and executive changes, and the good and bad news of music venues.

Pill Testing At NSW Music Festivals?

Two months after Queensland announced it planned to become the first state to introduce pill testing at music festivals, there’s a faint possibility NSW will toddle behind.

NSW’s official stance is a pursed-lip “no change” to drug laws, although it is committed to holding a drug summit in its first term.

At the Harm Reduction International Conference 2023 in Melbourne, NSW Youth and Homelessness Minister Rose Jackson said that both sides of NSW Parliament should pill testing – “because our current drug laws are not working.”

There’s no joy in the ACT, with Groovin the Moo’s Canberra stop having to scrap its free pill-testing again after its success in 2018 and 2019.

Last April it had to drop-kick the service after its insurer threw a hissy at the last minute.

This year insurance premium for the Canberra show escalated from $10,000 to $220,000 – a 2200% leap which “makes no sense”, according to Pill Testing Australia’s David Caldicott.

There’s been no luck in Tasmania, either with the state government refusing to budge after the death of a man at the A Festival Called Panama.

More Music Venues Plug In

More new music venues and spaces are arriving across Australia.

In Sydney, Odd Culture is opening Pleasure Club in August with a 4am licence –  the first in Newtown in over 100 years – a 120-person basement music mecca, operating seven days a week and curated by Group Operations & Entertainment Manager Sabrina Medcalf.

Swillhouse has plans for the Caterpillar Club mid-year near the Martin Place precinct.

Kings Cross nightclub Chicane launched, with owners Christina Jaucian and Lance Alaalatoa on the same Bayswater Road site as Maali, which closed suddenly in February.

The Northern Beaches Council is going ahead with plans to transform the empty Manly Town Hall into live performance and exhibition space.

Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley precinct welcomed Drunken Monkey Group’s 400-capacity SuperFly Studios on McLachlan Street – previously SuperFly Disco, which opened in October 2022.

The late night Red Room at Leederville Hotel (WA) covers emerging acts in music, comedy, Latin dance, burlesque and experimental performance.

Don’t Phunk With My Chart

This time last year, four Australian albums topped the ARIA chart. with 10 filling in the spots for the rest of 2022.

In 2023 it’s been a slow move, with only Cub Sport’s Jesus At The Gay Bar charting on April 17.

However, Livin’ The Dream from The Wolfe Brothers became their fourth top 10, while Frenzal Rhomb’s The Cup of Pestilence trotted up to #12.

New GM For Untitled Group

Promoter Untitled Group announced Andrew White as its new general manager.

White helped coordinate tours for Live Nation Australasia, and spent six years at Los Angeles-based Three Six Zero, as day-to-day manager for Deadmau5, Duke Dumont, Cut Snake, Knife Party and Pendulum.

BMG Promotes Heath Johns

BMG promoted its Australian managing director Heath Johns to president of Australia, New Zealand and South-east Asia.

Johns was BMG’s first employee when it launched in Australia in 2016, building up to a staff of 28, and a roster with Crowded House, Wolfmother, Dope Lemon, Peking Duk, Chet Faker, Dune Rats, Tim Minchin, Angus & Julia Stone, Jet, Alison Wonderland and Cut Copy.

“The Gudinski” For Radio Awards

In a revamp of the Australian Commercial Radio and Audio Awards (the ACRAs) (October 14, Sydney), a new category called the Gudinski has been introduced for the radio exec who championed Australian music.

Another new category is for Most Played New Australian Song on Commercial Radio.

Report: Indie Publishing Worth $3.4B

The global indie music publishing sector was worth €2.08 billion, or Australian $3.4 billion, according to the Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF)’s new Independent Music Publishing Global Market View report.

It had a collective market share of 27.1% – larger than that of Sony Music Publishing (24.9% in 2021), Universal Music Publishing Group (23.2%) and Warner Chappell Music (11.8%).

New Signing #1: Uncanny Valley @ UMP

Universal Music Publishing Group Australia signed a worldwide deal with Uncanny Valley, a Sydney-based songwriting and production music company, to increase more global opportunities.

Charlton Hill and producer Justin Shave have for the past 13 years, composed scored for many series, trailers and ad campaigns.

Marianna Annas, vice president of Commercial Creative at Universal Music Publishing Australia, said: “Charlton and Justin are at the forefront of the screen composition and sound design space, continuously exploring new frontiers and fusing music and technology with unparalleled innovation and limitless creativity.”

New Signing #2: Nick Ward @ EMI Music Australia

EMI Music Australia added Sydney-based singer-songwriter Nick Ward to its roster, with his debut album due out this year.

Ward said the record came into being through “a café job, grants, publishing advances, a licensing deal and production/mix work (and) has also been made possible by my manager, and my incredible friends.

“I slowly realised that the scope and ambition required the investment of a much larger partner”, adding he went with (EMI Australia managing director) Mark (Holland) “for his work with other artists, his humanity and kindness, and for his impeccable taste. He gets it.”

New Signing #3: Josh Pyke @ UNIFIED Artist Management

With a record and another children’s book in the pipeline, the Sydney singer-songwriter has switched management to UNIFIED Artist Management, now repped by Sarah McMillan.

It marks a split from Gregg Donovan and Wonderlick, whom he joined in 2007.

Vanguard For Sale, Sewing Room To Close

The Vanguard in Newtown, Sydney, is looking for a new owner as the current one is a busy doctor who doesn’t have the time to lift it up.

The 320-capacity Sewing Room in Perth will close at the end of April after five years, after the changing of drinking habits of punters, especially after COVID, hit its earnings.

Names For SA Premier’s Live Music Advisory Council

South Australian premier Peter Malinauskas lived up to his election promise by forming a Live Music Advisory Council to advise his government and make recommendations on challenges and opportunities re- live music.

Chaired by Music SA CEO Christine Schloithe, it includes promoters Craig Lock and Gareth Lewis; Tame Impala production coordinator Alice Fraser; Hurley Hotel Group entertainment manager Jack David Jericho; event producer Victor Marshall; artist manager Vincenzo Contarino; publicist Katie Gleeson; marketing agency The Annex founder Mardi Caught; Jive venue owner Tamara Boakes; Zep Boys guitarist Rob Pippan; and singer-songwriter Tilly Tjala Thomas.

BIGSOUND Has Support Package for Artists

Brisbane’s BIGSOUND has a support package for showcasing artists.

Following Premier Palaszczuk’s announcement at the Queensland Music Awards last month of a $3.8 million funding uplift for BIGSOUND, each act can access a $500 grant to assist with transportation and accommodation costs.

A pool of $30,000 is available for First Nations-identified artists, artists living with disability and artists from regional and remote areas for travel.  

An Artist Green Room will give artists a place to chill, with free meals and non-alcoholic drinks; instrument/gear storage facilities; and photography, hair and makeup services.

New Booking Agency For WA

WA has a new booking agency, Cut Above Collective, put together by promoters Live Nation Australia and Mellen Events.

With Mellen Events’ Josh Terlick, as its General Manager, the roster has Alter Boy, Boox Kid, Chaos Divine, Drea, Have A Good Day, Osaka Punch, Priscilla, Voyager and Yomi Ship.

YouTube Music Rolls Out Real-Time Lyrics

 In its latest battle against Spotify and Apple Music, YouTube Music has rolled out real-time lyrics on mobile devices, telling its 80 million subs “you can sing along to your favourites.”

Last month, YouTube Music played catch-up with its rivals by added song and album credits to tracks, and automatic downloads of songs.

Apple Music, which began showing lyrics in 2019, had 60 million subscribers that year and has not provided any updates since.

Spotify which began interactive lyrics in 2020, had 205 million subscribers by the end of 2022.

“Sleepy” Lawrie passes

One of Australia’s greatest slide guitar and dobro players, Greg “Sleepy” Lawrie passed away.

He was best known for ‘70s Melbourne  blues boogie outfit Carson, fronted by Broderick Smith, which had a hit with “Boogie” from their Blown album on Harvest/EMI.

Nominations Open For Gold Coast Music Awards

Nominations for the 9th Gold Coast Music Awards are open until May 26, with finalists announced on July 27, and winners at HOTA on August 31, in conjunction with SPRINGTIME Festival.

Organisers expect to exceed last year’s 700 applications.

The categories are Artist, Breakout Artist, Live Act, Musician, Release, Song, Studio Producer, Venue, Video and Visual Creative of the year.

Read more about the 2023 Gold Coast Music Awards here.