BIGSOUND or the state of things in Aussie music

The Australian music business is a very absorbing topic. There are way too many good bands to follow and an impossible number of gigs to watch. 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year are not nearly enough to stay on top of everything. It goes both for normal circumstances (live gigs happening in real venues) and non-standard years like 2020.

If you ever asked me which Australian music event I regret never having attended when things were “normal”, though, it wouldn’t be a single show, national tour or recurring festival. It would be BIGSOUND. Because it combines everything that’s best in Aussie music.

PART 56 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

“Be a part of the future of music” is the event’s slogan. A pretty accurate one, I might add. An industry conference/festival, artist showcase platform, networking ground and upskilling zone, it’s one of the best ways to assess the present and gauge what’s coming in the music world Down Under.

BIGSOUND IS one of the most “comprehensive” industry events throughout the year in Oz. (Even the typography of its name suggests so.) It’s been solidifying its unquestionable reputation since 2006. And that’s not only my opinion – the event’s statistics from last year prove my point.

Held in Brisbane when circumstances are favourable, the event organisers have fully embraced 2020. The event is going 100% digital this time “to ensure equal access for an industry that has been devastated by the effects of COVID-19”.

The conference is produced by the good people from the local (Queensland) music industry development association, called QMusic, with the help of dedicated volunteers. It’s free and open to both Australians and overseas visitors. So there’s no excuse not to check it out this year, really.

BIGSOUND has the blessing of not only the Queensland Government but also the national one. Apart from Australia Council for the Arts, you’ll find Spotify (live-streaming), Green Music Australia (environment), Oztix (ticketing), APRA AMCOS (licensing), JMC Academy (education), The Music (media), Levi’s (fashion) and Twitter (social media) amongst its partners. Pretty impressive, right?

Similarly, the list of guests (performers and speakers) who have taken part in BIGSOUND over the years is so long that it would take you a good couple of hours to even scan it. Everybody who is anybody in the music biz Down Under (or aspires to that claim) has either performed at BIGSOUND, attended it as a delegate, worked on organising it or has been on the speaker panel.

This year the festival concentrates on themes that closely align with our changed reality and how it impacts making, delivering and experiencing music. Aside from the discussions on the future of the industry, mental health and professional development take up a large portion of all scheduled activities.

Indigenous artists receive their own space at BIGSOUND through the First Nations House. The international aspect of the conference is highlighted here – Indigenous Music West (a Canadian music body) is facilitating some activities here.

Undoubtedly, the big draw in 2020 is the American guitar virtuoso and activist Tom Morello, who surely doesn’t need an introduction. But there are a bunch of influential home-grown names on the speaker line-up, too. I’m stoked to see Regan Lethbridge from Lemon Tree Music (Tones and I’s and Tash Sultana’s management), Ollie Wards – the freshly appointed Director of Music for TikTok AU and NZ (formerly triple j), Kev Carmody – a highly respected Aboriginal artist or Ash King from Support Act (music industry-oriented mental health organisation) on that list.

To be honest, there are SO MANY good things happening this year that you need to become Hermione Granger to follow even a fraction of the conversations, often happening at the same time. That includes talks (there’s one with the Gold Coast singer Amy Shark), workshops (i.e. digital music marketing foundations presented by Australia’s own agency for entertainment marketing, Bolster) and showcases of the future industry juice (I reckon). Check out this year’s full schedule here.

Amongst all the generous offering, the most valuable part of the whole hype to me is the new talent zone, aka BIGSOUND 50. As usual, the “Festival Programmers have hand-selected the next crop of emerging Australian music talent” to shine “a global spotlight on the artists of tomorrow (…), to further expand audiences and connect them with potential business relationships”.

Not all artists in that mix are newcomers. But there are always a few emerging musicians out there whose names/monikers I’ve seen for the first time. And if they’ve been scouted by the BIGSOUND legends, then I’ll definitely spare them a minute 🙂 Hence, that playlist I shared above comes in handy.

And since we’re on the topic of “The BIGSOUND Chosen”, there’s a cool feature on the website called #BIGSOUNDstories. It offers trivia and news related to the event and the industry as a whole. From an article shared there (that originally appeared in Tone Deaf), I found out, for instance, that Alex Lahey, Flume and Violent Soho were some artists who “blew up after playing BIGSOUND Festival”. So you never know who you will discover at a showcase.

Let’s not forget that BIGSOUND is also a cool networking platform where you can connect with fellow music industry professionals through the delegate portal. Getting the foot in the door might have just become that much easier. You’re welcome 🙂

So enough talking, I’m off to “be a part of the future of music” in Australia. See you there!


(In case you’re in a completely different time zone, you can watch the past activities on demand on BIGSOUND’s platform.)