Sounds Australia – taking music from Down Under to a global level

Three countries in the world can call themselves music exporters: the US, the UK and Sweden. What that means is that they have nailed promoting their music diversity and talent overseas and done a stellar job in increasing their music sector’s competitiveness globally.

Australia would very much like to join that elite club. And there is heaps of potential in the country to make that happen. One of the ways to do that is through cooperation with global music bodies. Another one is showcasing Australian artists at international events. That’s exactly what Sounds Australia has been doing since 2009.


SXSW in the US, The Great Escape in the UK, Primavera Sound in Spain or Music Matters in Singapore are some of the events where musos from Down Under have featured over the years. You might even recognise the names of a few of them.

RÜFÜS DU SOL and Kim Churchill played the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany in 2014. Ali Barter and DZ Deathrays appeared at Trade Mission in Latin America in 2017. Most recently, in January 2020, Alice Skye and Emily Wurramara performed at Folk Alliance International in New Orleans.

All that has been possible thanks to Sounds Australia. This development initiative is “a joint partnership between the Australia Council of the Arts, APRA AMCOS, the Australian Government, ARIA, the PPCA and state government agencies”.

If you don’t recognise the acronyms above, they’re government units working with the arts or music industry bodies from Down Under. Most countries where music plays a significant role in the economy and cultural realm have this sort of music export office.

Sounds Australia’s staff members are music professionals representing different branches of the industry as well. Think event management and venue booking (Millie Millgate – the Executive Producer), music journalism and radio (Dom Alessio – the Digital Export Producer) or record labels, A&R and marketing (Glenn Dickie – the Export Music Producer). These people clearly know what they’re doing.

Apart from supporting artists and producing showcasing events, Sounds Australia enables networking. They’re regularly present at the biggest industry conferences in the country, BIGSOUND and CHANGES. After all, both musos and their managers greatly benefit from opportunities to connect with the biggest players in the business. I’m speaking from experience, actually.

Sounds Australia’s website offers comprehensive guidance on applying to showcasing opportunities overseas. Which is good because not everyone knows how to deal with complicated visa or tax requirements, for instance.

Although it’s the artists themselves that search the events they want to appear at, they’re given a set of tools and resources to assess their decisions and pick the best options out there. If you’re not sure how to secure funding in your respective territory, you’ll find that information on the page as well.

The pandemic has, inevitably, made it more difficult for artists to travel overseas. The same goes for Sounds Australia and staging events in the country. So things have moved partially online.

In mid-March this year, a few Aussie artists participated in SXSW through the “CLOSE UP” event. Baker Boy, The Chats and Jaguar Jonze were amongst the acts that recorded performances in their backyards, “however they chose to interpret that theme”.

Last year, Sounds Australia and other international music export agencies created a completely new project called Global Music Match. Its main purpose is to help artists navigate the world of music in the new, pandemic conditions. After a very successful launch, it’s now in the second year of accepting applications.

In an interview with The Industry Observer, the APRA AMCOS director, Dean Ormston, talked comprehensively about the strategies to make Australia a music exporter. It’s a long and winding road which requires a greater government cooperation, increased funding, super creative ideas and, above all, heaps of patience. But I really do think that the music industry Down Under is heading in the right direction.

Sounds Australia is definitely forging a path towards that ambitious goal.

Finally, to see what sort of Australian artists have represented the country overseas, check out this Sounds Australia playlist, updated with their most recent releases.

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