Six reasons why ‘The Pack Music Co-op’ is the emerging Australian streaming service you should have on your radar right now

Two words: streaming platforms.

Music fans love them. And you can’t really blame them for it because a fairly palatable monthly fee gives them access to a wealth of music – anytime, anywhere. But artists’ relationship with them is much more complicated. The truth is only a few select ones can make a living off the streaming revenue.

But not all services choose to follow the Spotify economic model. Say hello to the Perth-based ‘The Pack’ – a promising digital project with a social conscience supporting local musicians.


Let’s start this post with an experiment.

Open the ‘New Music Friday’-kind of playlist on a streaming platform of your choice but for the country where you are today. How many local artists have made it onto it this week? And how many of them appear high on that playlist?

You might want to investigate it a bit – there’s no way you’ll know every single act on that playlist. But I’m willing to bet that the coveted spots are taken by global superstars. And if not, the well-known acts from that local market will sit at the top instead.

Sure, it’s not surprising at all. But it means all the unsigned local and international artists are pushed to the bottom of the playlist. And we all know what happens when you’re at the bottom.

Apart from the obvious (the big labels’ money backing the celebs’ music releases), there’s really no reason why playlists should be curated that way.

After all, Swifties and Beliebers know anyway if and when their beloved musos are dropping a new song or album. Meanwhile, the chances for an independent local band from Bunbury, WA or Seymour, VIC even making it onto that playlist are fairly slim.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could flip the script on that scenario? How about we give the original, local talent a chance to be discovered instead of pumping the money to where it already flows anyway? The Pack is trying to achieve that exactly.

And because I’m all for grassroots initiatives in the music business, here are six reasons why you should pay special attention to this emerging streaming platform.

1. It is led by two female founders who are also musicians

Melanie Bainbridge & Harry Deluxe are two WA-based artists with vast experience in the industry.

And precisely because of those decades in the business under their belts, they simply decided they’d had enough. “It’s not streaming that’s broken – it’s the ‘profit is king’ business model that drives its owners and investors“, they point out.

Being a musician is not easy in general (unless you’re famous – then you have other problems). It’s also no secret that women are not the dominant force in the music business anywhere in the world, including Australia.

And while this might not be the decisive factor in The Pack’s story, I LOVE it that two females have taken it upon themselves to prove things can be done differently. It’s all about a “fearless commitment to independence, localisation and equity” to “co-create a sustainable, healthy and connected music community.”

But instead of me going on about why their idea represents a promising, alternative way of promoting local music and connecting it to local businesses and local fans, watch their pitch from Pause Fest 2020 – a Digital Startup & Innovation Conference.

It’s pretty much the summary of why The Pack was founded in the first place.

2. It is a community-led initiative with a positive social impact

Sure, there are similar projects, even in Australia (Feed Music, for example). And The Pack’s concept has also evolved since it was first conceived. But one thing has remained: “It’s not just about money”.

The platform wants to take a fairer, more equitable and just simpler way to benefit (mostly unsigned) artists and connect them with their audiences.

In its current model, it takes all the good bits from other progressive digital initiatives to combine them into patron-powered music streaming. That means fans and supporters can be actively involved in making the local music business sustainable. It’s like a novel type of music marketplace.

Actually, it’s all in their name already. ‘The Pack Music Cooperative’ undoubtedly suggests the community-centred approach to building the platform. According to the founders, nothing should stand in the way of the direct “artist to consumer, consumer to artist” interaction.

Additionally, one of their slogans is We are your Pack, and we have your back. Because they see themselves as a community service or social enterprise more than anything else.

By the way, you can become a member of the cooperative and have a say in its future development. Check out their membership page to see what it entails.

3. It champions local music

I strongly believe that a big part of discovering a country, region, city and even suburb is through their arts and culture. Music often tells you more about the local community than its chosen representatives.

Look at Koori Radio, based in Redfern, one of Sydney’s suburbs. The music it plays perfectly reflects the community residing in it. Dubbed “Australia’s Black Capital”, it is where the country’s largest population of Aboriginal and other First Nations people cohabit with “ordinary Australians who share their tastes in music and cultural views.”

The Pack’s mission is to take that simple concept to the next level. Plus, they want it to be a dynamic, mobile service that you can take with you anywhere you go. As they nicely put it – the idea is to connect “local musicians, businesses and listeners to support and grow the local music industry, wherever local is for you.

In the same way, we choose local farmers’ food over imported goods or support a local charity instead of donating to a global one.

This is a win-win situation for every party in this equation. Local citizens, tourists and visitors get access to a true music experience. Artists reach audiences they could otherwise not afford to target. And businesses might score returning customers if they choose their playlists right.

What’s not to like?

4. It leverages technology in music as a force for (good) change

NFTs, blockchain, digital transformation… These buzzwords dominate the headlines in creative businesses nowadays. While not everybody knows how to use them to their advantage or has the means to invest in them yet, innovation is a good thing for the music business.

The Pack certainly takes what’s best from the advancements of our times.

First of all, it uses tested technology. It’s true there are endless discussions about the role and impact of streaming these days. But the concept itself is actually not that bad. How you generate and distribute profits from it is what makes the whole difference.

Quoting The Pack, “the major streaming services sell the creative content of artists as a cheap, instant commodity, available to millions of people around the world at the touch of a button, and without deliberate choice, friction or interaction, devaluing the art and the artist.”

That’s why they want to subvert that business framework Spotify, YouTube and other giants are criticised for today. The Pack’s cooperative model is based on subscription, which enhances the entire experience for all parties involved.

The beneficiaries are always the musicians, while the patrons provide their revenue. That way, it’s no longer a “one-sided” transaction where the upper echelons and system administrators decide who gets what share and when.

Additionally, The Pack will ultimately be a blockchain-based platform. And that means the founders care about transaction security, safety and transparency.

To make the long story short: trust is an underestimated word in the music business these days. And The Pack’s project is all about trust.

5. It addresses musos’ mental health

Before launching their project, the two founders did some research on their respective (Australian) market. And it yielded some shocking facts.

For instance, an unsigned Australian artist earns less than $8k a year. Not much, hey?

But let’s compare it to the cost of living in Perth anyway.

A cappuccino currently costs around AUD 5. You’ll pay approx. AUD 150 for a monthly transport pass. Going to the cinema will make your wallet AUD 22 lighter. Buying a pair of jeans means spending AUD 110. And renting a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre is over AUD 1.7k a month.

Talking about a living wage, right? And that’s only one of the many hardships The Pack gives as examples of the struggles artists face every day. No wonder it has a detrimental effect on their wellbeing.

Fixing the financial side of streaming is clearly only the tip of the iceberg among all the things that need to be changed to make this a sustainable, fair business for all musicians, big or small.

But it definitely shouldn’t be the case that digital services and/or record labels are taking a bigger cut from streaming revenue than the artists who actually create content that generates it.

6. The Pack crew are transparent and honest about their journey

The Pack was officially launched as a project in September 2021, with wider press coverage in Australia. This is also how I found out about it.

They send out an update to their members a few times a year (following the Aboriginal Six Seasons Calendar). So I signed up for their newsletter, intrigued by the start-up’s journey.

In 2022, things were going great. They were preparing to test the concept through their Living Labs Project, inviting musos, businesses and music lovers to participate. It looked like the platform was not far away from being completed.

And then, for a few months, there was no newsletter. Their social media were not updated, either.

A few days ago, an email from The Pack did land in my inbox, though. And it clarifies what happened in the last six months, without sugarcoating it.

It turns out they lost their technology partner and are switching to a new one shortly. And while this might be a slight setback to the platform’s development, some other cool things happened (like additional funding). So they’re pretty optimistic about bringing the platform to fruition very soon.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for The Pack for sure.

Any system that can challenge the traditional streaming revenue model is a step in the right direction. Bringing artists and fans closer together can only benefit their relationship, too. Patreon has shown that it is a viable way of supporting creators, for instance. Plus, discovering local music can help artists grow in the stages of their careers where they need it most – at the beginning of their journey.

And maybe when The Pack takes off in WA (Western Australia), it can be rolled out to the whole country and even globally one day.

So – all you tech geeks and investors out there – go check out The Pack’s website right now to find out how you can be a part of this streaming service with a social conscience.

Get social with Silly McWiggles here:

Read more about music and technology in Australia:

No idea what to do on January 26 in Australia? Visit IndigiTUBE – an online media platform preserving First Nations language and culture for future generations

The debate about “Australia Day” comes back every year like a boomerang. Ironically, this national holiday still divides Australians more than it unites them. Some Aussies enjoy their barbies, while most Aboriginal people mourn their ancestors. There are different approaches to moving forward: from changing the date to abolishing it altogether. But nothing concrete has…