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My Kind Of Scene: The Brisbane Sounds Project 10 Years On
September 9 2006: Brisbane Sounds is born at approximately 2am on the back steps of the Zoo Nightclub after an Iron On gig. With a scrapbook in one hand and a cold Cooper’s Green in the other and the smell of rock and roll (a delightful mix of vom, sweat, sugar soap and beer) in the air after the clean up I took the first steps in putting together a project that was designed to promote Brisbane’s exceptional music talent.
I became a fan of the Brisbane music scene in the late 90’s as a teenager hooked on Aussie alternative music of the time thanks to Brissy bands like the Gurge, Custard, Powdies, Gota Cola, Rhubarb, Screamfeeder, Butterfingers and well the list goes on. I always had such a great time hanging out with mates supporting local bands at The Zoo, The Arena, The Step Inn, X and Y Bar, The Troubadour and The Tivoli while grabbing local bands merch and records at Skinny’s, The Record Exchange and Rockinghorse. In my opinion Brisbane music and the history of where it came from was something to be commended and promoted and I was always looking at ways in which I could do that and get people from home and far away places in to our music history.
10 years ago to the day and I was finalising an education degree and getting set to take up my first teaching post in Mildenhall, England which was due to start in December. Having also wanted to do something to promote the Brisbane music scene while living in the UK, I decided I’d make a compilation album and give copies out to local radio stations, PR agencies, A&R reps, venues and anyone who would listen to me talk about Brisbane bands throughout my travels. I owe a lot at this point to the crew I was working with at The Zoo Nightclub in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley who offered up a lot of ideas and support to make Brisbane Sounds happen. From Joccy, Jase and Vicki to Bridget, Roger and Chris and Matty and Will- you guys were all such legends and I was extremely lucky to have learnt many skills and life experiences from you.
The first edition of the Brisbane Sounds record titled ‘Brisbane Sounds 2007‘ was made out of supplies courtesy of in-kind support from one of my jobs at the time in the department store Target in Buranda, Brisbane, a budget of about $100 and a six pack of our go to post Zoo shift beer (Cooper’s) for ideas generation. The CD lacked any real design unless you can call the word doc printer ink DIY job I did a design and was pressed completely unprofessionally without any mastering or any real idea of what I was doing. I literally had no skills in anything to do with production, marketing, PR, social, design but I did have a vision. I had my heart in the right place and was just trying to do something positive to promote Brisbane music from back home which I was so proud of.
While hardly a professional start, the first edition of the album and the subsequent learnings that took place as I networked with music industry reps in artist management, PR, marketing, social media and venue operations across the UK, Europe, USA and Australia paved the way for improving Brisbane Sounds year after year as well as developing my skills in these areas in what was always a very kinaesthetic and practical way.
Brisbane Sounds lasted a solid six years and produced some really beneficial outcomes for the Brisbane music industry locally and globally for which I’ll always be proud of. On a personal level it was also one of the greatest things I ever did to invest in myself and learn as much as I could about the music business and also about fan engagement, marketing, social media which has helped me get to where I am now in my current role. While tertitary educational music business courses (and any study for that matter) are worthwhile, nothing will ever compare to investing your own money, taking calculated risks, getting your hands dirty and throwing yourself passionately into a project you love in order to make a difference. I found it so important to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and come back stronger with my skills every time and I’d often go on to talk to my students about this and why resiliency is so important in our lives. That is the power of life long learning and in more simple terms, getting off you’re arse and making awesome shit happen.
Over the years I was privileged enough to have a chance to work in the industry at venues in Brisbane and London (Hammersmith Apollo), promoting gigs and putting together and executing the BS vision which was always to shine a light on our local music industry.I worked my butt off for those years traveling the globe on my teacher salary and some grant funding and doing whatever I could to be a spokesperson and advocate for the Brisbane scene. I owe plenty of thanks to everyone who helped me along the way from street press, radio, record stores and graphic designers to photographers, website designers, venue managers, bands and artists and of course our fans all over the world who helped our team. I must have worked with hundreds of different individuals over the years so it goes to show how large the arts scene is and why its important for our local and federal governments to continue to support it.
Without throwing myself into Brisbane Sounds I wouldn’t have been able to work at QPRFC or now have a dream gig at audioBoom where I get to talk about fan engagement all day long (to the chagrin of many I bet). But alas I love everything to do with fan engagement with looking after and going the extra mile for people, customers and fans and always will.
Here are some stats to recap on the Brisbane Sounds project:
- Showcased 100+ artists on the five compilation albums and associated gigs.
- 100+ events from nightclub gigs, school showcases, music industry workshops and of course our Pop-Up shop.
- 13,100 FREE Compilation albums produced and distributed worldwide.
- Received 21,000 in grant funding. Thank you BCC, Brisbane Marketing, QMusic and QLD Government as well as any one who bought a copy or came to the gigs which all helped with running costs
- Developed the first ever Australian gig guide app, BRISSOUNDS in 2010 (Thanks DevGeeks)
- UK/USA/Europe showcases along with a 15 date tour for SEALS in 2011.
- Close to 20K fans across various social media platforms
- 27 music industry job starts given to young music business/arts students or kids trying to get a start in the industry.
Along with this some of my favourite memories were:
- Flood Bank. Raising $15,000 for QLD flood victims in 2011 and Violent Soho smashing out a great set at the end.
- Having fans download our app in far off places like Russia and Afghanistan.
- Getting to learn from leaders in venue management in Joc at The Zoo and Heiko at The Hammersmith Apollo in London.
- Booking and touring a band around the UK for a 15 date tour
- Getting Brisbane Sounds records into Amobea Records LA and Rough Trade Records in London. There’s possibly still stock there too.
- Talking Brisbane music with Spencer Howson on a weekly ABC Brisbane radio spot to showcase the latest in local music news.
- Attending major music showcases and festivals like SXSW, Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape and BigSound.
- Getting copies of the albums into the hands of major artists like Tegan and Sara and B.R.M.C to The Kills and Emmy Lou Harris who then helped to promote BS.
I certainly had my battles with the blatant bullshit nepotism of the music industry along the way and I might not have always been the easiest to work with (I hear my graphic designers agreeing here) as I wanted to always stay out of cliques and do things professionally by the book because I wanted to help everyone I could and never play favourites to uphold the professional integrity of the project. Brisbane Sounds was always about promoting the artists, the venues, the arts scene workers and the fans but I do apologise If I ever pissed anyone off along the way as I put that down to being young and thinking I knew it all. I didn’t know it all but you learn from that with age and life experience.
Thank you to everyone who shared my passion and enthusiasm for Brisbane music and helped along the way. It truly was a collaborative team effort from so many in the Brissy music community and you all deserve praise for helping along the way. I never could have started or continued to improve the project had it not been for all of your skills and it’s been great to watch so many of you continue to support the Brisbane music industry in your careers as well as go on to bigger and better things.
Brisbane Sounds was a very professional project that delivered a lot of successful outcomes for the Brisbane music scene for which I’ll always be immensely proud of and this week I finally got around to sorting out the framing of the five compilation albums as well as some of the gig posters. Whenever I look at it, I’ll think of you and what we achieved, thanks.
All the best,
9th September 2016