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Don’t Stop the Music


Ashlynn O’Brien covers efforts to make gigs safer spaces amid Melbourne’s local music revival.

Press play to listen (refresh if you can’t see the audio player) or read the report below.

Once known as the world’s live music capital, Melbourne’s local music scene ground to a halt as the Covid pandemic set in and music rooms closed their doors.

The challenges it still faces are all too familiar to full-time musician Samantha Lloyd, who came to Australia from the U.K. six weeks ago to busk in Melbourne.

“We have a bit of a problem at the moment,” Lloyd told SYN News, “because a lot of musicians offered their time for free to help out with charity and services, and I feel like that is still expected and obviously we have bills to pay as well.”

During the worst of the pandemic, performers relied on industry charities to get by in absence of government support.

Now, local acts are returning to live gigs after several false starts, which is a challenge of its own for Gut Health guitarist Dom Willmott.

“After Covid, you really haven’t used your social muscles,” said Willmott, “and like there’s something quite intimidating about a whole lot of the factors that go into seeing a gig.’

While the Melbourne rocker is keen to get back amongst it, crowded spaces and wild crowds mean gigs aren’t everyone’s idea of a night out.

Theatre producer Cole McKenna heads along as more of an industry observer, but appreciates a growing trend of access for all.

“But I think at the same time there is already so many accessible events,” said McKenna, “and if those aren’t being acted upon, I don’t know if there is a need for more things to become accessible in terms of live music events.”

Covid lockdowns saw performances go online, allowing everyone to attend regardless of ability or finances.

That’s something McKenna thinks in-person events could improve on.

“I think there are already a lot of accessible events,” he said.  “I think for larger scale events they aren’t accessible in terms of financially, necessarily.”

Lowering this barrier is important to Gut Health, who provide free tickets to their gigs for women and first nations people.

The band intend to make their crowds safer, positive spaces, with Willmott also advocating for representation on stage.

“There are just so many good female and non-binary musicians,” he said, “that it’s sort of silly not to.”

So regardless of who you are or what you listen to, it looks like Melbourne’s music scene won’t be stopping any time soon.

For more discussion of this story, listen to this week’s episode of Minds in Tune.

Loughlin Patrick

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