Opportunities for musicians in Western Sydney

Gina Fairley

NSW Government is investing in emerging music talent and live performance embedded in the community.
Opportunities for musicians in Western Sydney

A big crowd settles in for a performance by Sydney Symphony Orchestra at The Crescent - Parramatta Park's unique events amphitheatre; Image courtesy Parramatta Parks Trust

‘Go West’ sang The Village People in their 1970s’ hit, a rallying call to broaden their audiences.

The NSW Government is singing that same tune, committing $7.5 million to boost arts and cultural opportunities in Western Sydney over the next four years.

That package includes two new initiatives targeted at supporting and promoting emerging musicians and building professional networks.

The NSW Government through Arts NSW is providing $150,000 to the Western Sydney Live and Local Strategic Initiative. This funding will go directly to supporting local musicians and will be coordinated by industry organisation – the Live Music Office.

Live and Local is a series of multi-venue micro-festivals that are embedded in the heart of Western Sydney communities. Playing everywhere from library foyers to cafes, parks to shopping malls, the program is designed to engage and connect local businesses with local talent.

Augusta Supple, Western Sydney Project Officer, Arts NSW, said: ‘It is really about showcasing the musicians in the community. These are hyper-local events that offer Western Sydney audiences the opportunity to celebrate local talent while offering paid gigs to musicians.’

Supple said, ‘The Western Sydney Live and Local Strategic Initiative recognises the importance of leading industry experts working with local councils and small business to support live music development in the region.’

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle agreed. ‘Western Sydney has a great legacy in contributing to popular Australian music and these events will be sure to uncover future leading talent.’

In the coming months Live and Local will be rolled out across five Local Government Areas in Western Sydney following an Expression of Interest process. The successful Live and Local programs are:

  • Blacktown City Council - Will present a curated lunch time music program called Beats and Bites over four Thursdays in May 2017, aimed at activating Blacktown CBD within retail and hospitality businesses as well as public spaces.
  • Camden Council - Will feature two dynamic multi-venue micro-festivals with a series of free musical performances by professional and emerging artists, groups and bands supported by local businesses in partnership with Camden Council.
  • Fairfield City Council – Will deliver a program working with young musicians, established artists, local businesses and Council culminating in a micro-festival on The Crescent retail strip in the Fairfield City Centre, with its key focus aimed at revitalisation.
  • Wollondilly Shire Council - Will run two micro-festivals each year, plus an add-on music component to IlluminARTe Wollondilly. The first project will kick off in October 2016.
  • City of Parramatta – will deliver a one-day stand-alone event staged on a weekend, that opens the doors to a wide range of trading businesses within the Parramatta CBD presenting live music including traditional (pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants) and non-traditional (hairdressers and other boutique retailers) businesses.

‘Western Sydney is an exciting and diverse region at the forefront of artistic innovation. Live and Local is an effective way for councils to develop live performance friendly policy that sits behind events, ultimately putting Western Sydney artists and audiences first,’ added Supple.

The stage to a new career

A new summer concert series at Parramatta Park is another initiative supporting live music in Western Sydney.  $75,000 has been granted to the Parramatta Park Trust (PPT) to support performance opportunities for emerging Western Sydney artists as part of The Crescent Live program this summer and next.

Located on the alluvial flats of the Parramatta River, The Crescent is a natural amphitheatre holding up to to 18,000 people and is surrounded by the beautiful World Heritage listed Parramatta Park. For the non-locals, it’s only a 10-minute walk from the train station.

Joanna Savill, Director of Business Development for PPT told ArtsHub, ‘For all good festivals it is important to be authentic and anchored in their place, but that doesn’t mean for a minute they shouldn’t attract a wider audience.

‘Western Sydney is fertile ground for talented artists across the board and this is a great opportunity to show the rest of Sydney, and beyond, what is happening. This is very timely, and we need to tell that Western Sydney story.'

Western Sydney’s unearthed music talent will take to the stage this summer for Crescent Live, headlining shoulder-to-shoulder with some of Australia’s most seasoned musicians.  

‘This concert will provide Western Sydney’s best and brightest emerging musicians with a unique opportunity to perform before an audience in a professional concert setting and to experience first-hand how large music events are staged,’ said Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant. 

Playing the right tune - mentorship

Supple recognises that it takes a huge amount of bravery, time and resources to be a successful artist. Key to both these initiatives is the professional development opportunities they offer.

‘There is no better development for artists than ensuring they have access to resources, to opportunities to develop their skills and networks – and the best way is for artists to practise their practice,’ she said. 

‘This initiative is about linking in Western Sydney artists with opportunities and providing resources that allow them to see how they fit into the national music ecology, and how they can widen their networks and develop their audiences,’ said added.

John Wardle, Policy Director Live Music Office said: ‘I look at the contemporary music scenes all around Australian capital cities and regions and we tend to be very focused on inner city scenes. This is a really interesting project to be looking outwards to the suburbs, and intensively engaging with that diversity.’

The Live Music Office will also offer specialist music industry guidance for participants, such as knowledge on timelines, contracts and marketing, strategy and regulation – the whole infrastructure around producing live music events.

‘Part of the plan is to place our artists alongside more established performers so that the networking and connections that come about from sharing a stage with someone is extended to emerging talents,’ said Saville.

Three voices are better than one

The festivals will provide employment and opportunities for Western Sydney-based musicians to celebrate their local communities and raise their profiles.

Western Sydney is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia and over the next 20 years, its population is expected to increase by 50% to over three million.

‘Western Sydney is by no means homogenous – the communities, the landscape, the arts and cultural practice are very diverse and demand tailored initiatives to respond to the diversity of the region,’ said Supple.

‘This is an opportunity for the music industry to be more widely relevant to a more diverse catchment of artists,’ added Wardle.

Three tiers of government are working together to realise these two initiatives – Live and Local and Crescent Live.

‘Rather than a top down approach, this program starts with the artists and builds up to strategies. I really hope it has a long-term influence on how we activate and support contemporary music development with Local Government,’ said Wardle.

Live and Local series of micro festivals will be rolled out from October 2016 through mid-2018. Visit Local Council websites for details.

The first of the Crescent Live concerts will be presented in 2017.

Website link for details www.thecrescentlive.com

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.