Perhaps more than any other medium, popular music intersects with and influences the uses of other media in everyday life. It is now inescapable at both leisure and work—in the car, the department store, the elevator; on television, film, radio and the Internet. Pop songs have been used to lend credibility to a tired commercial product (Microsoft's use of The Rolling Stones' ‘Start Me Up’ to launch Windows 1998; the National Rugby League's use of Chumbarumba's ‘I Get Knocked Down’ to launch the reunified code in 1999). Alternatively, popular music has been drafted by politicians seeking cultural authenticity (Pauline Hanson's unauthorised use of ‘We Are Australian’, written by ex-Seeker Bruce Woodley, in 1999). Studying Australian popular music shows how we might understand the development of local media and cultural production within Australian ways of life. Like other national cultural/media histories, popular music reflects, and feeds into, local debates and mythologies concerning the formation of national character and a distinctive ‘Australianness’.
The development of recording and live music industries reveals interesting patterns of conformity and singularity, at times replicating global practice, at others displaying stubbornly local conditions. Hopefully, this account progresses beyond ‘latest hits and greatest memories’, to borrow from music radio cliché. It examines how music consumption and production work with (or against) attempts to regulate its various forms, in an industry that sees itself as proudly free market. Popular music has always been depicted simultaneously as an enjoyable leisure pursuit, and as a threat to society. Certainly, meanings and definitions of ‘performance’, ‘local’, ‘recording company’ and ‘original’ are being challenged by new retail, performance and media spaces.
This chapter examines how music evolved among other local popular culture forms, particularly after World War II. As we will see, the role of government has