The Bands Culture in Victoria, Australia: Live Music Benefits Career Paths, Employment and Community

By Watson, Amanda; Forrest, David | Australian Journal of Music Education, July 2012 | Go to article overview

The Bands Culture in Victoria, Australia: Live Music Benefits Career Paths, Employment and Community


Watson, Amanda, Forrest, David, Australian Journal of Music Education


Introduction

This paper is a study of live music centred around the performance bands' culture in the State of Victoria, framed with the support given to performers by Arts Victoria (the State Ministry for the Arts), Small Business Victoria (Department of Business and Innovation) and Music Victoria (the contemporary music industry peak body for Victoria). The paper addresses two foci, first to identify issues and challenges of running a successful music business, which in turn leads to a contemporary performing musician being able to build and maintain a sustainable career. Musical skills alone are not sufficient for a musician to achieve financial security from a career in the music industry. More recently it has been documented (Bennett & Hannan, 2008) that performing musicians recognise the need to be entrepreneurial, with a professional approach in the promotion of self and associated businesses. And second, companion employment and professional opportunities, not aligned to the music industry, that are essential for sustaining the live music culture. In addition to activities closely associated with the music industry such as lighting, sound and technical production, there are other services identified by Graham (2012b) as the many intermediaries who make a living from the multi-connections of music. In this paper we have chosen to highlight the associated work of the accountant, artist/graphic designer, caterer, event manager, lawyer, publicist, travel agent and venue manager. The operators and employees of these businesses may also be musicians although the services they offer are not classified as part of the music industry. A clear understanding of the career needs of musicians involved in the contemporary bands culture provides a 'winning double' for successful service businesses and sustainable musicians' careers. The interconnectedness of the music industry truly makes it one that 'value-adds' to any economy.

The paper builds on Forrest (1999) in which links between music education and music industry were discussed, and Watson and Forrest (2004) where aspects of Vocational Education and Training (VET) music courses were highlighted. The excellence of contemporary band musicians in creative artistry, vocal and instrumental technique, originality in song writing composition, improvisation and interpretation of covers are particular steps for band members to etch out and sustain a performing career. All band members need a knowledge of business skills, the ability to plan, build and operate a business and if the need arises to exit a business. These are vital necessities to support the employment of a musician.

For any activity or process to be sustainable, the approaches and systems that guide it need to be constantly adaptable to change, allowing a focus on maintaining the important aspects and qualities and introducing new growth. Careers in music must be first developed and then sustained. Although a trained level of musical skill and technique is clearly important, the ability to generate an ongoing income level to live, through the demonstration of musical skills has become a critical factor when discussing careers in music. Excepting those who obtain fulltime permanent salaried employment in teaching, orchestras, musical theatre and military bands, many musicians who are able to pursue a career in music, supported by a reliable livable income need to operate a small business. Some will be the sole operator whilst those who are part of the live contemporary music industry and play in a band will be in a business partnership.

The research topics of career development and employment skills training that are focused on the needs of the musician--in the many specialist fields of practice associated with being a musician --have become quite specific. Ongoing research has addressed two broad areas associated with needs of the student musician moving from being a participant in higher education music programs to life as an early career musician, and the needs of those with experience in the workforce as a musician. …

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