The Null Device

Melbourne vs. Sydney

The Age has an article on the difference between the Melbourne and Sydney live music scenes, and, in particular, on why Sydney lags behind Melbourne:
For Sydney, still, is a big international city which can host an extravagant Olympic Games and have massive designs on itself but can't yet sustain its own rock'n'roll culture. It's a scene strangled by bureaucratic red tape; rules and regulations have suffocated what once stood for rebellion. In the ultimate of ironies, a building which was once a classic old Sydney venue called the Stage Door Tavern, in the heart of the CBD, which hosted riotous gigs by the likes of Midnight Oil, is now the NSW Licensing Court - the very body which administers the deathly red tape.
The Camels have had airplay on Triple J, and on local station FBI (Free Broadcast Inc), which now has a permanent licence but is still only emerging. However, this doesn't add up to a skerrick of the favours they would have found at Melbourne's Triple R and 3PBS. In fact, Holt says the fact they've had four Triple J hits means nothing when they get to Melbourne because Melbourne doesn't need to listen to Triple J. And, in Melbourne, they would have played many, many more gigs here in their six years, to people more used to - and therefore more in tune with - live music.
A lot of Sydney's live music malaise dates back to when their local radio station, 2JJ, was ripped out of the local community and remade into a deracinated national "yoof" station, depriving the local scene of one of its means of promoting gigs and venues. Though the influx of poker machines (the cane toads of live music) in the early 1990s and fact that local licensing laws are weighted heavily in favour of moneyed residents don't help either.
"Obviously Melbourne is the music capital," says Jamie Holt, "the music capital of Australia, one of the capitals of the world. The strength lies in size, as in the number of venues and all the different types of music that get played down there.
Tim Holt agrees: "Yeah," he says. "Positives and negatives. Like, Melbourne seems to breed genre-based bands just because there's so many of them. There's so many little cliques and genres, whereas up here in Sydney the bands tend to be cross-genre, I guess because we have to appeal to a wider crowd. Plus there's this real small section of the Melbourne scene that is really vocal about why Melbourne is better. You don't see that here. It's quite funny."
Midnight comes. Where to from here? There's one place nearby, Spectrum on Oxford Street, an open-late bar with good music. But that's about it round these parts, except for dance music clubs, which is not a viable option in rock.
Though, in this age of fashion-punk, hasn't garage rock become the new house music for the beautiful people? Surely the Oxford St. clubs would let rock bands play, assuming, of course, they had a good stylist.

There are 2 comments on "Melbourne vs. Sydney":

Posted by: Stephen Sun Dec 18 01:47:17 2005

I think the reason there is no more Sydney-Melbourne rivalry any more (well, at least not from the Sydney side) is that we've all just given up. Its past even ironic-cool to call attention to how bad Sydney is and is now just depressing.

What is even worse is to watch people who have been around for years (and should know better) completely ignore the points raised in this article and jump straight to blaming new anti-smoking regulations for Sydney's current woes.

Sydney is a very depressing place to be right now for lovers of that small-venue, high-volume rock culture. In fact, I think that article was a little too lenient on Sydney.

Posted by: gjw Sun Dec 18 04:33:15 2005

The lack of decent community radio might be a big issue (although I tend to blame Sydney's "fashionable" culture more than anything - as an Adelaidean I can't stand the place compared to Melbourne). A while back I was looking at a list of radio stations around Australia and was shocked that our "biggest city" had so few options in stations that promote local music. Melbourne, Brisbane and even Adelaide seem to have a more vibrant community radio culture than Sydney, and I find that difficult to explain for the country's largest city.