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Sounds good for Brisbane as nation's biggest music conference gets green light


Few Australian industries have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the live music sector but organisers of Brisbane’s BIGSOUND are bucking the trend, announcing today that this year’s event will go ahead.

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BIGSOUND was launched by Queensland music industry development association QMusic in 2002 in an effort to further professional development opportunities for the Brisbane music industry, and has since become Australia’s biggest music conference and showcase event.

Since its inception, the event has been instrumental in helping further the careers of artists including Tones and I, Flume, Courtney Barnett, Gang of Youths, The Temper Trap, A.B. Original, The Peep Tempel, Hatchie and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

BIGSOUND 2020, which will be still be held in its traditional home of Fortitude Valley, will be scaled back this year, taking place over two days and nights on October 21 and 22, instead of its usual three days and nights in the first week of September.

The live music showcase program will be held across more than 10 Fortitude Valley venues, and the conference component of the event will welcome key stakeholder groups from across Australia in what will be the first major meeting of industry since social restrictions forced the closure of venues and banning of mass gatherings in mid-March.

Organisers have said all necessary health, safety and social-distancing protocol will be implemented across all spaces during the event.

QMusic president Angela Samut told InQueensland this year’s BIGSOUND would aim to retain the spirit of previous years’ events while also adhering to social distancing and safety protocols.

“We have a lot of contingency plans in place, as I’m sure any event at this time does, but the show will go on,” Samut said.

“A lot of people have said to me ‘just cancel it, don’t do it this year’ but we feel this year will be more important than ever to get the industry together and regather and talk about what’s happened over the past few months and how’s that’s affected everyone.

“We hope to be putting the spotlight on issues and talking through them. The live music industry’s economy was just totally decimated with the lockdown.”

Queensland Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch, who has previously told InQueensland the next two years will be a critical time for music and arts workers, said she hoped today’s announcement BIGSOUND would be proceeding would help send a positive message to the industry.

“The reactivation of Queensland’s live music industry is highly anticipated and I am confident that BIGSOUND will play a central role in Queensland’s plan for recovery.”

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said with restrictions easing and the recent development of a COVID Safe Events framework, Queensland was “starting to rebuild and recover”, and events such as BIGSOUND would play an important part in the state’s economic recovery.

“Major events like this pump millions of dollars into the local economy and support local jobs,” Jones said.

“Because Queenslanders have done such a great job fighting COVID-19, we can now start welcoming tourists back to our state. This festival will deliver a great boost for local businesses at a time when everyone is doing it tough. It’s great news for the industry.

“It has been an incredibly difficult year, but thanks to the efforts of the Queensland people, we have moved forward to our stage three easing of restrictions and will soon be reopening our borders to most Australians.”

Janne Scott, who has previously served as the head of BIGSOUND’s visual arts program and is currently senior creative manager for Byron Bay music festival Splendour in The Grass, will take on the role of creative director this year.

Alethea Beetson will return as First Nations producer and programmer after curating the First Nations programs in 2018 and 2019.

“We’ll have a real focus on our First Nations music community this year,” Samut said.

Dominic Miller and Ruby-Jean McCabe, who both have years of industry experience in previous roles as managers, agents, festival programmers and venue bookers will join this year’s BIGSOUND as festival co-programmers.

Artist live showcase applications are open from today, and due to the event being condensed in size and capacity, organisers have said there will be no artist application fees this year.

Samut acknowledged Victorians are currently unable to travel to Queensland and although this may change, she said artists from throughout Australia were encouraged to apply and if they cannot attend, there will be contingencies in place to create opportunities for remote participation.

“When the assessors go through all the artist applications, they will be assessed on merit and I think there will be a cut-off date, and if borders to Victoria are not open, then we will look at what we will do then, and what sort of opportunities we can create, and whether that will be virtual opportunities to play to international buyers, especially, that cannot be here.

“We are going to take a lot of our program online, as well and although it is out of necessity it would also – pandemic aside – have been the next step. As I like to say, we will be opening digital doors for upcoming artists and we’re still striving toward that and getting a lot of partners on board in that streaming and virtual space.

“The heart of BIGSOUND is a networking event and doing business and networking is going to be done in a socially safe way. It is all about getting people back together and having some big chats.”

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