Words by Annie-Mei Forster.
Australians are great at rallying in times of crisis. Back in 2009, we saw our nation unify after the terrible Black Saturday bushfires, one of Australia’s worst bushfire disasters in history, with 173 fatalities and over 2,000 homes destroyed. Organisers held Sound Relief in response to the Black Saturday bushfires to raise money for those affected by the fires.
Sound Relief saw Jet and Wolfmother fly interstate to perform at both the Melbourne and Sydney concert, plus Hunters & Collectors reunited for the first time in over ten years. It was an emotional day, with Kylie Minogue performing ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ at the Melbourne event and Sound Relief organiser, Carl Gardiner said the atmosphere in the stadium was ‘electric’.
Fast forward to the present and Australians have once again been reminded of the horror bushfires can unleash. The world has seen the eerie photos of Mallacoota’s red sky in East Gippsland and people trying to shelter from the raging fire on boats out at sea. While bushfires are still raging across the country, the Australian music industry has already planned events to help those affected.
Let It Rain
Delta Goodrem’s new single ‘Let It Rain’, was inspired by the Australian bushfire crisis, and has topped the Australian iTunes chart, with all proceeds donated to the bushfire relief. She released the song in an Instagram video on January 8, asking fans to donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. The song went straight to number one within a few hours of its release.
Delta is just one of many celebrities who have contributed to the bushfire relief; others include Chris Hemsworth, Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman. Elton John announced at the Sydney leg of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road World Tour that he is donating $1 million towards the firefighting effort. Not only has the Australian music industry banded together, but international music artists have joined forces to help the disaster relief.
Economic impact on the music industry
The bushfires this summer have wreaked not only havoc on people’s homes and tourism in regional towns but also the music industry. Australians love loading up the car with camping gear and road-tripping to a music festival. This summer has seen many festivals cancelled due to fire danger, including Falls Festival in Lorne, Lunar Electric in Maitland, Lost Paradise in NSW and Rainbow Serpent in Victoria, to name a few.
The 2019 Live Performance Australia, Attendance & Revenue Report estimated that contemporary music festivals generate $102 million a year. These events are not only essential for creating jobs but also volunteerism, audience development, tourist and brand development. Music festivals don’t just develop a sense of community within the festival grounds but also in the host towns.
Later this year, the Australian Festival Industry Conference 2020 (AFIC) will again discuss the impact of the bushfires on the festival industry, emergency management and fire safety. AFIC sees people come from all over the country to hear private festival organisers, consultants and educators discuss what they can do to solve relevant issues. Following the inaugural 2019 conference, founder Carlina Ericson said it’s an excellent opportunity for people in the industry “to connect, learn, share and discuss key issues that they’re all facing”.
Money raised by the music industry
Sound Relief in 2009 raised over $8 million for Victorian bushfire victims and those affected by the Queensland floods. The organisers had hoped to raise $5 million. It was a massive event to organise, but it showcased the Australian spirit, with more than 120,000 people attending the simultaneous concerts in Melbourne and Sydney.
This time around, the bushfires have seen incredible generosity from those across the arts industry. A Twitter campaign that went viral, with the hashtag #AuthorsForFireys, has raised thousands of dollars. The campaign saw artists, musicians, authors and others donating items for Twitter users to bid on, with the money from the winning bids given to firefighters.
Another great idea has been the organisation, Resound working to help musicians who have lost instruments in the bushfires to find a suitable replacement from donors. If you have any musical equipment lying around or one that you never play, you can hop on the Resound website and pledge it. If you don’t play an instrument, you can donate money to the cause. In 2009, Resound gave 150 instruments, worth an estimated $26,000, a new home with bushfire victims.
If you run a local music venue, then you might consider putting on a benefit show yourself. There’s no better way to raise awareness and bring people together than through the magic of music. If you have regular artists who perform at your venue, you could reach out to them and ask if they’d like to be part of the event.
How do I know what events are happening near me?
triple j has got a fantastic guide to ‘Bushfire Benefit shows’ that is broken down by state or territory, so you can easily find out what’s happening near you. They not only have all the significant events listed but regional ones too.
If you’re based in Melbourne or Sydney or happen to be there in January or February, check out Muso’s bushfire gig guide here.