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How to thrive in Melbourne’s gig economy

Words by Annie-Mei Forster.

Melbourne’s gig economy is booming! No, we’re not talking about people working for food delivery companies but the live music industry. Melburnians love going to gigs. Melbourne is the live music capital of the world, but don’t just take our word for it!


The Melbourne Live Music Census of 2017 showed that ‘Melbourne has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world’. There were 553 locations in Greater Melbourne to check out gigs in 2017 – that’s one for every 9,503 residents – which is more than New York or London. 


Economic benefits of music


People often think of Melbourne as the sporting capital of Australia, but annually more people attend gigs in Melbourne than all the sporting events combined. That’s AFL, Spring Carnival, Grand Prix, etc., which is a crazy stat! While 6 million people went to check out sports in 2017, over 17 million people attended gigs - fun fact to tell your sport fanatic mates.

Music tourism drives visitors to a city. Take Nashville in Tennessee as an example. Over 13 million visitors went there in 2014, which contributed a whopping US$5 billion in revenue and supported 50,000 jobs. While Melbourne’s music history might not be as established as Nashville’s, the Arts Centre runs a Melbourne Music Bus Tour that visits historical music sites around the city so visitors can learn about our rock ‘n’ roll story. 

Making it as a venue


Despite the booming live music scene, it’s still hard for a small local venue to stay afloat. There are many costs involved, including paying musicians, venue staff, security personnel, and the list goes on. Plus, small venues are competing with massive festivals and stadiums that can afford to fork out big bucks to get huge international acts to play. So how does the little guy compete?


Well, it comes down to a couple of things. 

Firstly, having useful contacts. Developing good relationships with people within the music industry is essential to doing well. Many bands prefer playing at smaller venues. It’s a more intimate experience, and people like to support their local scene. Also, a lot of people don’t like the huge crowds at music festivals or having to walk between stages to catch all the acts they want to see.

Secondly, create a stable live music venue that gives you an identity. Now and again you go to somewhere, and you can’t quite understand what vibe the place is going for, so it’s vital to decide what you want people to think of your business. Do you want to be a slinky jazz bar or an underground punk club? Do you want people to relax or do you want them to be crowd surfing and rocking out? Once people understand what your place is about, they’ll know if they’re in the mood to go there. Your marketing should also reflect this. Here is some extra information if you'd like to read about creating a live music brand for your venue.

The best of the best


If you haven’t heard of the National Live Music Awards (NLMAs) and you’re a venue owner, you should check out its website. There are many different awards, but one of them is for Best Venue awarded to one place in every state capital in Australia. The winner of this year’s Melbourne venue award was The Corner Hotel. Any venue can enter if it’s been active during that year, so if you’re looking to gain some exposure – keep the NLMAs in mind. 

There’s also the Australian Event Awards, which is the only opportunity for event professionals to compete across the country in different industries. It celebrates the best events in Australia and aims to drive industry growth and ensure we remain on the cutting edge of the events space worldwide. 

For individual states, there are also the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) Awards, which is the most prestigious awards program in the hospitality industry. Their awards include Best Live Entertainment Venue, Best Nightlife Venue and Best Function and Events Space. 

How can bands support local venues and vice versa?


The Internet has made it easier than ever to reach out to people, and there’s a bunch of apps designed specifically for music industry folk. Muso is a platform for venue owners to find bands and music artists to find gigs. So, if you don’t have heaps of time to go out looking for musicians, jump on your phone and start scouting out local talent on Muso. It’s an excellent way for musicians to gain exposure and experience, while the venue benefits by attracting people and creating more jobs.


Think of a music venue that’s created a name for itself, such as the Cherry bar. Over the years, Cherry has thrown huge parties, launched many great bands and even rejected Lady Gaga. People were distraught when Cherry bar announced it was closing its doors (don’t worry it reopened), which shows how passionate Melburnians are about music. A venue should be more than a place to host a band but a celebration of music and life while making memories.

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