Music capital

Is Melbourne the music capital of Australia? Sydney or Adelaide could put him to the post

Melbourne’s successful bid to host a prestigious international cities of music conference in 2018 has been hailed as a golden opportunity for it to solidify its status as “Australia’s Music Capital” and “World Music City” “.

The Music Cities convention brings together global music players from government, industry and academia and aims to ‘create a toolbox’ on how to ‘cultivate [a] city ​​of vibrant and lucrative music ”.

But is Melbourne really Australia’s musical capital? In a recent article, I analyzed the numbers to find that the jury is still out on this claim. Indeed, his great rival, Sydney (or even Adelaide) have a chance to win this title.

UNESCO, the United Nations body for education, science and culture, offers the only official accreditation of a city of music. For a city to be awarded this title, it must have a strong musical heritage, excellent background in music creation, education, community involvement, and large-scale local and international music events.

UNESCO has designated Melbourne the City of Literature and Sydney the City of Cinema. But Adelaide was recognized as Australia’s only music city in 2015. Adelaide hosts many international festivals, including the annual WOMADelaide and the OzAsia festival.

Adelaide-based Tkay Maidza on Carry On.

It can be argued that Melbourne meets this criterion, but UNESCO does not allow cities to hold more than one title in different creative industries. This leaves Melbourne and its status as the music capital in the dubious terrain of self-branding.

Show us the money

After deep data exploration, I found three ways to assess the vitality of a city’s music scene: economy, creativity, and heritage, although the data is patchy.

First, we can look at the economics of music, including music revenue, employment, audience participation, and number of concert halls. As the 2015 Mastering of a Music City report suggests, a “music city” is defined as an urban area with a “vibrant music economy”.

A piece of musical history on Melbourne’s ACDC track.
Geof Wilson / Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

According to Victorian reports, Melbourne has 465 concert halls and its music industry brings in over A $ 1.04 billion annually. While not included in the 2015 World Cities Cultural Report, this puts Melbourne ahead of Sydney with 435 sites. Adelaide, which has received UNESCO City of Music status, has around 208 concert halls. Therefore, Melbourne (and even Sydney) compares favorably with Los Angeles (510 sites), New York (453), Tokyo (385) and London (245).

However, a national study in 2015 suggests that NSW is leading the way in music employment (13,832 jobs in NSW and 11,117 jobs in Victoria), audience participation, measured in live music ticket sales ( A $ 342,544 million in NSW; A $ 275,748 million in Victoria), and annual music revenue (A $ 1.8 billion in New South Wales; A $ 1.4 billion in Victora).

As Martin Elbourne, co-founder of Early Musical Conventions, argues, most of the commercial music business is based in Sydney.

Sydney and NSW generate the bulk of Australia’s music revenue.
Paxtons digital video camera / Flickr, CC BY

Creative cities

We can also consider the creativity of a city, calculated through measures such as technology, talent, tolerance and territorial assets. As US urban economist Richard Florida would say, these measures show that a city is welcoming to the music industry.

The Start-up Genome 2017 project, which assesses the success rate of start-ups and their link to job creation and economic growth, ranked Melbourne 22nd in the world for music start-up technology and culture , just outside Sydney on the 21st.

However, Melbourne trumps musical talent. As the 2003-2013 postcode data show, Melbourne had the highest number of songwriters in the country, with Sydney coming close behind.

Melbourne has the largest number of songwriters in the country, including Courtney Barnett.

Tolerance is more difficult to measure because it is linked to lifestyle choices. Tourism Victoria maintains that Melbourne is renowned for its creative leaders, who have a community spirit and a progressive mindset.

Melbourne has also won the title of world’s liveliest city for the past six years. Adelaide was ranked fifth in the world, while Sydney was ranked seventh.

However, transportation issues, affordability of housing and the geographic isolation of the northern hemisphere are points against Melbourne’s quality of life.

Whether Melbourne is Australia’s music capital is up for debate, as the many different ways of measuring music activity in cities paint a different picture.

But to this day, claims that Melbourne is Australia’s music capital remain an abstract notion coined by cultural groups with a vested interest in pursuing a political agenda: to sell their city as the city of national and world music. .


Will Melbourne claim the national crown of music? This will be discussed in Andrea Baker’s upcoming book The Great Music City, Music, Space and Identity, (Palgrave Macmillan: London) which is slated for release next year.