In 2019, Hip-hop in Australia was entering a new era as the perception of ‘Aussie Hip-hop’ began to be more widely challenged by the success of new styles, trends and faces in the scene.
Chillinit and Nerve solidified Grime’s influence on the scene, Drill began to take dominance with ONEFOUR and Hp Boyz leading the way, and The Kid Laroi released his debut label single ‘Let Her Go’, setting him on an unprecedented trajectory for international success.
Owner of Melbourne’s Marshall Street Studios, Bennett Ferguson, attributes the success of local Hip-hop in 2019 to the work from artists in the last decade, who gained national recognition and challenged unflattering stereotypes of the genre.
“2019 was when a lot of things started to break out and do big numbers but I think that’s a culmination of what happened in the ten years before it. That’s just when time meets opportunity and the right group dropped the right track,” Ferguson said.
There was no telling the height local Hip-hop was beginning to reach, but on January 25th 2020, its projection was stunted by the announcement of Australia’s first four cases of COVID-19.
By the end of March, community transmission increased significantly and the Australian government shut their borders to non-residents, closed non-essential services and introduced lockdown restrictions. Melbourne in particular, was hit the hardest by the pandemic, with lockdown restrictions being reinstated throughout the months of winter, the start of the new year, and now, during June of 2021, their lockdown has been extended for a further seven days.
Dr Catherine Strong and Dr Fabian Cannizzo from RMIT University investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the music industry in their research paper, ‘Understanding Challenges To The Victorian Music Industry During COVID-19’. According to the study, “the impact of this on musicians, venue owners and operators, road crews and production companies, and associated professionals and personnel from managers to PR to labels and beyond, was immediate and devastating.”
- 44 per cent of respondents lost all their music-related work in the pandemic, with those in full-time employment dropping from 34 per cent to seven per cent.
- 57 per cent of respondents were worried about paying for basics like food and rent
- More than 80 per cent of respondents thought their involvement in the music industry would be different post COVID-19, with almost three in five considering leaving the industry all together
Source: RMIT University.
Image: Jon Tyson/Unsplash.
AUD’$ editor Matthew Craig describes the “domino effect” caused by the initial cancellation of live music.
“If they’re not having shows they’re not having advertisement and that impacts us. It just impacts down the supply chain. This whole industry is so reliant on the live sector,” Craig said.
Although the full extent of COVID’s impact is yet to be revealed, I Lost My Gig Australia, an initiative by the Australian Music Industry Network and Australian Festival Association, has recorded a total revenue loss of $345 million. In their follow-up survey with 1,556 participants, 66 per cent of respondents had received no other targeted industry support outside of JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
Craig believes the governmental support to creative arts in Australia has always been treated second-rate to sport.
“NSW starting putting on their own lineups competing with private enterprises who are already doing the same thing. So not only was it no shows but now you can return to shows with restrictions and compete with the government who are putting on shows,” Craig said.
WhatsLively is a live music culture and discovery entity dedicated to bringing more eyes on live music in Australia. Co-founder Trishanth Chandrahasan agrees that the support from the government has been underwhelming.
“JobKeeper has kept people afloat but that’s all its really doing, it’s not helping artists. I mean they get some form of it but they’re relying on shows to make money,” Chandrahasan said.
Despite the challenges faced from COVID, there have been a handful of silver linings in regards to the future of the Australian music industry. The innovation of artists has aided Hip-hop in Australia to continue globalising and evolving in diversity and popularity.
From the normalisation of local line-ups and online accessibility, to a greater respect for time and work/life balance, Chandrahasan believes the pandemic has also helped revolutionise live music.
“I think it’s going to play a large role in changing the way we buy tickets, the way we enter and also what happens during a gig. I think the ticket is going to hold more importance, before it was just your pass to get into a venue but I think now it’s going to be more linked to your identity so it’s going to have a bigger link to who you are.”