The Mutually Satisfying Marriage between Live Music and the Pub

Australian music – particularly rock – has its origins in hotels and pubs, with a proliferation of live performances occurring in the early 1970’s. This stemmed from the liberalisation of state licensing laws and the epiphany among hoteliers and publicans that providing live music would attract the generation of baby boomers in masses.

From the crowded beer gardens
of inner city hotels to the bustling backrooms of almost every suburban ‘local’, immensely famous Aussie bands – including INXS, AC/DC, Cold Chisel and Australian Crawl – once cut their teeth on the popular pub circuit.
While in the twenty-first century, both the music and audience has a different sound and vibe, we are in the midst of a radical resurgence of live pub music; a phenomenon that may be attributed to the support that APRA AMCOS has offered to the Australian Hotels Association in developing a simplified, bundled music license agreement for live music that is played at each venue.

The reason for this being that hotels and pubs have sustained
a history as the focal point of the music industry, offering artists of all sounds the chance to perform, while simultaneously supporting a range of other suppliers, such as production crews.
In discussing the marriage of live music to Australian pub culture, Jennifer Gome – the Director of Licensing services at APRA – said: “The sense of community that live music creates, the loyalty to a venue, a suburb, or a certain corner of a country town plus the opportunity for musicians to showcase their talent in an egalitarian society, is part of our DNA.”

Permission to develop a new licensing agreement was granted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and carries with it the benefits of offering a cheaper, less complicated and more impartial manner in which hoteliers and publicans may apply to have live music performed at their venue.

Elaborating on this point, Jennifer Gome said: “The Australian Hotels Association has long embraced this sense of fairness that equally drives APRA in making sure that monies are reinvested back into the creative industries.”

This equally benefits the songwriters, whose royalties are earned by working artists and come directly from the live performance fees that hoteliers and publicans are obliged to pay and the hoteliers and publicans themselves, as their establishment is transformed into a euphoric atmosphere of feeling and sound.

In conjunction with this, the Live Music Office – which is partly funded by APRA – has been working hard
to give new energy to the live music industry. One way that this may be achieved is via Live and Local pilot sessions.

The purpose of these Live and Local pilot sessions is to promote localized live music as a cultural activity and
to offer hoteliers and publicans an opportunity to showcase live music at their venue, attracting positive publicity and creating an invaluable sense of community among those who share in the experience.

By this account, the sessions that were hosted last year are forecasted to take place in locations across the nation in 2015.
According to Jennifer Gome: “The Live and Local pilot is now a full-scale, low-cost, four hour, one day event template, ready for any interested community member to activate at grass roots level in their home town or suburb.”

APRA also proudly assisted in selecting the line up of last year’s National and Victorian AHA Awards, which were both hugely successful events with special performances from the hit bands Thirsty Merc and Evermore.

As is evident, APRA has invested heavily in the marriage of live music to pub culture, a union that has recently flourished in Australia, primarily in the South.

In South Australia, as is similar 
to other states, hotels and pubs remain the single largest employers and engagers of live music, with statistics revealing that the aforesaid establishments account for more than 76 per cent of all fees and collections taken by APRA.

Although there is still a big following for nightclubs and DJs among the current generation, real flesh and blood musicians are in popular demand, with a cross-section between the performance of original and cover music existing.

According to Ian Horne – the General Manager of AHA|SA – the iconic music venues of South Australia include The Governor Hindmarsh, The Grace Emily Hotel, The Crown & Anchor Hotel, The Bridgeway Hotel and The Lion Hotel.

The Governor Hindmarsh – affectionately known to the locals of Adelaide and regular visitors
as ‘The Gov.’ – is a historical pub, which occupies a space just outside the city center. Acquired by the Tonkin family in 1993, The Gov. has since established itself as an iconic provider of live music and is adored by musicians and music-enthusiasts alike.

Decorated with warm wooden décor and pictures of legends
from the popular music biz on the surrounding walls, The Venue at The Gov. is an international performance standard space, which is more than suitable for seeing beloved bands perform live.
Among a number of impressive national awards, The Gov. has also been recognized by the Australian Hotels Association as the ‘Best Entertainment Venue in South Australia’ for an astonishing six years running, dating from 2007 to now.

Regarded amongst the most passionate musicians as Adelaide’s home of live, original music –
with Keith Urban stating at his performance at the Entertainment Centre in 2007: “It’s not the Governor Hindmarsh, but it will have to do” – The Gov. has performed wonders
in terms of supporting the marriage between live music and pub culture, a union that has continuously proved to benefit both parties.

Meanwhile, in the upper reaches of South Australia, the Bridgeway hotel has set itself the goal of becoming ‘the Gov of the North.’
Hosting a variety of booming bands in the 1980’s – including AC/DC, Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil – the Bridgeway Hotel was subject to a decline in live music, which occurred in the following decade.

In an attempt to resurrect the venues rich, musical history and make use of its large capacity band room, the Bridgeway Hotel has recently moved away from the traditional pub cover band scene and is now the ‘local hang out’ for up and coming musicians whom perform original tracks.

“It’s definitely a very close knit community we have here,” said Venue Manager Crossley. “A lot of our bands who perform on a Thursday night – where the entry is ten dollars to see five acts – will come back the following week to watch and support fellow bands.”

Not only does this concentration
of live music create solidarity among flourishing musicians, it also offers the pub of the north the opportunity to showcase its delicious food and friendly service; as patrons travel from far and near on the account that there is always something exciting happening at the Bridgeway Hotel.

There is also an intense political drive behind the reinvigoration of live music in hotels and pubs, as Ian Horne stated that: “in every state there has been significant political and Government effort put into encouraging, developing and nurturing contemporary live music.” This is because the proposition of live music in a sociable location will breathe life into older areas of the CBD.

However, it appears that AHA’s positive partnership with APRA has primarily assisted in the revival and sustainment of Australia’s extraordinary pub music culture – with Ian Horne concluding that: “We’ve got a fabulous working relationship with APRA and what is good about it is that APRA is a major source of income for musicians and composers and similarly recognises that hotels and pubs are a major source of employment and engagement”.