Honours Research


Key Words: Brisbane; Creative Cities; Cultural Policy; Cultural Studies; Fortitude Valley; Gentrification; Globalisation; Popular Music Studies; Middle-tier; Music Scenes; Subcultural Theory; Urban Studies

The aim of this study is to identify reasons why particular musicians are inclined to leave Brisbane and migrate to other capital cities to further their careers. For many years, the Brisbane music scene has been regarded as a healthy and vibrant incubator for emerging talent (Stafford 2004; Eliezer 2007; Willsteed 2011). However, its ability to retain musicians seems inversely proportionate to the level of success these cultural producers achieve: once musicians reach the middle-tier, there is a perception that the Brisbane music scene is incapable of sustaining a profitable career. Instead, for many years, the cultural capital of cities such as Melbourne and Sydney have lured many of Brisbane’s middle-tier musicians. The music industry is now primarily a live music economy. As such, many professional musicians consider live performance opportunities as their “bread and butter” (Simpson and Munro 2012, 110). This means that the health and abundance of local, live music venues is a key factor in a musician’s decision to stay or leave Brisbane.

Local government stakeholders have an economic and political imperative to promote Brisbane as a ‘creative city’. Despite many scholars framing the creative city methodology as problematic, and highlighting the ways it is incompatible within a Brisbane context, much local policy and legislation continues to been informed and shaped by such theories. Musicians are and music venues are a crucial element of the ‘creative class’ that creative city theory aims to attract, and thus are implicated in such policy outcomes. Yet, this research shows that the Brisbane’s live music economy remains undervalued and misrepresented in legislation targeted at curbing key threats to the scene’s prosperity. As a preliminary study, it offers possibilities for future research to develop and implement strategies that aim to reverse the exodus and retain creative workers. As such, it should concern policy makers, venue operators, the broader Brisbane music industry, and other key stakeholders.

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