Top 5 music moves in 2012

ArtsHub's Top Five music moves in 2012 won't name a best artist or best album but it will point you to some places and people that may shape your holiday listening.
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It’s time for me to wrap up with my own ‘best of’ for 2012. Of course, musical taste is subjective, so what you’re about to read is my opinion only, however I’ve tried to remain as open-minded as possible. I’ve also chosen to cast aside the traditional categories such as Best Artist or Best Album – I figure this makes things a bit more interesting. So here is a fairly eclectic list of 5 headings followed by some possibly controversial, but well-considered, opinions. I’m more than willing to engage in debate via the comments section.

1. Biggest/Best News for Musicians

I’ve talked a lot about Spotify, Grooveshark and other ‘streaming services’ over the past twelve months. I do believe that, if they’re not the future for the music business, they are at the very least a big part of it. Of course, the naysayers out there might point to recent publicity surrounding how little artists actually earn from Spotify (Digital Music News reported that a band earns a paltry 0.4 cents when a Spotify listener streams their album), but I’ve never said the model is perfect. Any way you look at it, Spotify’s Australian launch in 2012 was big news for artists and fans.

Locally, the best news I heard this year was reported by The Music Network in November. According to their own survey, nearly 5 million Australians listen to Community Radio on a weekly basis! For folks like me, whose music doesn’t fit the brief of either Commercial Radio or Triple J, Community Radio support is of utmost importance. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that many of us owe our careers to the format – particularly its specialist music programs. To hear that over one quarter of our population is engaged with Community Radio is heart-warming, to say the least. Now, we just need them to listen to the right shows…

2. Best Festival

As record sales decline, festival appearances have become more and more essential for artists looking to survive. I have to declare some bias here – I performed at Bluesfest 2012 and had a mighty good time. Any festival that attracts musicians like John Fogarty, Donovan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Steve Earle and My Morning Jacket onto the same bill is going to be pretty good value, even at $300+ per ticket. From an artist’s point of view, Bluesfest really have it sorted, as evidenced by the amount of big names spotted side-stage watching the other acts perform. There’s a lot of mutual appreciation that goes on and it was a great pleasure to be amongst it. From a punter’s perspective, the best thing about Bluesfest may well be the side-show series, where all of the above big names and more traverse our capital cities, marking rare opportunities for long-time fans to see them up-close and personal in relatively intimate clubs.

But on the criteria of ‘something for everyone’ it’s hard to go past the slightly smaller festivals such as Queenscliff, Woodford, Apollo Bay and Port Fairy – most of which utilise idyllic locations to bring fans up close and personal with a range of middle-profile, but extremely high quality, Australian and overseas acts. For me, Port fairy was the pick of these, with internationals like Eric Bibb, Peter Rowan and Ahab complementing locals such as The Bamboos, Eagle and the Worm and Gossling. The names may be smaller, but the music (and the location) at Port Fairy is always hard to beat.

3. Best example of overseas success by a local.

The Australian market is small, so overseas success is important to us. And of course, it’s hard to look past Wally de Backer’s Gotye when dishing out accolades for Australian musicians abroad this year. His achievements are phenomenal and even his harshest critics would have to concede that he’s one of the most successful Australian musicians of all time. Having spent a fair bit of time around Wally over the last eight or nine years I can honestly say that his success is deserved – he’s genuinely talented, and even more determined. He is uniquely attuned to the needs and wants of his audience, and has been shrewd enough to surround himself with great management and great company from the word go. But he’s not the only guy to do so…

Nash Edgerton (brother of actor Joel) is a bit of a renaissance man: stunt-double, producer, writer and director. It’s his role as the latter that piqued my interest this year when he directed the music video for Bob Dylan’s Duquesne Whistle (see below). That Dylan is still making credible (and downright good fun) new music at the age of 70 is quite remarkable, and his choice of Edgerton to conceive and direct his video is testament to the esteem in which the young Australian is held. I’m nominating Nash for the best “overseas success by a local” for 2012. Wally won’t mind. After all, it’s Bob Dylan for God’s sake!

4. Best human interest story

Beccy Cole’s decision to come out on national TV was a brave and admirable one – as well as an important step in the right direction for the country music industry (don’t worry, there’s still plenty more steps to go). Apparently Beccy was nervous as to how her fans might react, reflecting the fear of many fellow country musicians that the entire audience is a bunch of backwards red-necks that might still secretly support ‘The White Australia Policy’ or other archaic social agendas. Thankfully, they’re not – and now Beccy can get on with the job of being a successful artist without having to hide her personal life. The Australian country music scene suffers from an identity crisis and it was nice to see, hear and read a positive, progressive story emerge from within.

5. Best Music website

Now I don’t mean ‘prettiest, most functional artist website’ here. I mean ‘best place, online, to find great new music’. Now, of course, this is very much subject to taste as most music blogs focus heavily on one genre or another – but for my money, one blog stands out above all the rest. is not new, but it is unique. One visit to the site and you’ll see their major selling-point: illustrations of each artist that makes an in-studio, video appearance. The videos used to be free to access, but now Daytrotter asks you to sign-up and pay (after a 14 day free trial). That might sound unfriendly, but I reckon it’s testament to the fact that these guys have achieved something on the web that most people in the music business struggle with – they’ve created something worth paying for!

If your credit card has been hit hard by the Christmas rush but you still want to watch credible musicians perform live then visit my ‘honourable mentions Tiny Desk Concerts and Moshcam. If you do so, you’ll be in for a very musical (but possibly unproductive) afternoon – they’re great procrastination fodder!

Enjoy the holidays and remember to listen to great music, all the time.

Lachlan Bryan
About the Author
Lachlan Bryan is a singer-songwriter and freelance journalist from Melbourne. His website is