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Opinion

Leaders of The Pack

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Upstart girl-powered start-up looking to change the game for local, original musicians.

Hi music lovers. We’re Melanie Bainbridge and Harry Deluxe and we’re the co-founders of The Pack Australia. We know it’s somewhat unusual to see a pair of female founders taking on the male dominated tech industry. And goodness knows it’s even more unusual to see girls like us taking tech innovation to the highly traditional Australian arts space. Believe us – we’ve tried selling this stuff to the ‘music funding aristocracy’ before – they think funding electronica is the same as funding innovation. But we’re here. We’re determined, we’re passionate and we see a fabulous future for the Australian music industry… if it will only open its eyes to some of the failings of the current systems.

Australia has embraced music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, the new music monopolies, but what’s not being acknowledged right now is that this has, perhaps unintentionally, created a massive imbalance in the system.

We need our industry to understand that while globalised streaming services do provide an accessible platform for music distribution on a global scale, they don’t provide a support network for artists. By making music available to the masses at low or no cost they have created a kind of musical ‘Darwinism’ – a creative class war not based on talent or skill, but on money, luck and access. Local, original, unsigned artists have become the 99% of the music industry.

Musicians backed by major labels rise to the top by virtue of the money behind them, while unsigned artists like us (discounting the precious few lucky bands who are ‘discovered’ by popular playlist curators) sink to the bottom of the playlist pile, found only by those dedicated listeners who seek them out or stumble upon them.

Coupling this with almost insultingly low per stream income, the slow death of physical and  direct digital music sales, and the lack of venues willing to offer original bands paid live performing opportunities – being an original artist in Australia has become incredibly hard work. Our revenue streams have dried up. We know this. We’re living it.

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We’re in the process of building a system that we think is a pretty elegant solution to this problem – a localised streaming service that will directly connect local business with local music and local listeners. We’re out here putting our money where our mouths are – fighting tech with tech to re-democratise the streaming landscape and localise what the major streaming services have globalised.

We’re not technocrats. We’re not promoters. We’re not money hungry entrepreneurs out for a quick buck. We’re just a couple of local female recording artists, and we know first-hand what it’s like to keep looking for that elusive pay cheque from your recorded music – and watch it looking more and more like a fantasy.

We’re totally different to the global streaming businesses in that we’re building our system based on social impact and local economic development. It’s designed to ensure that artists can grow their local listener base through local exposure, while also creating a range of direct income streams through fairer per play fees, direct royalty allocations and a location based ‘jukebox’ style service netting both participating businesses and artists incentive payments.

And we’re honestly in it for the industry. We’re not looking to create yet another app to make a fast buck – we’re in it for the long haul. We intend for the profits from the service to go back into our industry through a not-for-profit foundation to support local, original artists like us to create, record and distribute new music, with a focus on underrepresented female and Aboriginal artists as well as new original music from all genres. We feel that our industry needs to innovate to continue to be sustainable, and right now, it isn’t.

We know that in Australia our unsigned, original musicians are some of the best qualified, most highly skilled, but most poorly paid workers – with an average annual income from music totalling around $7500.

Look at it this way. If our musicians are barely earning enough annually to cover the cost of recording a studio album, and can’t afford the time to create or record new music, how is the Australian music industry supposed to thrive, grow and position new Aussie music on the global stage into the future?

If we refuse to acknowledge these issues, we believe we’re facing the ultimate ‘stealth’ industry killer. Our unsigned artists are creatively starving in an era of apparent musical prosperity. And that’s not OK.

And some of our favourite local musicians agree. We chatted to the wonderful Greg Brenton and he had this to say about The Pack:

“As an original musician, I am constantly working to monetise what I do in order to sustain a reasonable output. I need to pay for the services of the people who help me record, back me up when performing, help with promotion and on and on. The Pack would certainly assist with this, but even more importantly it would create genuine local exposure for what we as creative artists do. The Pack would encourage local businesses to engage with their arts community in a very responsible and mutually beneficial way. The potential here is very exciting!”

It’s our intention that this project will support our awesome musicians, but will also create incentives for businesses to jump on board; not only for the ‘buy local’ reputational benefit of supporting their local music industry, but also by creating a location-based system for listener members to ‘check-in’ at their premises and like, share and influence their music preferences to provide real-time data to support their customer retention strategies – win for musos – win for businesses – win for listeners.

It will also track and provide play data directly to musicians, businesses and licencing bodies – making sure that every time an artist gets played, they get paid. What could be fairer than that? We can reverse the steady flow of royalties out of our industry, and our country… and bring them right back home to the music made in your ‘hood, by your pack.

So, we hope you’ll jump on board this project and support us to raise funding to make this big dream a reality. We’re running a crowdfunding campaign until the 17th of November to raise seed funding for the platform prototype, and we’re calling on the music community to get behind us.

If every local, original musician in Perth donated the cost of a couple of Perth coffees to this campaign – we could completely change the game for unsigned, original musicians. A country where musicians get paid fairly for their music. Wouldn’t that be an amazing place?

Our crowdfunding campaign can be found at: https://campaigns.ing.com.au/Dreamstarter/Support-now/ThePack

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The Pack Australia is a start-up social enterprise dedicated to building a sustainable, localized music streaming system to support the growth and development of Australian original music. For more information visit the website: www.thepackaustralia.com.au or jump to the Facebook page – @thepackaustralia

If you would like more information about The Pack Australia, please contact Melanie Bainbridge at 0488 222 286 or email at thepackoz@iinet.net.au

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