Thriving creative heart gives musicians a reason to stay

Thriving creative heart gives musicians a reason to stay

Australia’s music industry has its headline night this week when the ARIA Awards are held in Sydney.

Good luck to the Queensland nominees, who go into the awards hoping to be successful in Sydney but knowing that they don’t have to live there to be successful in their careers.

Powderfinger faced that issue way back when we were breaking into the Australian music scene. We were playing to crowds of up to 1000 people in Brisbane at the likes of the Metropolis, St Paul’s Tavern, Dooley’s and The Roxy.

I remember when a Sydney record executive was told about the following that we were building but replied that he didn’t care if we were playing to crowds of 1000 in Brisbane – we had to play to the same crowds in Sydney before he would take any interest.

We never thought about moving south. We were Queenslanders and we were staying here.

Next year marks 20 years since we released Odyssey Number Five – an album that attracted attention well beyond our Queensland borders.

While our artists have always punched well above their weight, our Brisbane music infrastructure fell behind.

The loss of Festival Hall in 2003 took from Brisbane decades of history and a key venue for great music. At the same time, other CBD-based venues began to fold.

Since that time, Brisbane’s music scene has largely relocated to the wider Fortitude Valley region – a thriving collection of music venues unmatched anywhere in this country. It’s why Brisbane can host the renowned BIGSOUND Festival and conference each September – 150 artists each playing twice across three nights of music in venues within walking distance of each other.

That’s one of the reasons why we decided to build the Fortitude Valley Music Hall, which opened four months ago as a venue that aimed to fill some of the gap vacated by Festival Hall’s demolition. We think of it as Australia’s largest ballroom with touches of the theatres that Brisbane has lost over the years.

The bill for our opening party in July contained only Queenslanders – inspiring artists who have made their name in our state.

Our venue is now attracting artists from across the world. We’ve already got more than 20 bookings for next March in a sign that this industry in Queensland is thriving. But we’ll always have to keep working at this.

Fortunately, we’re in the midst of a construction boom in Brisbane unlike any we have known.

Brisbane by 2025 will feature new projects that will transform this city – Cross River Rail will make travel much easier to the wider Fortitude Valley region. The new parallel runway at Brisbane Airport opens our city to more visitors.

The Howard Smith Wharves on the river have already become a regular part of the social lives of many Queenslanders.

It’s an exciting time and it’s a time to reflect on the wonderful features of this city.

The Valley plays a key role in that unique Brisbane that we love. This city is a sum of its parts and the Valley, with its acknowledgement of the past and its embrace of this changing Brisbane, is always the vibrant, creative soul of this city.

It’s helped to keep many Queensland artists in their home state and hopefully many more to come.

John Collinsis a co-owner of The Fortitude Music Hall and The Triffid. He was a member of Brisbane band Powderfinger.