While Adelaide loves to throw around the fact that in the 70s and 80s the music scene was booming, what is confusing is that after decades of decline we still haven't come up with any tangible strategy to get it back to its glory days.
As a city we seem to strive for intangibles and titles – case in point being named a UNESCO City of Music. While I'm sure it’s very important and a great honour, I’m not certain that our music scene has flourished since becoming part of this collective.
Maybe I'm wrong, but it has a feel of doing half the job at hand.
While as a city we seem to excel in the arts, I find it unusual that our music scene hasn’t followed suit. We had the amazing Umbrella Festival, but we need more than a festival that lasts for a month.
For a little inspiration look no further than Perth – a similar size city with a booming music scene and world-renowned bands springing up by the day. Unfortunately, we are light years behind in nurturing the same level of talent and we can’t fall back on the old East Coast of Australia debate either.
I strongly feel the missing link is physical infrastructure that will in turn rebuild the music community. No amount of strategy papers or titles will give musicians a leg up onto the national and world stage – they need access to outstanding facilities in order to hone their craft and learn what it takes to make it. And at the very least provide a stage for young musicians to give it a red-hot crack.
Enter Sound City: a world-class centre for music designed to inspire and support young musicians throughout their musical journey.
With so much development happening at the moment, and the availability of key land due to the City of Adelaide offloading assets around the city, now is the perfect time to think beyond mixed use developments (i.e., residential, hospitality, office buildings) and think about what we don't have here.
Sound City, or The Australian National Centre for Music and Sound, could genuinely change the Adelaide music scene and help find our next generation of Hilltop Hoods, Cold Chisel, John Farnham or The Angels.
While the Centre could include a number of different elements and spaces off the top of my head I would propose:
- Recording Studios
- Rehearsal Studios
- Performance Space
- Educational Space
- Museum of Australian Music History
- Space to record orchestral soundtracks
- Virtual Concert Spaces
On top of the above ideas, the opportunity for collaboration is enormous. For example, with our booming film industry, Sound City could become an obvious bolt on for South Australian Film Corporation to utilise space to record large ensembles and orchestras for movie soundtracks.
The recording studio would also attract huge names in international music much like London, LA and New York. Imagine Radiohead choosing Adelaide to record their next album? And for those that say it will never happen – don't forget Elon Musk built a battery in country South Australia.
And it's not like we don't have similar examples of lifting an industry off of its knees with
tangible investment – the Adelaide Studios creative hub in Glenside is a great example of shining an international spotlight on South Australia and giving locals access to world-class facilities. Other examples include Lot Fourteen and the Tonsley Innovation District, which are both booming ecosystems in their own right.
While strategies and committees, white papers, Thinkers in Residence and international memberships are great and all very worthwhile, nothing will be done without investment in bricks and mortar facilities.
Musicians need opportunities and to congregate together to inspire creativity. Build it and they will come has never been truer – and Adelaide can lead the way.
Gerald Matthews is Matthews Architects Managing Director and Senior Architect.