For the uninitiated, there’s never been a better time to attend a music industry conference. BIGSOUND 2020 will be completely virtual, and entirely free. 

Originally set to take place in early September, the changing nature of events in a COVID-19 world meant that BIGSOUND organisers were forced to take their festivities online. Returning for its 19th year, organisers revealed that BIGSOUND will be a completely different experience in 2020, with everything free and virtual, with no physical live performances.

BIGSOUND 2020 will still be a mammoth offering. Taking place on Wednesday, October 21st  and Thursday, October 22nd, this year’s event will feature a raft of high-profile keynote speakers, including the likes of Tom Morello, Kev Carmody and Tones And I, along with a swathe of crucial conversations from First Nations and artist voices.

There’s a lot going on at BIGSOUND, but if you’re strapped for time, or just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of happenings, we’ve picked out our Top 10 conference events that you don’t want to miss.

What you cannot miss at BIGSOUND 2020

Tom Morello: Whatever It Takes (Keynote)

Harvard-educated political activist, one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s appointed ‘greatest guitarists of all time’, grammy-award winner, and legendary member of Rage Against The Machine, Prophets of Rage, and Audioslave, Tom Morello will be speaking at BIGSOUND for a very special keynote presentation entitled “Whatever it Takes”. 

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Combined with being an ongoing impassioned and public voice against discrimination, activism for a wide range of human and social rights issues, and a leader in the fight for socialist justice, Morello has always used his music as a voice for the oppressed.

Now more than ever, his life story and perspective on music and politics will be an insightful and important lesson and how the guitar can be a divining rod for truth and justice. The world is at a dangerous crossroads and it’s time to feed the poor, fight the power, and rock the fuck out.

100% BLAK: The Indigenous Future of the Music Industry

At BIGSOUND in 2019, two very special events (the Under Occupation keynote and Sovereign Sounds workshop) put forward a proposition: what about a 100% Blak Music industry?

One year later in 2020, Ziggy Ramo released the ‘surprise’ album Black Thoughts, written five years ago, to coincide with the Black Lives Matter marches. A deeply personal album that resonates with Indigenous people all across the continent, Black Thoughts calls for change and the need “to learn our true history”. 

For decades Rhoda Roberts has championed Indigenous musicians through broadcasting, festival programming and more. Her on-going legacy paved the way for even considering a 100% Blak Music industry. 

Two powerful and insightful Indigenous voices, this very special in conversation will see Rhoda Roberts + Ziggy Ramo discuss the future of the music industry from a place of sovereignty, truth-telling and change.

Ziggy-Ramo 2020
Ziggy Ramo

Nat’s What I Reckon’: BIGSOUND Cooking Show

Content creator, comedian, rock musician, isolation cooking champion and mental health ambassador Nat has been making videos as Nat’s What I Reckon for almost a decade. His hilarious social commentary has collected Nat a fast-growing, dedicated audience of over 2 million along the way, and his videos have clocked up more than 100 million views across all platforms.

Finding entertainment everywhere from the weird to the pedestrian, Nat has taken the playful and thorough piss out of everything from trade shows and tattoo events to burnout festivals and exploring Area 51.

In response to the craziness he was seeing when COVID-19 crashed the party, Nat waged a war against processed food and launched a no-nonsense instructional video for one of his tried and true recipes. It struck a chord and sent views skyrocketing. This unlikely hero of lockdown got the internet cooking (and laughing) again.

In an exclusive and no doubt completely original special culinary presentation, join Nat as he cooks up a storm in the BIGSOUND kitchen.

Beyond the Bla(c)k Tile: How to dismantle and transform the music industry

So you shared a black a tile on social media, now what? 

On Tuesday 2 June a large portion of the music industry participated in the #BlackOutTuesday movement: an initiative in response to the Black Lives Matter 2020 resurgence in America. 

Across the oceans, in so-called Australia, BLM resonates with Indigenous peoples as it is deeply connected to the Black Deaths in Custody movement. Although #BlackOutTuesday generated some discussion, it was also met with criticism from people of colour as an example of performative allyship that did not lead to tangible restoration, reparations or reform in the music industry. 

This discussion will offer pathways and suggestions from people of colour with the music sector on how to activate real change, and support different systems.

Covid f*cked my Tour Lyf: Artist Lifestyle Roundtable 

For a lot of artists, live music is not only their main stream of income, it is also a way of life. From the adrenaline highs to the post-tour blues, unless you’ve lived it, it’s a hard thing to understand. Now in the midst of COVID and ongoing shutdowns and restrictions, artists are missing life on the road.  

Join artists Mo’Ju, Kira Puru, Ecca Vandal and more as they reflect on the ups and downs of touring, the side effects of being stuck at home and not out on the road, and discuss openly about how ‘COVID F*cked My Tour Lyf’. 

kira puru for Concerts on Country
Kira Puru

Studio Wars: Home Recording vs Destination Studios

Has technology caused the death of the destination studio? Can you make a hit in your bedroom? In 2020, did any of us really have a choice?

Traditionally, a purpose built studio has been an ideal creative environment, equipped with high end recording equipment and a creative atmosphere to produce a professional release. Now, recent technology has given artists the tools to record release-ready hits at home and dominate the charts. Is the traditional studio now irrelevant? 

But what are the skills and insights that those who are recording at home possibly missing out on? Hear from our panel of experts to learn the pros and cons of home recordings vs destination studios.

The United Nations of the Music Industry Shitshow

If there was a United Nations of Music, this would be it, and it’s time to sort out some international business! 

It’s time to cross continents and dialogues to discuss how communities across the world are dealing with the impacts of COVID and rebuilding their music economies? 

Don’t miss this unique panel featuring music representatives from the USA, Canada, South East Asia, India, Japan, UK, Europe and New Zealand to answer 10 key rapid-fire questions offering insights into each countries current situation, and how they are rebuilding following COVID.

Howard Freeman: THE HARD END OF THE ROAD – Overcoming The Stigma and Building Help Seeking Behaviour (keynote)

Howard Freeman is a renowned and globally respected tour and production manager, who has been responsible for making sure the show most definitely does go on.

Howard was the Production Manager for Big Day Out for 20 years and has toured with Nick Cave, INXS, Jimmy Barnes, AC/DC, Eminem, Ice Cube, Midnight Oil, Prince and The Rolling Stones, to name only a few. He is a legitimate OG Roadie and at the forefront in advocating for cultural, industry and personal change. 

Where aggression and masculinity once prevailed, Howard is a man on a mission to empower and educate touring personnel in seeking help and supporting each other and creating a culture of care.

Not only will he have more than a few glorious stories to tell about life on the road, and the many larger-than-life characters he has worked with, Howard will also reflect on his own unique story and share the stadiums of knowledge he can pass down to future rockstar roadies.

Cultural Resurgence: Music And The Continuation Of Storytelling

Our artists are our storytellers, history keepers and cultural champions. Languages, stories, and music mark the journey of culture through time, but also the importance of history and where we came from. 

Through language revitalisation, connection to country, and intergenerational transfer of knowledge, Indigenous artists today are continuing the storytelling of some of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. Marking its importance, and carrying that culture forward for future generations. 

This artist-led conversation will unpack the role of cultural resurgence in music, and offer pathways for this work to be more supported by the wider industry.

Tim Urban: The Wizards Hat – Our Brain’s Magical Future (keynote)

Tim Urban is one the the founders of the Wait But Why blog, and the man who almost broke the internet with his TED talk on procrastination that clocked over 41 million views. His creative and engaging methods of story-telling and explaining the unexplainable have changed the way audiences consume information and made us all stop and ask “wait, but why?”.

From politics to technology, psychology to science, Urban makes even the most complicated and confusing seem suddenly interesting. Urban will be presenting a unique and fascinating discussion on how creativity will become the most highly sought after skill for humanity in the near future.

Pop on the wizards hat and join Urban as he presents a compelling message of genuine hopefulness around the integration of AI and how the music community can make use of a bunch of new ideas and platforms moving forward.

Registration to BIGSOUND is free and available via the official website


Wednesday, October 21st – Thursday, October 22nd
More info: BIGSOUND