After 500-plus gigs, assembling upwards of 1,000 performers across New South Wales, Great Southern Nights 2022 is a wrap.
The project fulfilled its expectations as a mass reawakening of the state’s live music scene, explains Annabelle Herd, CEO of ARIA, which guided GSN, making “a difference to the lives and livelihoods of artists and communities across the state.”
Running from March 18 to April 10, Great Southern Nights “has certainly played a major role in reigniting the NSW live music scene after an extraordinarily challenging time for the industry,” comments Herd in a message to TIO.
“ARIA is so proud of the initiative and what it has achieved despite a raft of challenges.”
All told, more than 100 venues hosted COVIDsafe shows under the GSN banner.
One of those sites was Anita’s Theatre in Wollongong, which set the stage March 21 for a Missy Higgins concert.
“It’s just so good to finally have opportunities to play live music again,” she explains in the statement. “Great Southern Nights is a much-needed injection of life into an industry that’s suffered badly lately. Not only do they put on big headline shows but more importantly they support hundreds of smaller venues and artists who are trying to grow their fan base from the ground up. Those venues are their lifeline.”
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Hopefully, she adds, “here’ll be more initiatives like it in the future.”
Sheppard performed March 31 at the Kingscliff Beach Hotel, in the flood hit Northern Rivers region for the chart-topping pop group’s first NSW headline show in years.
Because of this, comments frontman George Sheppard, “we were able to provide some much-needed music and positivity to a region which has recently been decimated by the floods. As we all know, music is a great tool for healing, and it was so wonderful to see families in the crowd smiling, singing, and having a fun night out together.”
This year’s smorgasbord of live included concerts from Jimmy Barnes, Amy Shark, Jessica Mauboy, Alex Lahey, The Veronicas, Baker Boy, Peking Duk, Courtney Barnett, Daryl Braithwaite, Archie Roach, James Reyne, Missy Higgins and Kasey Chambers.
Attention will soon turn to a 2023 edition.
ARIA, which spearheaded the initiative in partnership with the state government, and delivered through Destination NSW, its agency for tourism and major events sectors, is keen to see Great Southern Nights return as an annual event.
There’s no word yet, and government is no doubt scrutinising the numbers and pursuing outcomes before making a commitment.
Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres appears to be won over.
“Live music supports an entire ecosystem of our visitor economy, from artists and crew to venues and their staff and suppliers, to surrounding businesses and whole communities, which is why the NSW Government launched the inaugural Great Southern Nights initiative back in 2020,” he offers in a statement.
This year, GSN “has once again helped to rebuild and reinvigorate live music and provide practical support for the music industry following the challenges of the past two years. It has also provided a much-needed economic boost to our regions, which is key to our recovery roadmap for the NSW visitor economy.”
Live is back across the country, though the road to recovery will be a bumpy one as COVID infections continue to mess with best-laid plans.
Business fell off a proverbial cliff in 2020 and 2021.
Based on members data captured by APRA AMCOS, live music activity in the month of December 2021 — typically a peak time — was at just 6 per cent of the pre-COVID period, the society’s CEO Dean Ormston has said.
Great Southern Nights coincided with the separate, Victoria-wide Always Live series, guided by Mushroom Group’s Frontier Touring with support from Dan Andrews’ state government.