Alex Lahey, Gordi create residency to revive live music

As dust settles over sticky bandrooms lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian musicians Alex Lahey and Gordi are attempting to return the country's live music scene to its thumping former glory.

The couple has launched Over Our Dead Body, a curated live music residency in Melbourne showcasing emerging artists grappling with the industry's decimation.

It's a chance for the artists to get on stage when gigs are otherwise dwindling, find their audience and forego the risk of running at a loss.

"We met about eight years ago playing a show together and with that meeting started a conversation about live music. It's still going," Lahey tells AAP.

"We've really noticed an enormous shift in the live music landscape, particularly coming out of the pandemic."

The cost of living crisis is seeing Australians prioritise which artists they want to see and many are choosing expensive international acts over local performers, Gordi says.

It also means artists are struggling to justify the cost of putting on a show - a factor driving Lahey and Gordi to ensure their initiative's sustainability, from choosing a ticket sales website with minimal booking fees, to manning merch stands themselves.

"We're providing a kind of guarantee out of our own pocket to make sure none of the artists are going in the red for the shows," Gordi, whose real name is Sophie Payten, says.

A file photo of Gordi
Gordi says many Australians are choosing expensive international acts over local artists.

"All those little things that seem quite small, they do add up."

Since pandemic restrictions came into effect in early 2020, Australia has lost more than 1300 live music stages, according to industry peak body APRA AMCOS.

Chief executive Dean Ormston says there was hope the industry would bounce back completely after COVID, but it isn't going to without intervention.

APRA AMCOS is lobbying Australian governments to consider creating dedicated live music precincts and implementing a rebatable tax offset for venues that host live music.

The body lauds the establishment of Music Australia as a step in the right direction for the industry. Payten sits on Music Australia's council.

"Live music is at a crisis point," Mr Ormston says.

"If you don't have a substantive number of venues presenting live music in an area, then it's very difficult for a lone venue to survive."

A file photo of Dean Ormston
APRA AMCOS chief Dean Ormston says the live music industry won't fully recover without intervention.

University of South Australia popular music scholar Sam Whiting says Over Our Dead Body is an exciting display of solidarity between artists in the face of an industry that focuses on "safe bets", and music streaming platforms that promote some artists over others.

He wants state, territory and local governments to directly target intervention towards smaller live music venues, which are continuously under threat from factors like rising rents and increasing gentrification in cities.

"Without small live music venues, we don't really have any spaces for emerging artists to cut their teeth and hone their craft," Dr Whiting says.

Over Our Dead Body kicks off with its first event series Decent Exposure (Vol. 1) at Shotkickers at Thornbury in Melbourne's northeast this December, with three artist-curated shows over three weeks.

Lahey urges Australian fans who want to support artists and the live music industry to just show up to gigs that pique their curiosity.

"We have a shared belief that not just Melbourne but Australia has one of - if not the - greatest live music scenes and some of the most talented artists in the world," she says.

"The challenge is just getting it heard."

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