DJs as a substitute for live music: How Brisbane youth has lost the connection with community

The connection between live bands and Brisbane’s youth is beginning to wither away and has brought with it the fear that live music has lost its magic.

Nov 30, 2022, updated Nov 30, 2022

Local musician and composer Matthew Dunne, a member of the band “Cosmo”, relays his perspective of performing live in front of an audience.

“You and the crowd build off each other’s energy and it feels amazing. It feels great knowing that you have slightly improved the quality of someone’s day,” he said.

The connection between artist and audience is waning due to a difference in experience, DJs bringing with them turntables and speakers that blaze and blare beyond which any local band could.

Fiona Harvey, an accomplished musician, instrumental teacher and conductor from Centenary State High School, believes that live bands strengthen the connection between members of the community.

“Whilst listening to music on Spotify will also make people feel good, it does not compare to being at and listening to a live performance.”

“If live performance wasn’t so engaging, people would stay home.”

Professional musicians Mark Watkins and Matthew Hoey agree.

“Live music binds us together as a society. Look at any special event or occasion, it is always enhanced by the addition of live music. Be it the performance of the national anthem at a Wallabies test, the half time entertainment at the Superbowl or the pitch perfect choir at the funeral of the Queen,” Mark said.

“I think there is still a fair amount of live music around. But, there are so many other activities and distractions that are competing for young people’s mental time. I do think it helps connect people with community in general though, and I think that can be increased across all age levels.”

The way technology and social media connects the community has also become a barrier for live music, and has significantly affected the distribution of recordings and how they are used.

Matthew Hoey said that “People now tend to ‘use’ music like a disposable product”.

“With good music it’s important to really listen and engage if you want to experience it on a deeper level. And I believe that live performances encourage and enable this,” he said.

“If today, no live music happened, everybody would want to become a DJ and hardly any people would have the motivation or incentive to learn an instrument or play any music. It’s a lot less engaging and a lot of heart, effort and emotion would be lost with the substitution of live music with DJs.”.

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Whilst live music has multiple benefits on the audience, venue owners and musicians themselves, DJs still happen to be the more popular option. From a venue owner’s perspective, DJs are a cheaper alternative, with the average cost in Brisbane ranging between $450 and $800, with some of the most expensive charging up to $3000 per event. A live band could be triple the value, depending on how many members there are.

Jazz Music Institute CEO Nick Quigley said, “I think Brisbane youth need to be given as many opportunities as possible to experience live music, and especially live jazz music, as possible.”

“So for us, hosting as many live performances as we can for Brisbane youth definitely helps with their connection to live music and develops their hunger to see more live music.”

Freelance music journalist Andrew Stafford believes that electronic music and DJs have not entirely contributed to a ‘net negative’ on the Brisbane youth’s connection with community.

“It’s just a different stripe of music, of no greater or lesser value to anything made with the traditional guitar/bass/drums setup,” he said.

“I’d see its popularity as a dynamic response to changing social contexts. Jazz had its time at the forefront of musical popular consciousness, then faded to become a niche.”

“Perhaps that’s the case for rock & roll, too.”



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