There’s not so much music on TV these days though.
The BBC does so much more for music on television. Australia hasn’t got any Graham Nortons: we get all these American and English shows that feature music. If you look at the Top 40 at the moment, there’s three Australian singles. It’s very frustrating, because there’s been no outlet for acts to play new songs – not their old hits – whether they’re young, medium-sized acts, or older acts. So two-thirds of The Sound is going to bebartists of all ages performing their new tracks.
Has this show been a long time coming?
The show took a long time – it’s a Mushroom Vision production, it fits in with the ABC charter. Mushroom Creative housed the people who shot much of the Home Front show. There’ll be a triple vinyl album coming in three weeks. I realised that the first album I put out when I was 20 was a triple album of Sunbury, and there’s never been an Australian triple album since.
How do you see the state of the music industry in 2020?
When I grew up an album cost five times what a concert ticket did. It’s completely changed now. Leagueology took over from music. Napster was virtually what Spotify is now. Neil Young said something to me once, I’ll never forget it: “Michael, just because it’s new technology doesn’t mean it’s better.” The fact that vinyl has now overtaken CD sales and most people have got vinyl players, and if you get good-quality vinyl, particularly for rock music, it sounds way better than it does equalised in other formats.
The music industry – like many other industries – is completely under siege. Artists are busting to work – there’s been a lot of streaming, but it’s very hard for an artist to hold an hour’s streaming on their own. COVID is a challenge – in the first episode of The Sound you’ll see Eskimo Joe leader Joel Quartermaine in Melbourne playing live and the band in an empty Perth concert hall. How they did it, so technically perfect, is blowing my mind.
Tell me about the format of The Sound.
There’s three or four segments: we’ve got From The Vault – the first show has an amazing performance by Midnight Oil, from 1986. Then there’s the Tribute segment, which is a very special part of it – artists that have done incredible things and have passed away, with artists doing the tributes that are younger, and also people that were close. Then there’s a segment called Introducing, which will be a new artist. It’s very important to us that there be a lot of Indigenous and a lot of female presence. The rest of the show will be new songs: it won’t be people doing covers.
The show is airing in the old Countdown timeslot. Do you hope The Sound can fill that cultural space that Countdown did?
It’s a completely different era, because there’s so much music available everywhere. The major labels have cheapened the value of music – the live experience is the big thing. So these things will be live – it’s so far away from a film clip show. We’re not film clips, we’re shooting original stuff live. Music has become big business, it’s very competitive, but there’s so many artists who don’t chase No.1s, so many artists who love just playing for the sake of it. Do I hope this show will help influence radio and help Australian artists break into the charts? Yes I do. That’s what Countdown did. I put my heart and soul into this show, and I’m very pleased that we’ve got the opportunity to do it.
The Sound is on ABC, Sunday, 5.30pm and iView.