Music Victoria is offering free professional training for promoters, venue managers and band bookers
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Music Victoria is offering free professional training for promoters, venue managers and band bookers

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From AC/DC Lane to the Victorian Opera, the Melbourne music scene is full of big names and outstanding personalities. But it’s easy to forget that without well-trained promoters and other behind-the-scenes professionals, Melbourne’s musicians wouldn’t be able to connect with their audience. 

Music Victoria is putting on a free program to help promoters, venue managers and band bookers to network and fill gaps in their skills. Ten independent and ten venue-affiliated applicants will be selected for the government-sponsored program, running from June-November this year. 

Veteran Melbourne muso Sarah Deborre is the architect of the Live Music Professionals program, which she has managed since its first run in 2017.

“A lot of people who are passionate about music don’t necessarily have the skills to run a live music business,” Deborre explains. “This is where we can come in and help by bridging some of those gaps and connecting those people with coaches who can help them better run their businesses.”

Live Music Professionals will combine small-group workshops and panels with one-on-one coaching. It’ll also see Music Victoria help by covering the costs of transport, food and lodging for participants while attending workshops or conventions as part of the program.

“It’s easy to look at the Melbourne music scene and say that everything’s going well, but venues still end up failing or having tough times in Melbourne,” Deborre says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in Warrnambool or Fitzroy, there are still people who are wondering if they’re doing things right. We want to see live music businesses flourish throughout Victoria.”

Coaches for the 2017 program included Aidan McLaren, co-director of The Hills Are Alive and NYE On the Hill, and Alex Zaccaria, co-director of creative and marketing agency, Bolster.

This year’s program will help see participants strengthen their social media skills, often identified as a problem area. Limited computer skills shouldn’t be considered as a barrier to a successful application, says Deborre. However, the full roster of coaches and workshop instructors won’t be finalised until Music Victoria can meet with the successful applicants and identify their skill gaps.

“We tailor to the needs of the participants,” Deborre says. “There’s no point in me getting a coach from an accounting firm if no one wants to up-skill in accounting.”

Deborre grew up in small-town New South Wales, and recalls going to gigs by big-name acts on their way from Melbourne to Sydney. Since then, the regional music scene has lost a lot of its vigour, she says. Live Music Professionals aims to revitalise regional Victoria by including participants from outside of the Melbourne metropolitan area, where networking is more challenging. In fact, most of the applications Deborre has received so far are from regional communities.

Applicants must already be working in the live music field, but, aside from that, requirements are flexible – it doesn’t matter whether you’re booking queer-core punk acts or string quintets.

“As long as you’re active and keen to participate, your application will definitely get a good look,” Deborre says. “Enthusiasm is the number one thing I’m looking for, and a willingness to commit.”

Alumni of the 2017 program include bookers, managers and promoters from venues like the Penny Black and the Some Velvet Morning and events such as the Hopkins Creek Festival, Oktoberfest Oz and Paradise Music Festival.

Will Evans, booker for iconic Fitzroy club The Night Cat, says the program gave him a valuable leg up.

“It was a really unique and helpful experience,” Evans says. “If you’re involved in running an event and you’re really passionate about it, but you’re not sure you’re going about it the right way, I would recommend applying.”

The Live Music Professionals program offers band bookers an all-too-rare opportunity to gather and talk shop. Professionals around the live music scene are often too busy at their jobs to take the time to really flesh out their skills, Evans explains.

“I’m now a lot more confident in what I do,” he says. “I used to be pretty unorganised with my procedures. I worked through a lot of that stuff with my mentors to help with the day-to-day processes of venue booking.”