There is a zillion music festivals or festivals including music in Australia, from events attracting tens of thousands to small town festivals for hundreds. Probably, one way or another, no musical genre is excluded.
There also are websites listing festivals but it is interesting how very incomplete they are. In fact, to construct and maintain a comprehensive list of music festivals would be a fairly major task and one that is beyond the MCA’s means, even though it would be a valuable resource for performers and audiences.
Festivals are in vogue and in favour in the music sector at the moment. They are seen as sources of much vitality, giving an unusual opportunity to musicians to bring committed performances and perhaps a bit of experimentation to large audiences. Probably this favourable view is bolstered by the difficulties in the record industry and the shift to live performance as the core musical experience and source of musicians’ incomes.
On the other hand, there is a residue of feeling that the festival is somehow supposed to stimulate musical life in a community year-round but fails to deliver. It moves in, does its thing, and moves out, leaving musical life untouched or perhaps even depleted for the rest of the year.
Major City Festivals
We refer here to the multi-arts festivals in the capital cities. Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth all have them and music is of course always an important element. Usually there are some big classical music events but also music from many other genres, depending upon the predilections of the current artistic director.
There are fringe festivals attached to most of these city festivals. Programming in the fringe can be more risk-taking since there is less at stake financially.
Some of the More Important Music Festivals
- Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville.
- Big Day Out, Big festival of popular music, moves around the country.
- Darwin International Guitar Festival.
- East Coast Blues and Roots Music Festival, in Byron Bay.
- Falls Festival, Victoria
- Floriade, Spring festival of flowers with strong music program.
- Muster, country music in Queensland town.
- Homebake, Rock music, Sydney.
- Intervarsity Choral Festival, National, moves city.
- National Folk Festival, Canberra.
- Port Fairy Folk Festival, folk and related genres, Victorian town.
- Queensland Music Festival is unusual in that it is state-wide, multi-genre with special productions mounted in some regional cities.
- Splendour in the Grass, Byron.
- Tamworth Country Music Festival, the headliner country music festival in a NSW town.
- Totally Huge New Music Festival, Perth. Contemporary classical music.
- Wangaratta Jazz Festival, One of the most important jazz festivals; takes place in a country town in Victoria.
- Womadelaide, Annual world music festival, affiliated with the Womad festivals in other countries.
- Woodford Festival, a phenomenon of folk music and other genres in a Queensland country town.
Websites Listing Music Festivals
There are many but none is comprehensive. Here is a few.
- Culture and Recreation Festival, Australian Government.
- Music Festivals Australia – a title with great promise but so far containing only four listings! Watch this space?
- Wikipedia List of Australian Music Festivals – one of the best, with 86 listed.
- Yahoo Directory lists 22 festivals, many of which are not on the Wikipedia list.
Festivals are eligible for funding from arts funding bodies generally. Festivals Australia is a special Commonwealth Government cultural grant program which provides assistance to regional and community Australian festivals for the presentation of quality cultural activities.
Richard Letts. Last updated 13 August 2008
Dr Richard Letts AM is the founder and Director of The Music Trust, founder and former Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia (now Music Australia) and Past President of the International Music Council. He has held senior positions in music and culture in Australia and the United States, advocated for music and music education, conducted research, written policy documents, edited four periodicals, published four books and hundreds of articles.