Melbourne musician Lawrence Greenwood, better known as Whitley, has called upon Australian music fans to pour greater support into the local scene to help battling Aussie musicians and venues, rather than bolster the music festival industry.
In a lengthy post published on the musician’s Facebook over the weekend, Whitley detailed aspects of his own career while shouting out to “much better musicians” who are struggling to make a proper career for themselves.
He said the struggles of being a musician in Australia were largely going unnoticed, often due to an oversimplified narrative presented by the industry, and that Australian festival culture was contributing to the problem.
Local musicians, he said, “won’t ever get a multi-million dollar biopic to spoon feed everyone a dumbed down version of their life story”.
“All they will get is the satisfaction of knowing you supported them and that the art they make, and truly gave someone a feeling of connection in what can be a cold and indifferent universe.”
Music festivals, he said, do no provide the same experience and can serve to distance fans from musicians.
“I’m not so sure that the interaction we experience at the major festivals are there to connect you to these artists.
“I can’t help but feel like they’re keeping you there so you can just buy some expensive food, overpriced water for kids on pingers and a bucket load of piss so you can forget your problems for a short time. At a cost. A huge cost.”
He continued: “These people who run this stuff, are condescending to you and belittle your emotional capacity and your ability to discover new things.”
In reply to a US fan who challenged Whitley’s claims, the musician said he was specifically referring to his home country.
“In Australia currently, a small group of people own the vast majority of the major festivals. For example, the one guy that owns Splendour In The Grass, owns Falls Festival and so on.
“Generally speaking, the larger festivals have become bigger and frequented more often while venues in the local music scene have been forced to close due to lack of profits.”
He continued: “The Australian market is oversimplified, and branded in a kind of overt way.”
At a time when Soundwave and Future Music Festival are both rolling through Australia, he urged people to “go take all that money that you spend on music festivals each year and put it towards the local music scene that you have in your town/city”.
“Over a year, you will be able to use that money to go and see some real local music…and I promise you I’ll be proven right after 12 months that there are crystalline gems all around you.”
Whitley also raised the point of larger personal issues that musicians face within the music industry. “The majority of musicians I’ve worked with are battling through immense personal hurdles, addictions, abusive childhoods and mental illnesses,” he wrote.
The sentiments echo the findings of a study released Tuesday which found Australian entertainment industry workers experience higher rates of mental illness and suicide, and which also highlighted a working environment that is “unhealthy, often divisive, competitive and lacking social support.”
As it turns out, this point is much closer to home than first thought for Whitley, who followed up his initial post with a confession that he has been battling bipolar disorder. “I’ve had two very narrow escapes with suicide. I’m only alive by pure chance,” he wrote.
Whitley’s frustrations with the Australian music industry have been well-documented, famously railing against triple j‘s “bias” a few years ago.
In 2010, after releasing his breakthrough album Go Forth, Find Mammoth, he disappeared from the music scene, only to return three years later with Even The Stars Are A Mess.
There’s some good news for fans amongst all this too. Whitley hasn’t released any new music since 2013 but now writes, “I am even hoping to start a new album someday, that, I guarantee you, will be a special one.” He’s currently planning a crowdfunding campaign and says he will record in Richmond, Melbourne.
Watch: Whitley – My Heart Is Not A Machine (Live At Music Feeds Studio)