Ezy Reading Looks Back:
Rocking America's Summer (June 2005)
Evan Kanarakis


This article was originally published in the May 2015 edition of The Cud:


It's been interesting these past few weeks to check out what gets high rotation on American alternative rock stations.

Most is what we've been listening to in Australia -bands like Interpol and the Killers are very flavour of the moment- and recent albums from the likes of Coldplay, Green Day and (especially given their current U.S tour with Jet in support) Oasis, are getting a real workout.

As I'm here in Boston, there's also a decent representation of local acts being played, though I'm not yet up to scratch on too many of the standout names among the bunch.

What isn't comparable in terms of rotation is Australia's love for acts like Audioslave and Queens of the Stone Age (one local musician commented that most people only knew them for 'No One Knows' and that was because of Grohl's drumming), who have hardly registered a whimper on local stations. Indeed it has been striking to recognise how many varied artists from rock (like QOTSA) to folk-pop (like Ben Harper), to hip-hop (like Jurassic 5 and Spearhead), who are clearly popular in Australia and tour regularly are not as dominating in the United States.

Part of this is surely due to a flooded music market in America and a far larger consumer base. All of the aforementioned artists are still likely registering massive compared-to-Australia record sales, however there are several million more consumers in America than in Australia, so it makes sense that there simply isn't the capacity to welcome every band with friendly album revenues down under. Add some luck into the mix as well as some distinctive Aussie music tastes and QOTSA sells albums where bands like Stained and Puddle of Mudd (who are huge here) don't do as well in Sydney and Melbourne's record stores.

As it's summer in America at the moment, it's also concert tour time, and it's amazing how many old school acts are not only still alive, but still competing successfully with Top 40 acts for ticket sales. Wilco, certainly something of a headline act in Sydney, were reduced to a quarter page advert in a Boston paper last week while the likes of Pat Benatar, Jimmy Buffet and Judas Priest dominated the spreadsheets. It simply isn't profitable for such acts to hit Australia's shores unless as part of a festival or a massive, combo lineup (as we had in Australia last year with the 'Stars of the '80's' tour) so perhaps in the face of this competition there's another reason why some acts find a place in the Australian market, but are struggling to be noticed in America.

I caught a few bands in Boston last week and the evening was also a strong reminder of how little compartively imortance the live performance plays in the path of securing success for American versus Australian bands.

Though it has been changing in Australia of late, the pub rock gig is still very much, as it has been for years, a way for bands to cut their teeth before taking a shot at the big time. Most have played several dozen gigs before even thiking about recording and trying to attract the attention of A&R folk.

In America, as one young band shared with me, it's far more all about the recording. The live performance still has its place -and at the top end, concert revenues certainly are big business- but marketing and mass production of CD sales maketh a band far more than a gradual rise in reputation and growing word of mouth brought about by blazing live gigs, a la INXS, Midnight Oil and You Am I. Again, it's likely a function of the size of the market over here, and I'm sure a degree of regional success in parts of America are comparable to record sales and notoriety of some well known Australian bands like Magic Dirt and Dallas Crane. It's something of a shame though, I think, because a live show will always surely show the real essence -and spontanous magic- of a great band.

Regardless, one thing that a casual glance through the American music papers does offer is notice of just how many big name acts we rarely (if at all) get to see in Oz. I'll be reaching deep into my pockets over the coming months to take advantage of some of these opportunities.


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