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Regional Arts Development Central West NSW

The exit interview: Patrick Coomey

121022 Molong-1-3

After two fantastic years working on music development including the While the World Waits album and the Live & Kicking program, Patrick will be moving on (and out of the region). 🙁

We quizzed Patrick on his highlights, his take on the shape of the local music scene, and Arts OutWest and MusicNSW’s ongoing support for the music industry.

What were you brought in to do in the music industry support role at Arts OutWest?

To scope out the landscape of the local music industry and work on initiatives to assist it with recovering from the impacts of Covid lockdowns restrictions etc.

Give us a few of the highlights from the job:

The While the World Waits recording and album release featuring 15 Central West artists providing a musical response about their Covid 2020 experience. Recorded here in the Central West giving some artist their first taste of recording and releasing music as well as allowing established artists to reconnect with new music for their fans.

Pairing with that is this album giving rise to a visual artist response to this music coming out of the 2021 lockdown experience that has led to the While the World Waits travelling exhibition with the openings bring art and music performance together in new spaces such as galleries.

The Live & Kicking project: a targeted curated program for returning original live music to venues who had been staging it regularly prior to Covid. It also provided the opportunity to activate venues/stages around the Central West to host original music performances. Providing artists opportunities to play their own music in towns and venues they hadn’t done previously, helping them to grow their audience. It also created a circuit of venues for other artists to pursue original music performance opportunities going forward.

Creating Partnerships with organisations such as APRA AMCOS and their Songmakers program to deliver opportunities for young people to work with visiting industry professionals and local mentors to hone their song writing/recording skills. 34 young people have been through this in workshops in Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange and Parkes creating some amazing songs and recordings.

What are you most proud of from your time at AOW?

Anytime we got to shine a light on the original music being created within our industry out here and being played in the Central West. Whether that was one of our media spots on local radio, TV news reports and the fabulous articles from print media , curating the Central West Sounds playlist [on Spotify] and of course at Live & Kicking Performances.

What’s been the biggest challenges of this huge music program we set ourselves of the last two years?

The biggest challenges have been the ongoing issues of Covid lockdowns, restriction and a general hesitancy for audiences to return to live music performances. The flow on of this has required a flexible approach to adjusting the deliverables of the program to deal with the changing landscape of live music performance across the Central West. This has also involved dealing with natural disasters with flooding in 2021 and 2022 in a number of areas in the region.

What do you wish you’d have more time or resources for?

Whilst in a 12-month period with Live & Kicking we were able to give opportunities to 75 Artists (solo/duos & bands) to perform to over 4000 people across the Central West, it would have been great to do more. However I’m grateful that we were able to do something to make a start on rebuilding original live music performances and growing the capacity of that across 13 towns and 21 venues.

Complete this sentence: ‘Databases and spreadsheets are great because…’

Without them we wouldn’t be able to make fact-based decisions. This is essential when advocating for our local industry to government bodies, state and national Industry bodies and music professionals to raise awareness of what is happening out here and what needs to be done.

[We were kind of joking asking Patrick this, because of his love of a spreadsheet, but yeah, it is actually true! Facts and stats are essential for what we do].

How does the local music scene look now compared to two years ago?

In 2023 there are now more venues around the Central West hosting regular live music than there were in January 2020. The music scene now looks healthier now than it did back in 2020. Back then people were uncertain if they would be able to record and ever perform again. Many venues found it to be unfeasible to provide live music after being shut down and having to deal with restricted numbers of patrons and controlling various other related restrictions, e.g. social distancing, no dancing no singing etc.

You were also the MusicNSW regional music officer for their 12 month program in 2021/22. How did that program feed into the Arts OutWest work? What are MusicNSW doing now regionally?

There was great synergy between the two roles as the MusicNSW programme involved a series of deliverables including Live Music Snapshots, networking and professional development sessions and the development of the Regional Touring Network Tool. [Take a look, it’s great!]

Where gaps were identified within the industry for some of these initiatives and or intelligence gathered at networking or professional development sessions informed the planning and deliverables for some of the Arts OutWest initiatives. Programs such as Live & Kicking have made artists, venues and industry professionals more visible. This has now placed the music industry in the Central West into a very good position to leverage off the opportunities arising out of the funding provided by CreateNSW to MusicNSW.

MusicNSW will be delivering development opportunities and work to expand touring circuits across regional NSW. This will involve working with musicians, venues and live music professionals to grow regional touring capacity and opportunities including grant support, and touring resources, culminating each year with five tours across regional NSW.

What are the challenges ahead for the music industry in the region?

Maintaining the momentum for original music performances in venues who present live music where it is the focus of what is happening there.

What is being created out here deserves to be regularly presented on stages. We need to hear music that reflects our times and the different perspectives from life in regional towns. We need people to support artists and venues that put on these shows going forward.

We also need people to support the industry and embrace the music that’s produced here by buying it where possible from the artists directly versus just streaming it. It’s not always about buying a hard copy or having a CD player as many artists have their music for sale digitally on platforms such as Bandcamp where the artist gets the majority of the money.

Any sage advice for the musicians and music venues of the region?

The best way to get people to your gigs is by posting information about it well in advance and regularly in the lead up to it. Not the day of the Gig. I’ve seen both sides of this equation and those that do the later miss out on audiences. Any good music fan has Friday on their Mind on Monday Morning.

A great tip is to add your event to the “What’s On” page on the Arts OutWest website. Thousands of people interact with this calendar and there are many media organisations which utilise this info as well. Give it a go here’s a link for you to check it out

What have you and the Arts OutWest team put into place for music support here on in?

Arts OutWest like all other RADOs will continue to work with MusicNSW on their ongoing program of work across the next four years to co-ordinate and share information so that during every facet there are opportunities for creatives to participate. This could be professional development, Industry networking, regional touring opportunities etc. which may eventuate during the lifecycle of the program. AOW staff will also be providing more information on our website in relation to venues across the Central West as an extension of work done in relation to Cultural Maps. They are also interested in receiving news about your new release or any touring/ recording you’re doing or what your music business has to offer here in the Central West to include as possible content for our Artspeak publication. [Email us your media releases or news: artsoutwest@csu.edu.au]

What are you doing next, and more importantly, where will the Arts OutWest staff get their supply of daggy records (or hard to find favourite CDs) from now?

I’ll be working on a number of projects across 2023 which are focused outside of the Central West.

Arts OutWest staff will still receive little care packages to satisfy their cravings for records of all persuasions and hard to find CDs 🙂 [Phew]

Wishing everyone across the industry positive vibrations and good grooves in their musical endeavours.

📷 MAIN IMAGE: Patrick (right, spruiking the WTWW CD) with musician Chloe Swannell at the Wildflower Cafe Molong in December. Photo: Zenio Lapka. OTHER IMAGES: At the Schools Out Mortimers Winery event in December; at the Smith & Jones gig at Gang Gang Gallery Lithgow; with Genni Kane at The Agrestic Grocer Orange. Photos Zenio Lapka.