Case Study: Tracking Changes in Melbourne and Sydney’s Live Music Scene

Outline of the Research

Dr Sarah Taylor (pictured below) recently completed her PhD within the school of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences at RMIT University. Her research examined live music in Sydney and Melbourne between the early 1980s and mid 2000s, combining her love of data, music and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to examine the growth and decline of the live music scene in those cities.

Dr Sarah Taylor (Photo: ABC News)

Dr Taylor’s PhD ultimately tells the story of restructuring through the use of historical maps and statistics, dates, locations, and qualitative interviews with musicians and other first-hand accounts. The goal of the thesis was to help understand a period of substantial change for live music in Australian cities, and to demonstrate the utility of spatial analysis in social research.

A big part of the research comprised building a custom historical geodatabase of live music locations (the venues, band names, and gig dates), using samples of old gig listing publications. Sarah also combined the outputs of the quantitative data analytics with interviews with music scene participants, helping to better understand patterns of live music change and the factors contributing to this.

How AURIN was used

A large component of the analytics involved geocoding music venues. Many live music venues are licensed premises; as a result, the AURIN Victorian Liquor Licensing data (Dataset: Licensed Alcohol Outlets for Victoria) provided an an invaluable first step when for new geocode locations for unmatched venues. In addition, the easy access to electronic gambling machine (“pokies”) data (Dataset: Gaming Venues 2013 for Victoria) helped to produce some compelling maps which Dr Taylor presented at seminars; these showed that pokies have dispersed across Melbourne, but live music has tended to get closer together over time. Dr Taylor highlighted the accessibility, reliability and trustworthiness of AURIN’s datasets as one of the key drivers behind her use of it:

The best part about AURIN was knowing that trustworthy official data was readily accessible, with no tiring and off-putting email trails required. It switched the focus to getting on with research, rather than second-guessing the available data or my ability to obtain it. I really noticed the difference for equivalent NSW data that was not available on AURIN: I did eventually obtain the data but there were many forms and emails and to-ing and fro-ing, it was not conducive to research

Impact of the research

Dr Taylor’s research uncovered a richer description of change over time for live music: the GIS approach made it possible to understand that what participants mean by “decline” does not necessarily mean fewer gigs, or even fewer venues. In Melbourne, “decline means It can mean more gigs in aggregation, but fewer gigs per band, in spatially constrained locations, with a large dependency on particular venues. By contrast, Sydney’s live music scene was characterised by gigs further apart and with less concentration</p?

Dr Taylor’s novel research, supported by AURIN’s authoritative datasets, has received wide attention. Dr Taylor has shared her findings at a public lecture at the State Library of NSW, on radio (RRR, PBS, and 2ser and 774), and in a popular ABC article . In June 2017 Dr Taylor will be presenting at the Place of Music Conference at the University of Loughborough in the UK, to a group of researchers that she admires and has cited extensively. One highlight of Dr Taylor’s research was attending a lecture from a visiting academic, and seeing her own work getting its own slide:

I know this may be routine for more senior academics, but it was a novelty to me. I have been really pleased at the interest in my project from musicians: the maps and the data connect in a non-abstract way that is very important to me. It has been a very cross-disciplinary project, and has (successfully, I believe) demonstrated the utility of GIS in social research