Features

Oct 31, 2013

"Musicians Have Something Really Important To Contribute Right Now"


Our awards ceremony this year was opened by a beautiful and passionate speech by Harry James Angus (solo artist, member of The Cat Empire). It held the audience spellbound.

Here it is in full.

When I was in year 9 or so, the careers councillors came to my school. We all went in to see them one by one and we talked to them about what we were good at, what we were interested in. I had to draw a whole bunch of circles on a piece of paper in 60 seconds and I never found out why.

The next day we got our forms back and printed out on them was a list of all of the professions that they thought might be a good fit for us in later life. And I remember a lot of the kids had like 10-15 options. I only had 2 that I could recall and they were: ‘music teacher’, ‘music therapist’.

Our careers councillors told us not to, our schools told us not to, our parents told us not to, our bank managers told us not to. But here we are tonight, ladies and gentlemen we are all part of the music industry. Which is of course a terrible term that no one really likes that much.

You open up a business section of the newspaper and there will be like a pie chart or a bar graph showing how CD sales have declined over the last decade or something of that nature and it always makes me feel sad. Not because of declining album sales, although of course that’s a shame. But it's more of that my beautiful world of music: all of the people that I’ve seen and the places that I’ve been and the magical experiences that I’ve had and the wonderful work that my friends and peers have done.  To quote the former minister for education (was it? I can never keep track) “The power and the passion” that all of that should have anything to do with a bar graph in the business section of the paper.

Especially a bar graph that is trending downwards on it’s horizontal axis.

We are practitioners of an ancient craft. Priests, prostitutes, politicians, musicians. They’re really the 4 oldest professions out there – I know which one I would rather be. You know of thousands upon thousands of years, music has been about birth and death, weddings, feasts, sacrifices, initiations, rain dances, war cries, sunrise, sunset, changing of the seasons, waxing and waning of the moon, fairy tales, lullabies, cultural identity. And strange as it feels to say, that’s the business that we’re in today.

And that bar graph in the paper that tells one story about albums but it doesn’t tell another and obviously a much more important story and that’s the story of that one person or those million people who bought your record. Or maybe they didn’t even buy it maybe they just came by it somehow and they took it home and they made your music apart of their lives and a part of their memories. They danced to the song that you wrote at their wedding a song they fell in love to. They listened to music that you made when they were getting pumped up for a job interview, stuck in traffic, washing the dishes, getting a house party started. At 3 o’clock in the morning when they were feeling sad and completely alone and they reached for you.  That’s the business that we are in.

We actually have something really important to contribute right now in this increasingly fractured society. There’s very little else besides music that can bring together few people or a whole lot of people. People who normally would never willingly set foot in a church, unless they were backpacking around Europe. And bring them together and help them to close their eyes. Have a moment of thoughtfulness, sadness, reflection, beauty. Or throw their hands in the air in a kind of ecstatic frenzy. Get a hundred people and chuck them in a crowded train carriage and you can watch them desperately avoid each others eyes as they finish the long torturous journey home. But get those same hundred people, put them in a little bar, in a little pub somewhere. Give them a few beers and put anyone of you guys here tonight on that stage in the corner. And those people would be sweating all over each other, standing on each others toes, elbowing each other in the ribs. Having a great night.

Now I’ve seen enough movies to know that one day soon we’re gonna all be living in some kind of post-apocalyptic scenario. And when that day comes, all the real estate agents and the stock brokers and the investment bankers and the secretaries and the life coaches and the lawyers and the etc’s etc’s. They’re all going to be scrabbling around in the forest looking for mushrooms. And us, we’re going to be travelling from town to town, singing for our supper, helping people to forget their problems. Just for a while. Completely independent. Just as we are here tonight. I hope that you all need wheelbarrows to carry home all the awards you’re all going to win tonight. Have a great evening.