2019 In Review: The Year In Australia

Justin Ma
– Where Beer Does Flow & Men Chunder
Chugg Entertainment and Frontier Touring joined forced in 2019. Pictured are Michael Chugg, Susan Heymann and Frontier Touring Company’s Michael Gudinski.

Faced with Live Nation’s expansion in Australia and New Zealand, the two biggest independent operators went into counter-attack, as Michael Gudinski’s Frontier Touring and Michael Chugg’s Chugg Entertainment in April entered into a joint venture that saw all Chugg tours and events co-promoted with Frontier. 

Also that month, Frontier and AEG Presents combined their activities in Australia and expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. Gudinski, who set up Frontier in 1979 with a consortium that included Chugg, predicted the move would “raise the bar in the Australasian live market higher than ever before.”

At the beginning of the year, Sydney-based promoter, ticketing and data analytics firm TEG was an estimated A$1.3 billion ($889 million) company operating in seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Its 20 brands included the Ticketmaster ticketing agency, TEG Dainty, TEG Live and the content division TEG Experience.


In August, TEG acquired UK promoter and venue operator MJR and set up ticketing in Mumbai, India. In October came the announcement that U.S. private investor Silver Lake Partners signed a definitive agreement to acquire TEG. In early 2020, TEG is to launch in the UK. At an Australian Music Week keynote, CEO Geoff Jones revealed he’s eying the U.S. market for ticketing and content. 

“If you aspire to be a global player at any size if you don’t play in the U.S. market, you’re not playing,” he commented. “It’s not our highest priority. That’s the UK and Europe.”

Regionally, New South Wales (NSW) went into 2019 as the leading state in Australia’s A$1 billion ($683.9 million) and 10 million-strong ticket sales sector. Live Performance Australia put the state’s ticket revenue rise by 22.4% at A$753.7 million, ($515.4 million) and a rise of 19.4% in attendance. NSW also topped contemporary music festivals in both.

But by the year’s end LPA reported NSW slipped to third place, while Victoria and Queensland powered ahead for concerts and festivals.

Sydney has struggled since 2014 with lockout laws, which saw up to 50% of venues closing. In March, in a response to six fatal overdoses, the state government introduced new legislation that penalized “high risk” festivals, drastically increased their operational costs with pay-for-use police and medical personnel, and annual applications for licenses.

The industry launched a campaign, outraged it had not been consulted. True to its warnings, festivals closed or left the state. 

Two parliamentary inquiries criticized the government, which partially rolled back lockouts, watered down the legislation and agreed to a roundtable with the industry.

The greater interest in First Nation artists was made obvious with the National Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin returning to television after a break, and attendance and nomination applications doubling from the previous year. 

The launch in November 2018 of the national indigenous charts brought more attention from mainstream radio programmers. R&B singer Jessica Mauboy’s HILDA topped the official ARIA album chart, high profile Briggs’ Bad Apple label expanded with a distribution channel for emerging acts, and the October 10 Australian Women In Music Awards at the Brisbane Powerhouse saw wins for Christine Anu (diversity in music, artistic excellence), Mojo Juju (songwriter) and Alice Skye (emerging artist).

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Music Awards’ artisan awards introduced artist managers alongside wins for record producer, engineer, cover artwork, music video and music teacher. At the Nov. 4 event the category, presented by the Music Managers Forum, was won by Lorraine Barry for her work over 15 years with hip hop-jazz outfit Avantdale Bowling Club, indie pop trio nomad and singer songwriter Dave Dobbyn. 

Other finalists included Niel de Jong & Oliver Kraemer (thrash metal trio Alien Weaponry) and Paul McKessar’s CRS Music Management.