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Living in the Music City: “If you’ve got a spare half a million”

  • Toff in Town 2f/252 Swanston Street Melbourne, VIC, 3004 Australia (map)

While governments at state and local levels seek to protect – or at least promote –live music and the night-time economy, the viability of the music industry is closely influenced by the cost and availability of housing. Through a combination of panel discussion and song performances, “Living in the Music City” will examine Melbourne’s music past and future in the context of housing pressures. The inner city share houses that sustained pub rock venues of the past are now the stuff of documentaries and memorials (most famously to the “Dogs in Space” Richmond house). Who can afford a home in the music city of Melbourne today? The panel will explore tensions between Melbourne’s housing market and its musical history and identity; who is excluded from the city (and historical narratives) and what this means for music; the role of housing in the lives of musicians; the role of regulation and policy (noise complaints, liquor licensing, zoning, housing development) in the viability of music activity; and conflicts between music venues and housing development. In an ode to Courtney Barnett’s song “Depreston” about moving further into Melbourne’s gentrifying suburbs, (“If you’ve got a spare half a million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding”), the panel will be integrated with musicians performing original and familiar songs about living – or trying to live – within the realities of a housing market.  


Doors open 5:45pm.



Shane Homan, Monash University 

Seamus O’Hanlon, Monash University 

Catherine Strong, RMIT  

Hannah Brooks, City of Melbourne

Listen to the podcast below

Living in the Music City: This Must be The Place’s best-of/re-runs on music and places




Sarah Taylor, RMIT and Taylor Project  

Pirritu (Brett Lee) 

Frank Jones 




Shane Homan Associate Professor Shane Homan is a cultural industries researcher at Monash University, Melbourne.  Shane completed the first Music Strategy for the City of Melbourne in 2010 with Dobe Newton. He is also leading an Australian Research Council team on the Interrogating Music Cities project, examining the history of Melbourne's popular music and urban/cultural development. His latest book is Popular Music Industries and the State: Policy Notes, with Martin Cloonan and Jennifer Cattermole (Routledge, 2016). 


Seamus O’Hanlon teaches contemporary and urban history at Monash University. He has written extensively about Melbourne's twentieth century history, especially its cultural history. His most recent book is City Life: the new urban Australia (NewSouth 2018).  

Catherine Strong is a Senior Lecturer in Music History at RMIT University. Her current research is on cultural memory and gender in Australian popular music. She is currently the Chair of the Australia-New Zealand branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, and is a member of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA). Her most recent book is the edited collection Death and the Rock Star (with Barbara Lebrun, Ashgate 2015). 


Hannah Brooks is the Music Business Advisor at the City of Melbourne. She manages the development and implementation of the City of Melbourne’s Music Plan, which supports the growth and promotion of the city’s diverse music industry. She works across Council to ensure delivery of the Music Plan’s key priorities, which includes a focus on regulation, urban growth and infrastructure that supports music. 


Sarah Taylor is a postdoctoral research fellow at RMIT University. Her PhD research examined the history of live music in Sydney and Melbourne, using a combination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and interviews with musicians. She has over ten years’ experience working with maps, databases, and software development. She has performed with music group the Taylor Project since 2006. 


Pirritu (Brett Lee)   - Facebook: @pirritumusic, Instagram: @pirritumusic, YouTube:

Frank Jones (Whirling Furphies and other bands; architect)