Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Candle Records RIP

Sorry to hear that the Candle label is closing for business early next year. Australia's always been a fertile ground for great music - there's a very supportive network among bands, and live music is in the blood of all Australians - but there have rarely been decent labels that have managed an international profile.

Summershine was the last Australian label to bring great local bands to a wider audience. It released British and US bands, too, the latter in what seemed to be a timeshare arrangement with the fine Slumberland label (what a great period that was; the early 90s were particularly fecund for US labels, as if - well, no, in fact - they'd actually picked up the baton of the C86 movement and ran with it for a few years).

I'll miss Candle, I'll miss its tours, the excuses to go to Australia (ok, my bank manager has reason enough not to let me even get a one-day travelcard these days...), struggling bands like Mid-State Orange, with a couple of low-key releases under their belt, getting a leg-up by Candle putting out their album a few months ago - and what a fine album that was, too.

There's no other Australian indie about to make an impact as far as I'm aware; if anyone knows of, say, the next equivalent to Easter Records hiding out there, do let me know.

An old (1991) interview (excerpt below) with Chris Dunn of the Waterfront label, gives some good reasons why the larger-scale indie operations are so few and far between in Australia; we can only speculate on why there might not be another one.

"Well in Australia it's even more", says Chris, "Because for an American band, like on the east coast, you can fly to London for like 200 bucks, and then on to Europe. Australians are like a thousand or 1500 dollars before they even get out of the country. So that's an incredible hurdle. Here it's the first thing they think about is "when am I going to go overseas?" That's the band's first thought. Because Australia has a population of only 17 million people, and so many people from overseas forget that. Especially when you're trying to license a record. In America there's 250 million people and Australia has 17 million people. It's like selling records in Switzerland, or Norway might be the closest country to our size. But because it's such a vast land mass and it's so far away a lot of people have the idea that Europe is Europe and the US is the US and Australia is another market altogether. But it's such a small market. And so it's very difficult to make a living out of music here. You can do it in the States and Europe, but if you're just going to do it in Australia it's just impossible. The guys from Died Pretty can make a living because they've got American and British things, but you wouldn't call them a big band by any means. But Brett and Ron can live off their songwriting royalties. But it is a very hard thing to do to go over that mountain.
Chris Dunn, Waterfront Records, 1991

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