STEM THE CREATIVE BRAIN DRAIN
Tasmanian musician Allan McConnell’s wish list for his home state is pretty simple: more artists and more collaborations between them.
To make that happen, McConnell says we need to tackle one of the great perennial issues faced by Tasmania: the exodus of talented young people looking for better opportunities interstate and overseas. McConnell dreams of a future when more people in the arts will be able to make a living from their work in Tasmania.
“People often have to move to a bigger city because there just isn’t the volume of serious performing and studio work here,” McConnell says.
“It would be nice if that wasn’t a move that people had to make, and it’s not exclusive to the arts, either.
“If you want to get ahead in the white-collar sector, a move to Sydney or Melbourne is very much on the cards. It’s not because there’s something in the water that’s different in those cities, it’s just that a bigger population means more opportunities.”
McConnell, 22, has a Bachelor of Music degree from UTAS and is one half of electronic/hip-hop act Close Counters, along with Finn Rees. Since forming in 2013, they were the Mercury’s Foster Band in 2015, playing at the Falls Festival at Marion Bay that year, and have been featured by Triple J Unearthed. Their music has aired around the world and they tour extensively.
But these two young Hobart men have had to do what many of their compatriots in the arts must do: leave the state they call home. And McConnell feels no small amount of regret about that.
Speaking to TasWeekend at his childhood home in Taroona, he confesses he is primarily based in Melbourne these days, but returns home as often as possible.
“I’m a little bit nomadic. In 2016 I was in Europe for 10 months and in March I went to the US to do some music work.
“Finn and I are getting plenty of work for Close Counters, but I’m also doing a lot of gigging for other musicians and groups as well and some studio work to stay afloat – 2017 was the first year I’ve ever made my living solely as a musician. It’s relentless. I had to leave home and sacrifice a lot of social life, but I knew that going in.”
There may be more opportunities for musicians and other artists interstate, but McConnell says Tasmania has something that cannot be found interstate: its powerful sense of community. Tasmania’s music scene is famously tight-knit, which results in a high level of collaboration and cross-pollination.
“Everyone knows each other and works together, no matter the genre of music they fall into. You might play primarily in a folk group but play drums for a metal band from time to time as well.
“In bigger cities like Melbourne or London, because of the larger population, it is impossible to have a scene like that. It gets divided into genres and they rarely cross.”
McConnell says it is vital to preserve this interconnectedness while generating more work and more opportunities to keep the artists at home.
“I’m not saying I know what the solution is — I have no idea. But I do know that interstate and international interest in Tasmania as a cultural destination is growing.”