Changing the (Country Music) World

Mick Lockhart and Jay Peters are setting out to give independent Australian country music artists the airtime they deserve. IMAGE: Sarah Joy Photography

The music industry is a tough one to break into. When Ed Sheeran and Drake can duopolise the entire top 100, the prospect of being the next big thing can seem almost impossible.

Especially if you’re an independent Australian artist.

Even more especially if you’re an independent Australian country artist.

With most music charts now dictated by music streams rather than sales; and those streams serviced by an algorithm that only widens the gaps between the big guys rising to the top and the little guys sinking deeper and deeper into obscurity, discovering new music – particularly in the heavily-stigmatised country genre – is tough.

Townsville’s Mick Lockhart and Jay Peters are out to change that with a world-fist linear streaming app dedicated to playing 100 per cent Australian country music videos.

The Country Music World (CMW) app – a spin-off from Mick and Jay’s highly successful Monday Night Live Facebook stream – is part of the duo’s plan to reinvigorate the Australian country music scene by giving fans an opportunity to discover new artists, while empowering more young artists to generate a living from their talents.

“We’re presenting a video channel here for primarily our newer independent artists, as well as our top recognised label artists,” said Mick.

“We felt that there needed to be a designated platform that promoted our Australians 100 per cent with no agenda. It’s a talent-based industry and we’re finding a lot of artists aren’t surviving in the industry because the general listeners don’t even know they exist because, for whatever reason, there aren’t enough commercial outlets for them to be seen or heard.

“The whole concept here is we’ll generate a wider viewing audience. When we generate a wider viewing audience, the touring sector will go up, the merchandise sales will go up, the gig fees will go up because now the artists are drawing more people out of their homes into the venues,” Mick said.

The CMW app will break-away from the Video-on-Demand (VOD) model used by most existing music video distributors such as YouTube, Vevo and MTV, and instead opt for a pre-programmed linear-streaming model operating 24/7. While the approach may seem archaic, it’s one that Mick and Jay believe will provide a key point of difference, and the most value for Australian country artists.

“Running a linear option gives the subscriber a chance – without any thought process – to discover new music,” said Mick.

“So when you’re in a VOD market, you would have to go in knowing who you’re interested in seeing and then hoping that the related content attached to those things would line-up with your interest. With us, we’ll give you the opportunity to put the app on and let us do that selection process for you.”

“One of the big reasons behind what we’re doing was to promote new country music,” Jay added. “We didn’t want people just logging in and listening to their old favourites, we want them discovering the new talent that’s out there and we want to promote them.”

Mick and Jay hope to clear another hurdle facing Australia’s country music industry, too – whether ‘new wave’ sub-genres should have a place beside the traditionalists.

“That’s one of the big things we aim to break down,” said Jay. “We don’t care if you’re alt-country, traditional county, modern country, bush ballads, pop country…. you are a country artist. We need to stop the divide within the industry. [Artists, radio presenters and fans] need to come together and support each other as much as we’re supporting them.”

As for taking on the big guys such as Spotify and CMC (Country Music Channel), Mick and Jay are convinced that there’s enough room for everyone to play nicely.

“They’ve got their space,” said Mick. “Our focus here doesn’t really come into play for them. We’re here for the Aussies and the Aussies only, and our focus here is supporting the people that we love and supporting our own country music. There’ll always room here for a platform like CMC, playing predominantly international stuff over Australian content, but our focus is to do something wholly for Australian artists.”

“I guess part of our focus too is that by entering the Australian market, it’ll make some of these bigger guys lift their game and actually have a look at what the market really wants, as opposed to them dictating to the market,” adds Jay.

“Not only can we educate the future subscribers that might not know all this great music’s sitting there, we might also be able to educate the establishment that this stuff sits there as well. Again, it’s just creating awareness that there’s really great music in this country, and we’re going to show it.”

For more information and to subscribe to the Country Music World app, visit countrymusicworld.com.au

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