COUNTRY Music Channel program director Tim Daley said the Tamworth Country Music Festival needed to welcome international artists.
He said this in response to comments made by festival founder and industry stalwart Max Ellis, who said he didn’t want to see international artists become the focus of the event and take away from the festival’s roots.
Mr Ellis was responding to a Tamworth Regional Council survey that showed traditional country was down the list from country rock and country pop genres in terms of popularity.
“With all due respect for Max, one of the core brand values of country music is respect for those who paved the way – and that includes Max, because the festival wouldn’t be there without them,” Mr Daley said.
“But it can’t be the only way you think about a festival. It’s clear the tradition won’t ever be lost, because it’s part of the fabric of the festival.”
He said Australians had played at CMA Fest and other festivals in Nashville for many years and welcoming internationals to our festival should be natural.
“Part of the sister city thing is working together on this. The overwhelming message from people in Tamworth should be ‘please come in and enjoy our festival and hospitality’,” Mr Daley said.
“We should do everything we can to welcome the internationals, because of what it does on a relationship level, including co-writes, record production and reciprocal favours when our artists go to Nashville. It’s also educational for our young artists, because they can learn from these internationals, but there is zero risk of internationals coming in and taking over and becoming the focus of the festival.”
Mr Daley said CMC Rocks the Hunter already did this, with headlining international acts and plenty of support for Australian artists as well.
“Tamworth will always be an Australian festival, but internationals can add to the interest and spice and offer something a little bit different every year,” he said.
Mr Daley said he believed the festival had been stagnant for a decade, but Tamworth Regional Council was working to change that.
“It’s important to recognise what country music fans want and try to deliver some of that, so you have a large group of people with a variety of tastes being catered to,” he said.
“It seems to me it hasn’t grown on any significant rate for a decade. I know council are deeply engaged in how to make it better for everyone – and you want it to work for your ratepayers, you really want it to be a gateway to economic development.“
Mr Daley said Tamworth signing the sister city agreement with Nashville was a “powerful thing” which could open up a number of economic and cultural ties for both cities.
“It’s clear Nashville used country music to open the door for other sorts of economic development, with education, healthcare and a lot of big businesses built there,” he said.
“The current mayor and council see the opportunity to use the basis for a long-running and well-known festival to pave the way for more economic development. For the first time in many years I’ve had many conversations with council and it’s great for the country music business to work together with council on this.”
Mr Daley said it was a positive move for the council to be heavily involved in the Country Music Awards of Australia, with improvements to this year’s concert and awards presentation.
“I know they’re also working on improving other things like FanZone and the quality of the buskers. They’re working on a lot of those things, engaging in sponsorships and what sponsors need to bring, and what the sponsors’ needs are,” he said.
“The changes on a year-to-year basis will be subtle, but on a five- to 10-year basis it will mean a much more professional, inclusive festival on a lot of different levels.”