Joe Hay defines Adelaide as a city of music


He’s toured pollies and punk bands across the country, and now, as CEO of Adelaide, UNESCO City of Music, Joe Hay is tasked with defining what it means for Adelaide to be a city of music. music.

Although an unlikely pair, Joe Hay has managed to merge two of his personal interests – politics and music – into one career.

As the new chief executive of the UNESCO City of Music Adelaide, he wants to leverage his connections, which stretch from the upper echelons of parliament to the city’s grimy neighborhoods, and bolster the city’s musical designation.

Adelaide was designated a UNESCO City of Music in 2015 – the only Australian city to be labeled as such. The title signifies that Adelaide is part of a network of international creative cities, spanning film, literature, design and music.

It is Joe’s job, as Managing Director of the office, to grease the wheels of potential artistic collaborations between creatives from Adelaide and other cities as part of this international network.

“We do three things,” says Joe CityMag of his new assignment.

“The first is to make sure culture is part of all development plans, and South Australia is doing quite well.

“The other part, for me, is to really build Adelaide’s brand as a music city and build ownership among the industry and among government and agencies that promote South Australia.

“The other side is to take advantage of the [creative cities] networks… and my goal is to create relationships and opportunities for artists, organizations and governments.

Joe’s resume demonstrates his ability to exist in two ostensibly opposing worlds: politics and live music.

Decades ago, Joe, a native of the Flinders Ranges, graduated from the University of South Australia with a degree in international relations.

After working in politicians’ offices in Canberra, he later moved to Japan. While working with Foreign Affairs, he befriended groups in Harajuku. When he returned to Australia, he realized he could bring some of his new friends home, opening them up to a new market.

“When I was in college, I wrote for the student newspaper, reviewed records and went to concerts and did all that stuff,” Joe says.

“I don’t play cricket; I tour bands.

“When I came back to Australia I realized I had shot everything from prime ministers to submarines to airplanes – I could tour a punk band threesome. How much can it be difficult?”

Overseas, they don’t know us from anyone else. We are Australian; were not South Australians.
—Joe Hay

Back in Canberra, in 2007, Joe landed a job with Federal Opposition Arts Minister Peter Garrett (aka the lead singer of Midnight Oil). From there, he created a career that oscillated between the private sector (creative consulting services) and the public (political offices).

Now, as the city’s music champion in a professional capacity, Joe recognizes the issues Adelaide must overcome to bring its musos into the limelight and ensure they get a financial return.

The first problem, he says, is our city’s place on the map and its proximity to major coastal centers. One way to overcome this, says Joe, is to go abroad.

“South Australian bands compete with the east coast, and that’s tough, especially because of the scale and industry connections there,” he says.

“I have long believed that our ability to project ourselves abroad, to go directly to markets, to develop markets abroad, is essential. Overseas, they don’t know us from anyone else. We are Australian; were not South Australians.

“It’s like a regional tour. I think one of the great benefits of regional touring is that it expands the market for live music.

Joe had only been in the job for a month as we speak, but he has big ambitions for the next two years.

The “low-hanging fruit” of the work, he says, is defining how and in what ways Adelaide is a city of music. He wants the rest of the world to understand this definition as well.

“A great thing about South Australia is all the festivals and activities,” he says.

“For me, that’s it: capturing that brand. But later we really engage with the global network and see how we can support South Australia in general through this network and create opportunities for our artists, organizations and festivals.


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