How ABC’s The Sound brought live music stages to Aussie screens

The Sound

• The Sound producer Tom Macdonald on what it took to bring season three together

If you’ve been missing live Aussie music, then set a reminder for Sunday 7 November at 5.30pm on ABC TV or ABC iview when The Sound returns for season three.

Produced by Mushroom Studios, The Sound showcases the performances of Australian musicians in iconic locations all around the globe. Hitting the stage this season are names like Vance Joy, Vera Blue, Spacey Jane, and King Stingray.

Mediaweek spoke to The Sound producer Tom Macdonald about bringing live music to audiences during a pandemic.

Tom Macdonald

With season three launching on Sunday, Macdonald says that getting to this point has been a whirlwind, having done over 150 shoots in 14 weeks, in 150 locations and over 170 artists in two seasons.

“When the first season came into play, we literally had confirmation from the ABC and were on air in 11 days. To be able to produce a show that didn’t exist in 11 days, that first episode was a massive feat in its own. Prior to that, our team heavily worked in the music industry for many years across music videos, etc, and really hadn’t done television to this extent. It was a momentous effort for the team to get together in 11 days.”

“We had a Covid situation where we’re working remotely with crews across Australia and across the globe in the middle of a pandemic. It was an extremely challenging environment but well worth it.

Covid-19 Impacts

With live music one of the industries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Macdonald says platforms like The Sound are more important than ever.

“For artists, live music is where they make the majority of their livelihood, and it helps promote their recorded music. To be able to get them on a national broadcast like the ABC and put it into prime time, and to be able to get that out nationally – even internationally through socials – it’s a huge opportunity for artists to showcase their music. Doing The Sound, we really want to take a new angle on live music, we wanted to really show something unique and special.”

The Sound

King Stingray

Making Changes

There are two major changes to this season. Firstly, episodes will be a bit shorter at 28 mins each, and secondly there will be no set host. Macdonald says the changes came after the team really decided to focus on the music.

“We’ve had time to say, ‘well, what really makes this special?’. It’s about the performances and getting some insight. We’ve still got some interviews with featured artists, and our Tribute which is a real highlight of the show. It really is probably just being more realistic about what we can achieve in the time. Also, we’ve worked through 150 artists in 12 months – we’re probably starting to run short on how many more artists we could turn to this season!”

The Sound

Spacey Jane

Performing to Live Audiences

As live music begins to make a comeback, Macdonald says the team will sit down and assess how The Sound looks going forward.

“When I conceived this concept with Michael Gudinski, he had such passion to get music back on television. We had this iconic slide of Countdown. That redefined music on television at the time, it became something that was a staple for households of that era. Content and how content is delivered now has changed, and we’re always constantly looking at how people want to consume this and what they enjoy. 

The Sound has definitely been a part of what’s worked well for this period through Covid. Has it got a space moving forward? That will be something we’ll really have to sit down and work through. Either way, everyone’s so appreciative of the idea of live music coming back, and for us, it’s about championing that. If it’s not this show, other opportunities will be definitely looking at how we evolve music on television moving forward.”

Top Image: Vance Joy on stage in Barcelona for The Sound

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