Hard rock heroes open door for Aussie acts

Thanks to a revival in guitar-based rock and Aussie trio Wolfmother’s recent Grammy win for the song “Woman,” local acts have a leg up to Stateside success.

The Vines opened the door in 2002 with their album “Highly Evolved,” an opportunity which Jet widened with “Get Born” in 2003. Now, Aussie rock is back on the international music menu in a way it hasn’t been since the ’80s, when INXS and Midnight Oil were flying the flag for the local scene.

“Australian music is extremely strong right now — you only have to look back at the charts over the last year,” says Michael Richardson, marketing topper for Universal Music Australia, whose label Modular launched Wolfmother. “Albums from Bernard Fanning, Rogue Traders, Eskimo Joe, Augie March, Sarah Blasko, Little Birdy and of course Wolfmother, to name a few, have all performed well.”

In fact, the local music industry is defying global trends; CD sales and digital downloads are both up from previous years, with 21 million legal downloads in 2006, four times the previous year. And seven out of the 10 top-selling CDs of 2006 were by Aussies.

But Oz bands hoping to attract U.S. fans still face a tough road as Down Under output counts for less than 2% of the world’s music market. Still, even the government has realized the potential of music exporting, and in August 2005, Austrade opened the Australian Music Office in Los Angeles to help young bands get U.S. exposure.

So who are the next crop of international exports?

Augie March

After a decade in the indie wilderness, the third album by Melbourne band Augie March has seen socko crossover success. The band won the Australian Music Prize, earned six ARIA nominations including single of the year for “One Crowded Hour” and played two sold-out local tours. Augie March is now wrapping a U.S. tour.

Cut Copy

Universal is pushing alt rock outfit Cut Copy hard in 2007. The band has already supported Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party after huge success on the back of its debut record, “Bright Like Neon Love,” a collection of

electro-rock hits.

Missy Higgins

A phenomenal Down Under success story, Higgins won a talent search for unsigned bands on indie radio station Triple J in 2004. Within a year, her debut disc “The Sound of White” had won five ARIA kudos including album of the year; she stayed in the Top 50 chart for 80 weeks. Higgins has toured the States extensively and heads back soon in support of new disc “On a Clear Night.”

Dappled Cities

On the back of their second album, “Granddance,” eclectic five-piece Dappled Cities has just returned from a Stateside tour and appearance at SXSW. Now that the group has signed with Dangerbird Records, “Granddance” will be Dappled’s international bow, to be released in the U.S. on June 3.

Little Birdy

Perth band Little Birdy recorded its second album, “Hollywood,” in L.A. last year, and the disc recently hit gold status Down Under (35,000 sold). Currently, the band is in the midst of a sellout local tour with Eskimo Joe.

Expatriate

Another band that had a successful run at SXSW, this Sydney group recently toured Canada, the U.K. and finally Austin in support of debut disc “In the Midst of This,” produced in Seattle by John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie).

Eskimo Joe

Last month, Eskimo Joe signed a deal with U.S. imprint Rykodisc, an independent offshoot of Warner Music. Group has had phenomenal success at home with last two releases, “A Song Is a City” and “Black Fingernails, Red Wine.” Band emerged from a strong independent scene coming out of Perth in the past few years.

Snowman

Rock group Snowman also stems from the Perth scene, where it recently beat more commercially successful Eskimo Joe at the recent WAMI (West Australian Music Industry) kudos to win the most-popular album award for its self-titled debut LP. Group has been on the radar since 2004 when it released a confident debut EP, “Zombies on the Airwaves of Paris.”

Teenagers in Tokyo

Unsigned five-piece Teenagers in Tokyo have been building a devout following via some blistering live performances in 2007. The band formed while its members were in high school and has been attracting the attention of record companies at home and abroad keen to exploit the band’s unique sound.

Youth Group

Sydney band Youth Group broke big after its cover of “Forever Young” was played on “The OC,” but since then have toured in support of bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, gaining a live reputation to match their commercial hit. The group launched its new album for the American market at SXSW to good reviews.

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