Is Studio 10's Axing The Last Nail In Music's TV Coffin?

14 November 2023 | 5:55 pm | Stephen Green

Today's axing of Studio 10 sounds the death knell for live music on TV... for now

Studio 10

Studio 10 (Facebook)

CBS today announced the axing of Network Ten’s morning infomercial show Studio 10 to guffaws around the country in TV land. Often the butt of jokes (from its own network no less), Studio 10 was the little engine that couldn’t quite get there, lasting a miraculous ten years on air, despite never reaching ratings success.

Despite never quite living up to its potential, the show was a mainstay for the music industry, continuing to provide performance opportunities for Australian (and international) artists to the very end.

Originally the concept of Sunrise wunderkind Adam Boland and original EP Rob McKnight, the program was created alongside breakfast show Wake Up (remember Paul Henry?) as a duo to compete with the Sunrise / Morning Show and Today / Today Extra duopolies on the other networks. Studio 10 was the infomercial-filled little sibling to Wake Up, created in the style of The View, with a panel discussing the days’ important topics.

Both Studio 10 and Wake Up suffered horrendous early ratings, with Boland eventually leaving the network and Wake Up getting the axe, but (due presumably to the income from the informercials), Studio 10 battled on.

It seemed like almost every year there were further cuts, with the panel slimmed down, then mainstays like Joe Hilderbrand and Kerri-Anne Kennerley being shown the door. Eventually slimmed down to a “me-too” version of the other programs with hosts Sarah Harris and Tristan McManus, even Harris eventually bailed to join The Project, leaving McManus with entertainment reporter Angela Bishop and newsreader Narelda Jacobs for its final year.

So what’s that got to do with music? Well, as one by one every TV program that featured live music disappeared off our screens, or decided they could do without the tunes, Studio 10 continued its commitment to music. With music royalty Angela Bishop on board, it’s unsurprising that the show continued to showcase Australian music new, old and in between.

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Laugh as the TV industry may have, it was actually a really important outlet for music and artist development.

Sure, there was nobody watching. And you were sandwiched between a fantastic new mop and five great reasons to buy a funeral plan, but you were on TV. We all know that TV is about catch up and a performance on Studio 10 not only gave an artist valuable experience in front of a camera, but also amazing fodder for social media.

Go back ten years ago and an artist could have done Sunrise or Today. Before that, Rove Live or The Panel did it in prime time. Of course Hey Hey It’s Saturday was another beast completely, but one by one they all disappeared, or scrapped their commitment to music.

Sunrise and Today are still there, but cost cutting means that music is often the first plank to go… so it did. Why bother putting a massive stage into Martin Place and doing something super cool with P!nk when you could get the same ratings by having Kochie interview a cat psychic on the studio couch?

In a potential case of “will the last one left turn out the lights”, it looks like Studio 10 are the ones to turn out the lights…. or are they?

Will we ever see live music on TV return? It’s an unlikely outcome at this point. With Seven vacating Martin Place and no sign of budgets ever increasing for terrestrial broadcast shows, it’s hard to see a regular return, especially for smaller artists, but there ARE opportunities going begging.

This week we’ll see the return of the ARIA Awards to Channel 9 and Seven will broadcast the Mushroom 50 concert in a few week’s time. During COVID, the ratings for Music From the Home Front showed that people would sit down to watch music and the ratings for Firefight Australia just before the pandemic were record breaking. But it seems that these ratings aren’t enough to get TV execs considering live performance on a regular basis.

In some ways, it’s amazing that Studio 10 was able to for so long, with the budgets they had to work with, but the question remains, if they were able to, why can’t Sunrise have music more regularly? Why can’t Today?

Ten has announced that the 10 Late News is returning in 2024. The last iteration of the program (hello Sandra Sully), did include live music at the desk for a while prior to its axing. Five nights a week. Perhaps it’s worth a campaign to bring that back when the program returns? Q&A occasionally has a live performance to close the show. Perhaps it’s time to pressure the ABC to make that an always-on weekly fixture? The ABC got our hopes up with the announcement of Fran Kelly’s Frankly talk show, but then ended up putting on a house band doing covers. Frankly (pun intended), that was a total wasted opportunity.

Maybe Angela Bishop, who is staying with the Ten network, could file a daily music news segment for the news bulletin or The Project? I mean there’s enough sport… surely 3 minutes of music news could be worth a try? The Footy Show used to have music…. perhaps The Front Bar could? Opportunities are there, but they need to be pointed out and the initative taken.

TV has some great music people in there. Richard Wilkins, Brooke Boney, Angela Bishop, Zan Rowe. There are passionate music people behind the scenes too. I won’t embarrass them, but if you work in TV and you are reading this, I’m talking about you.

It’s time that rather than lamenting the disappearance of music on TV, we look at ways to advocate for it. It’s not about whinging about it or wanting to go back to the past with big fancy new shows, but perhaps it's time to faciliate a conversation with those passionate music industry advocates in TV to find out how every rabbit hole can be explored to find opportunities for Australian artists that won’t burden the networks’ budgets and will add value to the programming that already exists. How can we help them help us?

It’ll be easier to do now before Studio 10 turns out the lights in December and there’s no precedent left.

But for today, let’s remember the little engine that could…. Studio 10 and its commitment to music that proves that it CAN be done.

As country artist Casey Barnes said on the axing announcement on the Studio 10 Facebook page: “On behalf of all Australian bands and musicians, thanks for giving us a platform and supporting our industry the way you have over the last 10 years”.


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