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Q Marks The Spot: QMusic Chair Natalie Strijland On Growth And Future

5 October 2023 | 9:00 am | Christie Eliezer

"It is a priority for us that Brisbane becomes a real national and global centre..."

Natalie Strijland

Natalie Strijland (QMusic)

Three years ago, peak Queensland music association QMusic entered a new era, with a new management team under chair Natalie Strijland, a lawyer and music fanatic, expanded energy, and a wider strategy.

Its flagship event BIGSOUND wrapped up in September with 190 speakers, 1,500 delegates, 150 showcasing artists, thousands of punters taking to the streets, and a growing reputation as an international place to do business.

It has also developed as a major First Nations supporter.

Dan Rennie, who stepped into the role of Goolwal Goolwal Cultural Lead in 2023, declared, “This year BIGSOUND saw increased visibility and recognition of talent for our First Nations people and a greater understanding of cultural insights. BIGSOUND 2023 was an incredible start for the Goolwal Goolwal program and I can’t wait to see where the program goes in years to come."

Aside from expanding its programs and events, QMusic is looking at the future as the Olympics and Paralympics 2032, the Federal Government’s new agency Music Australia and SXSW Sydney come into play.

Here, Strijland shares her thoughts on QMusic’s outlook.

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In the wash-up of BIGSOUND 2023, what was the feedback as to which elements struck the strongest chord?

Universally positive feedback, but I think people were especially excited with the new programs in the First Nations space such as Goolwal Goolwal and the dramatic rise in opportunity for First Nations artists within BIGSOUND.

We also received great responses both from national industry players and our international industry leaders who attended regarding new industry connections made and the business they’ve been able to do which was a high priority for us this year.

In which ways will the First Nations initiatives expand in the future, and what impact has it had already?

It is a priority for us that Brisbane becomes a real national and global centre for First Nations music, especially as we look towards the Olympics. I think we’ll certainly see a growth in Canadian, New Zealand and other First Nations artists coming here to collaborate and work with Australian Indigenous artists.

Some of the big things we’re already seeing is the strong visibility of Australian First Nations artists and with international industry present, we expect that will directly lead to some exceptional opportunities for those artists.

What role would the regional committee member QMusic is currently advertising for take, and where do you see QMusic expanding in the regionals?

This year for the first time we presented Tropic Fiesta in Townsville, which is large, new music festival for North Queensland. We’re hoping to have a more permanent presence in Townsville or Far North Queensland in the immediate future. We want to make sure there’s permanent staff on the ground in regional Queensland to serve emerging artists and music industry folk there. The regional committee member would be involved in those projects.

Roz Pappalardo has been a QMusic board member and ambassador for the music industry in regional Queensland for nine years. MONA is so lucky to have such a brilliant and passionate creative on their team however it leaves giant ‘regional’ hole in our board.

It is really important that the second largest state in Australia is supported in the regions because we are such a diverse state and that should be celebrated. So we are really looking for someone who can represent regional Queensland and someone who has an existing voice into artists, businesses and governments in regional Queensland. We are calling for expressions of interest until October 31, 2023. Please send your letter and resume to

BIGSOUND underwent a management change in 2020. How has QMusic’s culture and priorities shifted, and where do you see its growth?

QMusic is a real big tent organisation and we try to represent how broad and diverse the music industry is, to that end the creation of the First Nations advisory group and the Safety and Diversity advisory group has meant that our board and staff have been getting a level of advice and guidance that is the best the org has ever seen.

Similarly the expansion in working with artists and audiences who are living with a disability to make our music industry as inclusive as it’s ever been is an ongoing priority as well.

The history of modern Olympics shows a huge impact in the host city’s music scene. Has QMusic looked at past examples like Atlanta and San Francisco for inspiration?

Absolutely, perhaps even more so, Barcelona which is one of the great modern examples. Olympics aren’t put into great sporting cities, they are put into great cultural cities. What we saw with Barcelona post Olympics hasn’t been solely sporting focus, it’s been about that city being seen worldwide – a leader in food, wine, lifestyle, music. We expect the same thing from Brisbane, the Olympics will demonstrate we’re a great sporting city, but also an extraordinary cultural city.

What sort of conversations has QMusic had so far with the IOC Coordination Commission, and what’s your overall strategy with regards to the Olympics and Paralympics?

Our CEO, Kris Stewart and board member JC (John Collins, musician and multi-venue operator) presented to the Olympics legacy committee and they  both were participants in the Olympics Legacy Forum, making a case to organisers that the music industry needs to be prioritised in any Olympics planning.

This doesn’t just mean the performers we have as a part of it, it doesn’t just mean future proofing all of the new venue structures that will be used for music, it’s making sure a unique Queensland sound is heard across the entire event.

March 2022 saw the launch of the Queensland Parliamentary Friends of the Music Industry. How does it work, and what had it achieved so far in QMusic’s relationship with QLD Government?

Parliamentary Friends has been fantastic for us to have a direct relationship with both sides of Government and to help make music a sector where all areas of Government understand its importance, purpose and power.

Since starting, we’ve seen an ongoing commitment towards BIGSOUND and the music districts of Queensland and we hope as we approach an election, the relationships we are building on behalf of the Queensland music industry can be advocated directly into both sides of the election.

What initiatives, present and future, are QMusic working on with the State Government?

Recently, the State Government made a tremendous new investment into BIGSOUND which has enabled us to confidently plan great things for the next four years with the intention that BIGSOUND can continue to hold its own on an international stage.

We are really grateful that they’ve been very strong supporters of QMusic being a statewide organisation. As we look towards the future, we hope that investment into music for all audiences across Queensland will expand so that we can continue to support emerging artists, music industry workers and the business of music in Queensland.

What are QMusic’s plans with Music Australia and SXSW Sydney?

We have been in conversation with the Office of the Arts and Creative Australia throughout the entire Music Australia development process including direct consultation and discussions with (Federal Arts Minister) Tony Burke. It is of great importance to us that Music Australia is a national organisation and will invest in the grassroots of local, regional and remote music and musicians.

SXSW, we see as peers and friends and we believe an event like this that is broad and captures a lot of things that aren’t our focus, such as technology and screen will only help grow and expand the music industry in Australia.

Last year BIGSOUND generated $4.1 million for the Brisbane economy and $3.6 million for Queensland. Where would you like to see these figures in five years?

I think the great thing for us to unpack with what BIGSOUND does, isn’t necessarily the four or five million dollars, it’s what the power of having every music industry decision maker in Australia in our city for that week, what it means for ongoing tours and industry growth, what can happen because you can speak to every decision maker – those additional things can’t be underestimated.

We feel BIGSOUND will continue to grow, but the purpose isn’t necessarily to make it a two week event, or to have 10,000 people here for one day. The purpose is to leverage the relationships, to have ongoing 365 days of the year impact for artists and the music industry.

Natalie, do you have any future visions or initiatives that you are personally, as a music fan and lawyer, excited to implement or explore?

So many! But one of the things that I’ve found most valuable is seeing our industry be more supportive and viable for all of its participants, making people both better artists and better business leaders.

We feel every musician is the CEO of their own music business and the more we can do to empower people, the more viable and successful our industry becomes and seeing that happen every day is of great personal satisfaction to me.

I also want to see Brisbane continue to emerge as the place to do music business in Australia, for BIGSOUND to continue to be the catalyst for important connections and for QMusic to continue to expand its outreach into regional Queensland.