It’s been a few years now since Tyrone Noonan started his solo career following on from his success in ARIA Award-winning band George.
After a few years of jet-setting to places like London and New York, Tyrone has finally made the move back to Brisbane. “I’m based back in Brisbane now. My visa ran out in New York. I was working on a new music and film festival over there and the company that I was involved with were going to sponsor me to renew my visa. At the last minute they had a company restructure and decided that they didn’t want to be involved anymore. At that point it was like ok then, that’s it, I’m coming home.”
You might think that returning home to work in the Australian music industry would be an easy move for a musician with the credentials that Tyrone has, but the home-grown maestro experienced a bad case of reverse-culture shock. “One thing about America – their culture is almost the opposite from ours from the ground up. We do have some similarities to America between Australian culture and some similarities to British culture and the main similarities between Australian and British culture is that our society is cynical and cynically based.
“Healthy cynicism is a good thing, but America is almost like the opposite. While they're starting to get a little bit cynical now I think, they're kind of a much more optimistically-based country. I have to be honest; my success here in this country received more respect for that success in America than over here. Having won an ARIA meant that I was able to more with that information and that success in America than here in Australia.”
Being back in Oz means that Tyrone will be popping up on the line-ups of music festivals all around the country, and Noonan expressed the importance of live performances for musicians in today’s digital age. Travelling through the United States also gave Noonan some interesting insight into the dubious state of the recording industry today. “The live show now is more important than ever. A good example of this is even people who don’t really understand the technology that can be involved in music now knows what auto tune is, and they know that auto tune is a cheating tool. I’ve got friends who work in Nashville and they call it auto tune town – they claim that more than half of the stars that come out of Nashville would not have careers without auto tune.”
While using pitch correction in the recording studio is no new thing, Noonan explained that even live shows are not immune to the technological plague that is auto tune. “Some of those guys that have the money behind them even go to the extent of using that technology live, but it’s much more expensive if you want to do it live and make it sound natural. You need one dedicated physical hardware box for every single note of your vocal range.”
It may be a daunting thought to think that even live shows are now corrupted by so much technology, but Tyler was quick to highlight that this sort of technology is really only available to millionaire super stars, and that live shows are still the best way to critique a band.
“Only the people at the really high range of town can afford that technology, so for everyone else the proof is still in the live show – the only way that people can tell in this day and age if you are really talented, is by coming to see you live and it’s never been more important than right now to be able to prove yourself in a live format.”
Noonan has been working in the music industry for quite some time now, and his emphasis on the importance of live shows reflects this. He recalls first-hand what it was like to go through the shift in the music industry from CD sales to being what is predominantly an internet based industry.
“It’s like anything – the internet is a double edged sword. What is really exciting for artists now is that if you can create a really amazing song and create a very compelling music video to go along with it – if you can work out how to make that go viral, and you’ve done that without major label support, then you potentially have more freedom and more control than any other artist in the history of art!”
“But I know from being a part of the old music industry with my old band George that CD sales were a vital part of the income. The idea back then was that you didn’t make much money touring around Australia because the cost of it was just so high, and really, touring was about promoting the product - which back then was the CD.”
The reality now is that it’s become almost impossible for musicians to earn a quid, and Noonan says most musicians have to settle for doing it as a hobby. “The internet has taken away a huge chunk of the music industry’s revenue, and there’s been nothing that’s come along to replace that – there really hasn’t. It begs the question - how are people making money touring in this country right now? And I tell you – a lot of them aren’t. I think half the bands right now on triple J that people think are doing really well are really only hobbyists. They’ve still got day jobs and are still putting all of their spare money into the product in the hope of long term success.”
It’s not only the music industry that has been affected by what Noonan likes to call ‘digital disruption’. Even the world of print media has taken a toll thanks to the internet, with the ease of finding information online proving to be more popular than picking up a hard copy. Noonan knows all too well of this, having formerly worked as a journalist for Scene magazine in the ‘90s.
“The music industry was only one of the industries to be hit by what’s called digital disruption and the world is quickly realising there’s not many industries left on the planet that haven’t been affected by it, but I just love the fact that you guys are still producing a physical product. You guys are the last man standing. Time Off. Rave. Every other Brisbane produced street press has disappeared. The reality is there are probably two or three generations of people that don’t even understand what ‘street press’ even means.”
While it may be a difficult period for both the music and the print media industries, Noonan is optimistic about the future of them both, stating that the traditional street press is still an ‘absolutely vital’ tool for the success of musicians and performers. “I think what’s happening now is that there’s a bit of a turnaround happening. Kids in high school who have had iPads and everything like that for so long are starting to think that it’s cool now to actually have a book under your arm.”
Keeping in line with his opinion on the importance of live shows, Tyler Noonan will be playing in Brisbane soon at the up and coming City Sounds festival and he promises to deliver audiences the lot. “I’m gonna mix it all up. I’ll be mixing up bits and pieces from all of my projects – I might even throw in a George song.”Tyrone Noonan plays The City Sounds at the Visitor Information Centre in the Queen St. Mall, 20 March; 5, 6 & 7pm.