“Being Queer” was, for a long time was detrimental to your career in music in Australia, Rob Manser investigates why being Queer in the mainstream matters and which LGBTQIA+ artists are making waves in the pop world in Australia, and out to the wider world.
I remember just a decade ago when I went into a major label to interview a new artist for the magazine. A bright, young talent from a TV show, over the adult age, and such a sweetheart. It was a joy to meet him and see him so comfortable in his own skin, so fun, slightly flamboyant, and giggling like me! Like a teenage schoolgirl. That was until the camera went on, and the recording device had been pressed. His voice dropped a couple of octaves and he “butched” himself up for his on-camera persona at the direction of his label people.
THIS was what we, as LGBTQIA+ people had to do, even behind the cameras just that little while ago, so we could participate in the “mainstream” – or so we thought.
It’s weird, that since – in my opinion, TWO artists globally finally showed that a gay male can KEEP a teen girl fanbase – and still be a heartthrob, they could also be a commercial success in the eyes of the label. That honour belongs to America’s Adam Lambert and Australia’s Anthony Callea.
Since their coming out (and yes, my story related to meeting Anthony for the first time after “Australian Idol”), being Queer in pop is now coming to the fore, artists are not hiding their Gender expressions or their sexuality.
At least these days a lot more are now not hiding.
I have seen groups at the beginning of their careers want to “dump” a member because they wanted to come out… a few did and you will probably never know of their talents, and some didn’t, some stayed closeted for a while, but let me tell you – all those groups who had queer members, who came out and are living their authentic selves, are now flying high and at the top of their games. #soproud
Don’t get me wrong – it’s still hard for a queer artist to be signed by a “major” label these days – many of these labels have no clue how to market queer artists to the mainstream, especially in Australia – with indie rock “dudes”, misogynistic men, and “old school” people slowly being weeded out from the top ranks of what really is supposed to be a creative and arts industry… it also means if they don’t hasten this “purging” of idiots and bigots they running the risk of falling behind like they did when digital nearly ruined the industry.
Unwilling to adapt and move with the times, a failure to recognise that the LGBTQIA+ market is THE key tastemaker group. The queer audience is growing naturally as more people throughout the world realise they don’t need to conform to gender binaries or out-of-date sexuality definitions.
It’s not the only issue for Queer artists with major labels either, in the past two decades of working in “the biz”, I have seen singer-songwriters turned down, just before signing contracts, due to labels having relationships with religions that were releasing material on the label, and not wanting queer artists to have a voice, and money spoke.
Many artists saw and grew up thinking that a label deal was the ultimate goal. But since the digital disruption of the industry, that is no longer the goal. Major Label deals are no longer a golden ticket. The interaction with your fans is, and if you can – and eventually be able to tour – then that’s where the money is honey! Ohhhh honey! Independent artists are now showing labels how to engage, how to monetize and disseminated art in this new world.
As it’s Pride month across the world, I wanted to list out some of the Oz artists that have made an influential mark on the Aussie entertainment scene and the world that we have known through the POPrepublic.tv lens….
If there are any other members of the Oz LGBTQIA+ community I may have missed – let me know in the comments below!
Happy Pride – go OUT, create, release, and make sure you send us a message so we can listen to your art and give you the support all Queer artists deserve in the mainstream.
aka Shane Janek is best known for appearances on reality tv shows, Australian Idol, RuPaul’s Drag Race ace (USA), Dancing with the Stars, and winning Celebrity Big Brother (UK). She has a stellar theatre and touring career and pop wise, has had deals with BMG Records, and has had a wide range of independent original music on the charts since. We love her new “Brenda Call Me” podcast on NOVA with fellow Aussie drag icon Vanity.
We have known Toby since he was in the Four Tops- and we went on the journey with all the boys as they turned into Human Nature – Australia’s most prolific and successful pop groups. The boys have a successful residency in Las Vegas, but due to the pandemic, they have returned to Oz and are releasing new albums and going on national tours. Fans are excited to see the group back on Aussie shores.
Alfie Arcuri is an Australian singer-songwriter best known for winning the fifth season of The Voice Australia in 2016. He signed with Universal Music Australia. His debut studio album Zenith was released in July 2016 and peaked at number 5 on the ARIA Charts. He has released several non album singles in recent months and was part of Eurovision: Australia Decides.
Having broken all sales records for any Australian artist, Anth has been the winner of the Best male artist in our POPepublic.tv IT List awards. He has had an incredible music career, has found internet fame with his hubbie Tim Campbell (also on this list) YOU HAVE TO SEE IT! so hilarious. And is currently touring the country (when not in Vic when lockdowns) giving Aussie fans major concerts and new album releases.
Greg Gould has achieved global success with over 20 million views of his award-winning music videos and number one album ‘1998’. He first came to prominence as the runner-up on Australia’s Got Talent in 2013, was a judge on All Together Now in Australia, and Gould’s self-penned song ‘Today’ was chosen and performed as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Official Anthem in 2017.
Darren is Aussie pop music’s biggest icon. I first met Darren when I was a wee PR/Marketing assistant in 96/97 at Roadshow Music working on non-other than Savage Garden. After a global mega-success with his musical partner Daniel, Darren went on to a stellar solo career, with global tours, albums and even supporting us when we did our TV show in show 2008, giving our new show a major celeb “shot in the arm”. We love you Darren!
An Australian actor, dancer, and singer-songwriter. He is known for roles such as Oliver Lloyd on the ABC series Dance Academy (2012–2013) and Wally West/Kid Flash on The CW series The Flash (2015–2020) and Legends of Tomorrow (2017–2018); and for film roles in The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015), The Finest Hours (2016), and Love, Simon (2018). Lonsdale has also worked as an MTV VJ and released original music recordings, including a studio album ‘Rainbow Bay’ in 2020.
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2002 Mac won ‘Best Dance Release’ for 3000 Feet High and was nominated for ‘Best Male Artist’ and ‘Engineer of the Year’. In June 2001 he released his highest charting single, “Just the Thing”, which featured lead vocals by Peta Morris. It reached No. 17 on the ARIA Singles Chart and at the APRA Music Awards of 2002 it won ‘Most Performed Dance Work’.
Electro/pop and dance singer-songwriter and remixer, Damien has been a hit across Europe and North America with his releases, “Be With You Tonight’ “Shine” “DJ(Take It On Down)” “Air”, “Diamond” “Welcome To The Party”,”To Be With you (Stars)” & “Moonlight”. His album “Running Out Of Time” dropped in June 2017 crashing into the Australian Pop itunes chart top 30 at number #25. Damien is currently in the studio recording his second album.
Montaigne, is an Australian art-pop singer-songwriter-musician. Her debut album, Glorious Heights, was released on 5 August 2016, which peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2016 she won Breakthrough Artist. She was supposed to represent Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 with her song “Don’t Break Me”, until the contest was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, she represented Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 with the song “Technicolour”.
As one half of the globally successful sister duo, The Veronicas, Jessica has notched up a swag of awards and chart topping positions all over the world. She is a vocal advocate for Marriage Equality and was once linked to actress Ruby Rose. She and her sister Lisa are currently touring Australia with their massive stage show Gozilla Vs Human.
What can we say about the phenomenal success of Troye? After gaining popularity as a singer on YouTube and in Australian talent competitions, Sivan signed with EMI Australia in 2013 and released his third extended play, TRXYE (2014), which peaked at number five on the U.S. Billboard 200. He has been topping the charts with all of his releases and is up there on the global major pop artists and keeps on scoring goals across music, film and all facets of entertainment.
Sam Sparro, is an Australian singer, songwriter and record producer. He was signed to the British record label Island Records. Sparro is best known for his 2008 single “Black and Gold”. Sparro married DJ Zion Lennox in a private ceremony in California on 21 September 2018. Sam produced a new album “Boombox Eternal” in 2020. He just performed at Raising Voices in LA (June 6) with Adam Lambert and Kim Petras also on the bill.
Starley is an Australian singer and songwriter. She is best known for her 2016 debut single “Call on Me”. In 2018, Starley performed at the Sydney Mardi Gras for the first time and was the co-headline act at the official after-party. Starley released her debut album, One of One, on 25 September 2020.
Katie Underwood, best known for being a member of Bardot, winners of the first Australian series of Popstars in 2000. Her solo career has included numerous vocal appearances on dance tracks such as the Disco Montego Top 10 single “Beautiful”, and dance act T-Funk single “Be Together”. In November 2009, Underwood self-released her debut studio album called Ain’t Nobody’s Baby. Katie can also currently be found on the rare re-release of Bardot’s albums on vinyl which has been a hit with fans calling for a reunion of the girl group.
Best known for winning the fifth season of Australia’s Got Talent as a teenager. His debut album went #3 on the ARIA Charts, and was certified gold. and nominated for our IT List awards several times! His second studio album, Inspire, was released in 2012, reaching number 23. He also appeared on America’s Got Talent: The Champions. Vidgen has also appeared on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in Australia. He is releasing new singles and touring Australia now! So check out the new tracks!