‘A tale of five festivals’

Exploring the cultural intermediary function of Australian jazz festivals


  • Brent Keogh Macquarie University




Jazz, Festivals, Australia, Cultural Intermediary


This paper considers the cultural intermediary function of Australian jazz festivals. It presents a detailed analysis of programming patterns across five Australian Jazz music festivals – namely, the Manly Jazz Festival, Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Brisbane International Jazz Festival, and Bellingen Jazz Festival – in the ten year period, 2004-2014. Using this data, this paper draws attention to the ‘search and select’ function of cultural intermediaries speaking to the broader significance of festivals as sites of popular music study. This paper considers a number of programming trends, including a comparison between local and international musicians; the frequency with which musicians performed at each festival and across festivals; issues of gender in programming; and identify musicians who could be placed into a number of genre categories, with a particular focus on those musicians who identify in some way with the category of World Music. This study presents an insight into current trends in jazz scenes in Australia and the roles that festivals play as cultural intermediaries in contributing to this aspect of Australian cultural life.

Author Biography

Brent Keogh, Macquarie University

Brent Keogh is a musician and academic, specialising in the areas of popular music studies and ethnomusicology. His doctoral studies examined the discourse of World Music in Australia. He has published in the areas of arts policy, musical sustainability, music ecology, and music festivals. He currently teaches at Macquarie University and UTS in the areas of Popular Music, International Communications, and Media Studies. He also plays and performs on the oud, an Egyptian lute, and has studied for a number of years with oud virtuoso and ARIA award winner Joseph Tawadros.


Alter, A., and B. Keogh (2013) ‘Some Preliminary Thoughts on Patterns of Programming in Australia's World Music and Folk Festivals’. In Proceedings of the 2012 ANZ-IASPM Conference, ed. Oli Wilson and Sarah Attfield, 5–15.

Bennett, A. (1999) ‘Subcultures or Neo-tribes? Rethinking the Relationship between Youth, Style and Musical Taste’. Sociology 33/3: 599–617.

Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. London: Routledge.

Cummings, J. (2007) ‘Selling the Indie Scene: Music Festivals, Neo-tribes and Brand Communities’. In Refereed Proceedings of the Joint Australian Sociological Association (TASA) and the Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (SAANZ) Conference 2007, Auckland University, New Zealand, 4–7 December.

Curtis, R. A. (2010) ‘Australia’s Capital of Jazz? The (Re)Creation of Place, Music and Community at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival’. Australian Geographer 41/1: 101–116. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049180903535618

Dunn, J. (2013) ‘Sirens, Yes. But the Music Always Comes First’. Australian Jazz.net. 23 February. http://australianjazz.net/2013/02/sirens-yes-but-the-music-always-comes-first/ (accessed 8 November 2014).

Evans, S. (2008) ‘Sandy Evans—In Conversation with Michael Webb’. Extempore 1/1 (November): 23–39.

Foster, P., S. P. Borgatti and C. Jones (2011) ‘Gatekeeper Search and Selection Strategies: Relational and Network Governance in a Cultural Market’. Poetics 39: 247–65. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2011.05.004

Gibson, C. (2007) ‘Music Festivals: Transformations in Non-Metropolitan Places, and in Creative Work’. Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy 123 (May): 65–81.

Gibson, C., and J. Connell (2012) Music Festivals and Regional Development in Australia. Farnham: Ashgate.

Isar, Y. (2012) ‘Global Culture’. In International Relations: Perspectives for the Global South, ed. Bhupinder S. Chimni and Siddharth Mallavarapu, 1–12. New Delhi: Pearson.

Johnson, B. (1987) The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

——(2000) The Inaudible Music: Jazz, Gender and Australian Modernity. Sydney: Currency Press.

——(2003) ‘Jazz Festivals’. In The Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia, ed. John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell, 276. Sydney: Currency House.

——(2008) ‘Australian Jazz—An Overview’. In Sounds of Then, Sounds of Now—Popular Music in Australia, ed. Shane Homan and Tony Mitchell, 113–29. Sydney: UNSW Press.

——(2010) ‘The Australianisation of Jazz—A Strange Outcome of Media Convergence’. In Proceedings of the 2010 ANZ-IASPM Conference, ed. Jen Cattermole, Graeme Smith and Shane Homan, 53–56.

——(forthcoming) ‘Gaining Citizenship: Jazz and Local Identity’.

Keogh, B. (2014) ‘Analyzing World Music Discourse in Australia’. PhD dissertation. Sydney: Macquarie University.

Kernfield, B. (1988) ‘Festivals’. In The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, ed. Barry Kernfield, 360. London: Macmillan.

Maffesoli, M. (1995) The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society, vol. 41. London: Sage.

Moi, T. (1988) Sexual/Textual Politics. London: Routledge.

Negus, K. (2002) ‘The Work of Cultural Intermediaries and the Enduring Distance between Production and Consumption’. Cultural Studies 16/4: 501–515. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09502380210139089

Riley, S. C., C. Griffen and Y. Morey (2010) ‘The Case for “Everyday Politics”: Evaluating Neo-tribal Theory as a Way to Understand Alternative Forms of Political Participation, Using Electronic Dance Music Culture as an Example’. Sociology 44: 345–63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038509357206

Smith, G. (2005) Singing Australian: A History of Folk and Country Music. North Melbourne: Pluto Press.



How to Cite

Keogh, B. (2015). ‘A tale of five festivals’: Exploring the cultural intermediary function of Australian jazz festivals. Jazz Research Journal, 8(1-2), 182–201. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v8i1-2.26878