Perth has always punched above its weight when it comes to music. Artists like Tame Impala, Spacey Jane and Sly Withers all come from Perth, making it a veritable hub of guitar-based music. Just look at the results of the most recent Hottest 100. Making sun-soaked music in Perth and ending up in a band that’s at least moderately successful appears to be a rite of passage for any bright-eyed teenager from WA, much like going to Chicken Treat or visiting the Busselton Jetty.
However, it’s not just guitar-based bands that are pushing the Perth music scene forward. Perth is home to some of the nation’s most exciting rappers and R&B singers, and there are a range of organisations pushing Perth hip-hop forward, including 6000 Events, S1XTEEN, 6KMC and RTRFM. Rachel Goad, an artist manager, DJ and radio broadcaster who calls Perth home, says that the hip-hop scene in Perth has grown significantly over the last few years, and Perth audiences are more tapped in than ever. “The 6K movement has grown now to a point that local shows are bringing in audiences and selling out comparatively to a few years back when the audience was literally just the other acts,” she explains. “The city is still small enough that if an interstate act comes the local scene that’s tapped in with Australian music will show up and turn out.”
Liv Declerck, a WA-based journalist, echoes Rachel’s thoughts. The scene is a tight-knit one, and the love extends beyond Perth artists. “The connection and warmth of the Perth hip-hop community is a strength that immediately comes to mind,” Liv says. “This powerful community feel isn’t limited to the artists – it welcomes in anyone contributing to the industry: producers, photographers, videographers, graphic designers and visual artists (creating cover art), event coordinators… you get the picture.” Given Perth’s location relative to the rest of the world, it’s not hard to see why those involved in the Perth music scene are so ready and willing to support each other, and Liv’s pride for the 6K is evident. “I think Perth is a hidden corner of our planet filled with rich artistic treasures not acknowledged or touched by the vast majority of the world,“ she says.
While Perth’s status as a far-away land helps unite the musical community, its geographical location can also make it harder for artists from the 6K to pop off nationally, especially when compared to their East Coast compatriots. Someone who made the move from Perth to Brisbane for more opportunities is Gamirez, an artist, A&R and artist manager. Reflecting on the move, he says that the move allowed him to tour more frequently and play in different cities. However, he still feels that his time in Perth was formative. Perth’s smaller scene (by comparison) meant he “had to create my own luck and learn from my own mistakes and take a risk with my day job wages. From spending money on home studio equipment, putting on shows that don’t sell to spending money on marketing… It was like an internship for many years learning the game the hard way. Now I’ve got multiple skill sets for every challenge that comes my way.” As any music industry professional will happily attest to, the smaller a community, the more hats everyone involved has to wear.
The cost of travelling for shows is another challenge that both Gamirez and Rachel highlighted. The costs of touring have been spoken about by artists of all sizes in recent times: in a heartfelt statement about cancelling a tour, American singer Santigold wrote about the skyrocketing costs of touring in a post-pandemic world. These costs are amplified in a country as vast as Australia. To help mitigate these costs, Gamirez wants to see the return of a budget airline – “Tiger Airlines could come back with their $300 return flight to Brisbane instead of paying around a thousand dollars a person to fly out of Perth”, while Rachel suggests that more artists look into the funding that’s available. She explains, “Grants being more easily accessible would help artists that have no team and have to navigate that application process by themself.”
Despite the challenges that creatives from Western Australia face, there are undeniably a lot of great artists coming out of Perth at the moment. To help get you across what’s happening over in Western Australia, we’ve put together a list of 9 of our favourite Perth artists and explained why you should have them on your radar heading into 2023 and beyond.