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The European Pipeline: Why on earth is no one at home?

The yearly pilgrimage is upon us once again. But... why?

  • 25 June 2024

It’s starting to feel like every year, the summer gets a little longer. In this instance, we’re thankfully not talking about that in a global warming kind of way, but as a result of the ever-expanding list of promoters and artists in our national community.

While the Australian summer might be more idyllic than many others around the world, this phenomenon isn’t one you can only find down under.

The European summer has grown too. The region’s music events market is a period of incredible and undeniable growth, sitting at around €6.5 billion in 2019, and projected to reach €10.1 billion in 2028*.

Festivals, new and exciting clubs, and a laundry list of local artists and promoters skipping town to tour, to get inspired, and to do the Sisyphean battle with FOMO.

But really, why is this pilgrimage to the EU (specifically), so ingrained in broader dance culture?

Darren Cheah (he/him), aka CHEAHDX, is a Boorloo/Perth born DJ, producer and founder of STEP COUNT, puts it down to what’s available. “The scenes [in Europe] are so much larger and more established. Thus, the scale and attention to detail of festivals/events is of a higher level of quality and character than here in Aus,” he says.

While Australia may be the birthplace of ‘the doof’, many contributing factors including our comparatively small population and predominantly conservative governments, have resulted in the stunted growth of electronic music culture.

According to Creative Australia, around one third of all festivals claim that they have trouble navigating complex and inconsistent regulatory requirements, particularly to do with local governments, councils and police.

Dance music and culture are widely accepted to be the direct creation of Black and queer communities. Though Chicago and Detroit are a far cry from the streets of Berlin, European countries acted as the perfect springboard for experimentation and creation of sounds, genres and cultural institutions forever ingrained in an Australian’s idea of the world around them.

“For artists and punters alike, I think that living in so-called-Australia also comes with an inherent feeling of isolation. Although we have some densely populated cities, we are still geographically isolated.”

Pjenne (she/her), a Naarm/Melbourne-based DJ and radio host, puts the pull towards Europe down to the escalation of opportunities that it provides.”Although there are always new festivals, new events and new parties cropping up, there can also be a sense that once you reach a certain level in your career, you might have ticked off a lot of your bucket list gigs - this feeling is of course steeped in gratitude and privilege.” Pjenne doesn’t work full-time as an artist, and acknowledges that the lack of support in the industry may have something to do with that. “Perhaps if it was more viable to make a living in music here, I wouldn't be in this situation though,” she continues.

Candidly, Darren admits that there’s a certain appeal to local artists who’ve toured overseas, “from a promoter’s POV, an Aussie artist that has toured Europe on paper looks more exotic and marketable.”

While “a tour” is a very flexible term, the quick dip to Europe has become an important feather in the cap for any potential promoters, bookers and festival organisers. After all, local artists can almost always expect a bump in their regular fee for adding the asterisk to their presser.

It’s crucial to note that the ability for aspiring artists to travel overseas for work, and to achieve this higher pay grade, is steeped in privilege. Pjenne understands this privilege all too well.

“Being a DJ means needing the time, energy and resources to pursue an artistic or creative career - a career that comes with a need for expensive gear and absolutely no financial stability is far more accessible to those who have financial safety.”

For artists working full-time however, the gravitation to Europe is not a pull of a few months, but often up to half a year.

Much like the incessant offerings of suburban sublets from our Instagram mutuals, it’s now all too common to see the artists we follow looking for people to swap houses with internationally. When local artists are running near-endless tours from June - October, often ending with Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), it’s easy to see that this nomadic lifestyle is paying the bills.

The sheer dominance of Australian artists on Europe’s festival and club circuit is only further adding to this. Transmissions, a Hackney-based promoter regularly running events at The Cause, FOLD and others, just announced a lineup consisting of approximately 20% Australian acts.

It’s hard not to feel excited or enamoured with this kind of lifestyle. Instagram and TikTok have us all feeling both closer and further away from our dreams than ever before. The grass is far far greener when an artist we love is still gallivanting around Croatia while we’re stuck on the commute home from work.

It’s no wonder then that Europe has, like so many other destinations, holidays, brands and experiences, become synonymous with ‘an answer’. An answer to boredom, to a lack of inspiration, an unfulfilled dream and a means to a professional end.

Class division, economic problems and environmental impact aside, what does the EU summer mean for Australia?

“As the months get colder, punters naturally start to go out less, favouring more cosy activities and venues and travelling away from the weather. This further decreases the amount of events run over winter and influences artists to travel for work,” Pjenne told me.

Darren agrees, saying “coming from a smaller city like Boorloo, it’s really noticeable when regular dance-floor faces aren’t front left and it can make things feel a bit sparse.”

While the desire to flee to Europe may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps a holiday is what we all really need? It can’t be summer all year round after all.

Fewer artists, promoters and punters means less events, less opportunities for artists to stimulate and inspire, and less progress generally. Or does it?

As faithful as they are to a visit to Europe, Darren and Pjenne both see the benefit in a challenge.

Pjenne’s optimism comes from the vacuum of opportunity that many artists leave behind. “The same popular DJs tend to make their way onto lineup after lineup over summer and it’s always great to have them in town and on rotation, but it’s also nice for promoters to have to think a little outside the box and give fresh faces an opportunity to play. I think Naarm is absolutely bursting with talent, so I don’t feel as though anything comes to a grinding halt. If there were more investment into this area, and less of an ‘exodus’, who knows what potential there would be for our community?”

Darren agrees, pointing out that “an exodus can be a good thing. It’s an opportunity for new and upcoming individuals to have their turn.”


Regardless of your own opinion or potential for international travel, it’s hard to deny the subtle yet undeniable shift in our scene each time the European summer rolls around.

As much as the exodus for Europe is seen as a necessary evil for artists looking for greener pastures, it also leaves behind a community ready for someone new to step in and water the grass.

With that period having already started, it’s likely we’ll see the fruits of that labour both overseas and here at home in the months to come.


Jack Colquhoun is the Managing Editor for Mixmag Australia, follow him on Instagram.

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