“The Sound is pioneering a whole new field for performances”

Producer Saul Shtein explains how ABC's music show has come up with extraordinarily creative performances.

“As the saying goes, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,'” producer Saul Shtein says.

“What (the pandemic) has actually produced is something quite remarkable.”

Shtein is producer on ABC music series The Sound, which emerged during Australia’s first lockdown, and has returned with a second season.

Back for Ausmusic Month the series has dug deep to film its talent in safe, if challenging, circumstances.

But the result is an extraordinarily creative hour of performers hauntingly captured in bold locations, and collaborations that may never have been conceived were it not for the pandemic.

In Season One Electric Fields performed in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens with Jessica Mauboy in Sydney, John Butler in Margaret River and Missy Higgins in Melbourne. Then there was Jimmy Barnes in the Southern Highlands singing Billy Thorpe, joined by Mahalia Barnes, Ben Rogers on the Sunshine Coast, Chris Cheney (The Living End) in Melbourne and Lachy Doley in Sydney.

Shtein says Mushroom impresario Michael Gudinski had the vision for the show, with Tom McDonald as Creative Director.

“It’s pioneering a whole new field for performances”

“You don’t have to have artists in the same place. You don’t have to have artists performing to an audience,” he explains.

“We’ve got our artists in empty halls and stadiums. It’s very poignant about the times we’re going through but it hasn’t detracted…. it’s pioneering a whole new field for performances.”

Amongst the venues used so far, Hamer Hall Melbourne, Sealife Aquarium Sydney, Powerhouse Museum Sydney, The Espy Melbourne, Old Museum Brisbane, State Theatre Sydney, Sydney Town Hall, Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne and other locations from Byron Bay to Los Angeles.

“We will film where the artists are, as opposed to acts coming to us and we put them in front of a multi-camera studio,” he continues.

“The collaboration in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens was just extraordinary. And Bliss n Eso on the top of Centrepoint tower -the first time it’s been done- also crosses to London in that same clip.”

Seasoned performers and emerging artists are both part of the line-up, with collaborations nodding to ‘artists from the vault.’

Shtein, who in addition to being a founding part of MTV Australia has led Sport for both Seven and Nine, explains the show’s philosophy.

“If you don’t like what you’re watching now…there’s going to be something completely different”

“The format of Wide World of Sports was if you don’t like what you’re watching now, in a few minutes’ time, there’s going to be something completely different. That eclectic philosophy is something that is reflected in the show.

“While you’re waiting for Midnight Oil to come on, you’re exposed to an artist that you never knew existed. How good is that? It educates people to what great talent we have here in this country.”

Artists who have appeared include Paul Kelly, Paul Grabowsky, Eves Karydas, Kate Miller Heidke, Guy Sebastian, Colin Hay, Mia Wray, Midnight Oil, Kylie Minogue, Tones & I, Kate Ceberano, Nick Cave, Boy & Bear, Amy Shark, Megan Washington, Thirsty Merc, while hosts Jane Gazzo and Bridget Hustwaite are also joined by a guest host, such as Keith Urban, Stan Grant, Deborah Mailman, Russell Crowe, Bryan Brown and more.

Almost all the performances are produced for The Sound, with only a handful as acquired vision. Shtein stresses the show is also not Mushroom acts only.

“It’s not just Mushroom artists”

“There’s a big misconception that because it’s produced by Mushroom Vision it’s a Mushroom artist show. Quite the opposite. The majority of the program is non-Mushroom acts,” he confirms.

While Season 2 has been given the former Countdown Sunday slot, Shtein is well aware how hard it is for music television to succeed.

“Traditionally, music shows -unless they’re an event like Music from the Home Front or Fire Fight Australia– do struggle a little bit when it comes to mainstream ratings. However, this timeslot we’re in now leaning towards 7 o’clock, will expose the show to greater amounts.

“The goal is to grow the audience and get people to say ‘This is not just a clip show. This is not just Mushroom promoting artists exclusively.’

“This is about promoting Australian music. The number of record labels and artists who wants to come on the show is amazing. It is overwhelming and it gives us a great opportunity.”

This season will finish with a Christmas special in December.

6pm Sundays on ABC.

5 Responses

  1. The locations are amazing. One of my favourites was the venue where G Flip performed. It was a dodgem car arena and the colours were gorgeous. Something completely different to what you’d normally expect.

  2. The low ratings would be a concern, hopefully it continues to build and gains more timeshifted / iview viewers. I can’t help drawing parallels with HYBPA, a soft launch on the cusp of Summer 2013, then it returned in the same 6PM Sunday slot in 2014 and struggled for a while. Still going seven years later.

  3. They’re doing some really nice stuff. Someone’s looking out for them too – that Bliss n Eso clip on top of Centrepoint doesn’t look anywhere near as good if the sun doesn’t poke out through the cloud on the horizon 🙂

Leave a Reply