Melbourne-based record label Off The List Records is smashing ableism in Australia’s live music scene
06.09.2021

Melbourne-based record label Off The List Records is smashing ableism in Australia’s live music scene

Slumlawwd, signed to Off The List Records.
Words by Brandon Davis

Directed by arts worker and music lover Dave Dowling, the label is spearheading a movement to support artists living with a disability and hosting live shows that are more accessible to all.

Music is a massive part of Australian culture. This diverse form of artistic expression has brought people together and forged communities across the globe.

But for many people with disabilities, the modern world of music can be drastically inaccessible. Melbourne-based indie, DIY and experimental record label Off The List Records is seeking to change that.

Run by a collective of disabled arts workers and able-bodied allies, the group is challenging ableism and discrimination across the music industry. They’re advocating for the construction of accessible and inclusive spaces that allow all artists and fans to engage in our robust music scene.

Each of the group’s six members have experience in the music industry, whether they’re punters, event promoters or musicians. Their lived experiences with a lack of access and inclusivity urged them to band together and do something about it.

The not-for-profit group plans to build an extensive catalogue of releases from artists with and without disability, as well as hosting accessible shows both locally and beyond.

They’ve already secured their first signing with Brisbane-based three-piece ensemble Slumlawwd, a disability-led, garage-scene favourite that have shared the stage with a number of worthy contemporaries including Front End Loader, Some Jerks, and WHALEHOUSE.

We spoke to the group’s director Dave Dowling to find out more about what the future holds for Off The List Records:

Congrats on the creation of Off The List Records. First up can you give us a bit of an intro to Off The List and how the project came to light?

The idea came together after a discussion between three of us at a backyard show series that I host called Under The Almonds.

We were talking about the lack of access in the scene and how we could create more accessible spaces for audiences and artists. Being a deaf arts worker myself, I loved the idea of an access-friendly music label and jumped at the chance to be a part of it – so here we are.

You aim to promote accessibility and inclusivity within the music community and industry through shows and music releases – how do you go about this?

We’re trying to bring allies and disabled artists together by putting on accessible indie/DIY/experimental shows that feature artists with disabilities on the bill.

We’re also releasing music, with 50% of our releases from artists with disabilities, starting with a single we’ve just put out by a disability-led Meanjin/Brisbane punk band called Slumlawwd. We love them and brought them down to Naarm/Melbourne for our launch party in May – they blew the stage apart!

In doing all this, we hope we can influence change across the scene and raise the profile of disabled artists and the importance of access.

Talk to us about the team – how have you all come to work with each other?

The majority of us live with a disability and we’re all somewhat connected through friends of friends. It’s pretty grassroots but that’s how we like it too. We’ve got allies on the committee also and as a whole, we’re trying to ensure that decision-makers are fairly diverse in terms of gender and background.

What does each of you bring to the business?

Lived experience is a big one but most importantly we’re all experienced arts workers and artists. We know what it’s like to try and flog your music and plug your shows in a scene that’s fairly inaccessible.

The creation of Off The List is taking strides in dismantling ableism in the industry and on a wider level. What can we, punters, other artists, venues and the entire music industry, do to aid in this?

Listen to artists with disability, play them on your radio show, plug them in your blogs, reach out to them, host shows with them, connect with them. Don’t be shy to talk about access – sometimes it’s so helpful to say that you have 2/3 steps and handrail – it’s not 100% accessible but providing that information is so helpful to punters with disability.

When working with artists with disability, always ask what their access needs are. We are finding that sometimes venues and promoters opt to not work with disabled artists for fear of not getting access right or because it seems like too much of a challenge to them, but most of the time disabled artists are just asking you to show them some patience regarding their access needs and for the same amount of respect and due diligence afforded to able-bodied artists.

What are your plans this year for Off The List Records?

We’ll be focussing Slumlawwd’s album launch for the most part. We’ve had a really good response so far from Slumlawwd’s single launch so we can’t wait to see what people think of the album when it comes out in September. We’ve also got a few accessible shows in the works if things open up!

Check out the first single ‘Withdrawn Failure’ from Slumlawwd’s debut album ‘Fuckburg’, set to be released via Off The List Records later this year.

Stay updated on the latest releases and events from Off the List Records at their Facebook page!