Adelaide: UNESCO City of Music

A Creative City, with music as its heartbeat enriching the whole state of South Australia.

Adelaide, designated as the first and only City of Music in Australia, is now a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Network. Australia’s UNESCO Creative cities include; Melbourne – City of Literature, Sydney – City of Film, Geelong – City of Design and designated in late 2020, Ballarat – City of Craft and Folk Arts and Bendigo – City of Gastronomy.

Adelaide joins Melbourne – City of Literature, Sydney – City of Film, and Geelong – City of Design as Australia’s UNESCO Creative Cities.

This is an acknowledgment of the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the city’s music culture, its international reach, its history and its aspirations. Adelaide supports a diverse range of independent musicians, a developing and entrepreneurial music industry, a series of world-class music and arts festivals, as well as leading music education and performance institutions.

The designation was made in recognition of the following factors, among others:

  • Recent investment by both local and state government in the creative economy, and music’s specific role.
  • Quality, quantity and diversity of music making in Adelaide.
  • Collaboration between government, education and private sectors around developing the local music industry across diverse platforms.
  • Historical commitment to music and the arts in Adelaide.
  • Adelaide’s international reputation and experience in hosting world class music and arts festivals.
  • Connection and collaboration with other creative fields, such as film, gastronomy, media arts.

Adelaide Festival Centre led the bid to UNESCO, with the support of the Adelaide City Council and the Government of South Australia’s Department of State Development through the Music Development Office.

Specific highlights

Specific highlights of Adelaide as a City of Music are:

  • The city is home to outstanding and internationally renowned festivals:
  • Australia’s favourite outdoor festival, WOMADelaide attracts attendances beyond 86,000. 45% of its audience comes from outside SA.
  • Adelaide Cabaret Festival is the biggest cabaret festival in the world.
  • Adelaide Guitar Festival is the most significant guitar festival in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Multi-arts festivals Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival of Arts and OzAsia all include strong music programs
  • Founded in 1883, Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium is the oldest tertiary music school in Australia. One of its directors, John Bishop OBE, was a leading reformer of music education, and held a position on the UNESCO Committee for Music in the 1960s.
  • Home to some of Australia’s greatest rock bands including Cold Chisel, The Angels and leading hip-hop artists Hilltop Hoods. AC/DC formed Adelaide when they added local Bon Scott as front man, and the music careers of revered singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, Guy Sebastian and chart-topping artist Sia began in Adelaide.
  • Adelaide’s pioneering Music Development Office was established in 2014, envisioning a whole music ecology for the city and placing music as central to the city’s identity and development
  • Australia’s national classical music radio network ABC Classic FM was founded in Adelaide
  • Australia’s newest jazz school – James Morrison Academy of Music – has strong ties with the city

Read more about the Adelaide UNESCO City of Music Activity. 2017/18 Activity Report

UNESCO Creative Cities Network

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

The 246 cities across the globe currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

By joining the Network, cities commit to sharing their best practices and developing partnerships involving the public and private sectors as well as civil society in order to:

  • strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services;
  • develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector;
  • improve access to and participation in cultural life, in particular for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals;
  • fully integrate culture and creativity into sustainable development plans.

The Creative Cities Network is a privileged partner of UNESCO, not only as a platform for reflection on the role of creativity as a lever for sustainable development but also as a breeding ground of action and innovation.

As of October 2019 there are 47 UNESCO Cities of Music. Click here to view the map. 

Mission of the Office of Adelaide UNESCO City of Music

In keeping with the Objectives of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, the Office will:

  1. Enhance and promote collaboration, excellence, diversity and sustainability in all aspects of music making in throughout the City of Music, including urban and regional South Australia.
  2. Build international pathways for the City of Music throughout the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and beyond.
  3. Advocate locally and nationally on behalf of the City of Music and the entire Music sector to fully integrate culture and creativity into policy and sustainable development plans.
  4. Develop and facilitate connection and collaboration for Music with Industry and all other creative sectors.
  5. To foster life-long love for and engagement with Music within our entire community through education and participation.

To read more about our strategic pillars, please click here.

International Projects

Asia-Pacific Creative Cities Conference

23 - 26 October 2019

Representatives from UNESCO Creative Cities, Australian and Asia-Pacific cultural and creative industries, cultural diplomats, artists and creatives from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region and experts in the field of cultural and creative industries attended a four day conference to discuss indigenous arts, language and culture, sustainable development, entrepreneurship, bilateral partnership and tourism and marketing. Bolstering regional connections, fostering partnerships and planning for the future.

Read more

In My Neighbourhood

Sydney and Adelaide artists Jane Beeke and Jennifer Greer Holmes are taking street art, soundscapes, storytelling and skateboarding to Singapore Design Week (March 4 to 17) to represent the talent and potential of Australia’s UNESCO Creative Cities and developing links between Singapore and Australia. Read more

Primary Schools’ Music Festival

Read more

Adelaide: UNESCO City of Music walk trail 

Curated by Adelaide City Explorer Team, The South Australian Government through the Music Development Office, & Music SA

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Gabriella Smart

Artistic Director of Soundstream: Adelaide New Music, Gabriella Smart, had a residency in Poland with fellow UNESCO Creative City, Katowice.

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International Jazz Day

A global celebration of jazz as an artform. Musical Director/Arranger/Saxophone: Adam Page, Drummer: Kyrie Anderson, Double Bass: Bonnie Aué, Pianist/Composer: Jonathan Crayford, Saxophone: Helena Kay, Vocals: Emma Pask, Trombone: Thomas Voss.

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, supported by City of Adelaide and COMA (Creative Original Music Adelaide).

Read more

Asia-Pacific Creative Cities Conference

To be held during OzAsia Festival, 23 – 26 October 2019.

We invite representatives from UNESCO Creative Cities, representatives of the Australian and Asia-Pacific cultural and creative industries, cultural diplomats, artists and creatives from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region and experts in the field of cultural and creative industries to register their attendance.

Read more

Local Projects

City of Music Mural

Music SA, a not-for-profit key music industry body in South Australia, approached local muralist Dave Court and local film maker Lewis Brideson in late 2018 with the idea to create the largest public art mural in the Adelaide CBD highlighting the excellence, diversity and cultural history of Adelaide as a City of Music, and to give the city a sense of pride about our UNESCO designation.

Watch the trailer

More Information

For more information about Adelaide as a UNESCO City of Music, please click here.



Director – Office of Adelaide UNESCO City of Music, Rebecca Pearce
Phone +61 8 8216 8505
Mobile +61 (0) 424 629 756

Other materials

Download press release