Courtney Barnett Reflects On 10 Years Of Milk! Records

Milk! Records began in a sharehouse in Melbourne in 2012 when Courtney Barnett was working on her first EP. It’s since grown dramatically and is home to some of Australia’s best talent.

Courtney Barnett stands out the front of Milk! Records in Melbourne in celebration of Milk! Records 10 Year Anniversary and birthday

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Recently, the Melbourne institution Milk! Records celebrated its 10th birthday. 

For a decade, the label has cultivated a distinct sound and championed some of Australia’s most cherished artists; boasting the humble beginnings of a Melbourne sharehouse.

In 2012, Courtney Barnett was working on her first EP and her grandmother had loaned her some money to press it onto CDs.

Keen to put a music label on the back of the CD, she decided to knock one up herself. Barnett created an acrostic poem of music she liked, and it came to spell ‘MILK’.  Thus was the birthplace of Milk! Records; and 10 years later, it’s home to over 15 Australian artists.

Jade McInally, the lead singer of Jade Imagine, describes being signed to Milk! as a defining moment in her career. 

“It was an introduction into a community that I probably never would’ve been introduced to,” she says. It could have gone either way without the support of the label because playing music in Melbourne, or playing music in general is pretty hard.” 

“It can take a long time to kind of find your feet, and find your crew, so I think becoming a part of the Milk! family was a huge thing for me;  I met a lot of people who I started collaborating with and helped me set up roots in the Melbourne community.”

At the heart of Milk! Records is a strong sense of community, and with the likes of artists like Jen Cloher working on the label, it has triumphed into the success it is today. When asked about the Milk! Records community, McInally reckons that it feels more like a family than a record label.

“It’s a really supportive group of people who first and foremost are really passionate about music,” she says. “Everyone who runs the label is a musician as well, so they have an understanding of what it’s like to be a musician being on a record label.” 

This ethos has been one of the defining features of the label, with Barnett describing it as a “platform that people can jump off to release their music and find a community where they can gather and support each other.” 

But despite being in operation for a decade, there’s something about Milk! Records that still feels fresh and new. This may be because of their work in bolstering emerging artists — finding new acts and throwing their full support behind them. 

“It’s cool to see musicians and artists be able to use that space to grow and to do their thing the way they want to,” adds Barnett.

Album Cover for Milk On Milk, an album feauturing artists on the Milk! Records Label covering other artists on the label's songs

Album cover for Milk On Milk an album of artists on the Milk! Records label covering each others’ songs

In 2023, Milk! Records has become a bedrock of the Australian music scene, and is living proof of the importance of putting unbridled faith into creative ideas and projects. After all, an idea spawned in a sharehouse bedroom changed the landscape of Australian music forever. 

“I think they’ve proved that it’s worth giving your attention and putting your energy into things that you believe in and throwing your energy behind your friends who play music,” says McInally. 

Reflecting on the anniversary of Milk! Records, Barnett mused that her biggest success is being able to survive (and thrive) as a home to exceptional Australian music for 10 fruitful years. 

Here’s hoping for many, many more.