In the mid 1950s American rockabilly and rock and roll music was taken up by local musicians and it soon caught on with Australian teens, through movies, records and from 1956, television. EMI had dominated the Australasian record market since the end of WWII, and they made British music a powerful force in the late Fifties and Sixties with signings like Cliff Richard & The Shadows, The Beatles, The Hollies and Cilla Black. EMI (Australia) also locally distributed Decca (The Rolling Stones' label) as well as the American Capitol label (The Beach Boys). During this period, however, a number of local companies in Australia expanded into the growing Australian music market, which grew considerably after the emergence of the first wave of American rock'n'roll.
In 1951 merchant bank, Mainguard took over a struggling Sydney engineering firm, retooled and relaunched it as Festival Records. Its main local competition was ARC (the Australian Record Company), a former radio production and disc transcription service that established the successful Pacific, Rodeo and Coronet labels and competed with Festival as a manufacturer/distributor in NSW.
Several major events took place in 1960. In January Festival Records was purchased by rising young media magnate Rupert Murdoch, and a few weeks later, in April, ARC was taken over by the American CBS company, who closed the Coronet label and replaced the Australian CBS label.
Although most of the major labels were based in Sydney, Melbourne's vibrant dance and concert scene powered a local boom in rock'n'roll and pop music and it became Australia's pop capital in the 1960s. During the Fifties luthier Bill May expanded his Maton guitar company, becoming one of the first local manufacturers of the new electric guitars and amplifiers. In 1953 precision engineering company White & Gillespie established a custom recording division, which their company history claims was the first in Australia to press records in the new vinyl microgroove format. The new division soon included the W&G label and studio. In 1960 Melbourne consumer electronics company Astor Electronics created its own record division, Astor Records, which established the Astor label and also became a leading distributor.
All through this period Australia was experiencing the effects of a rising tide of migration, as thousands fled the wreckage of postwar Europe. The majority of migrants were from the UK, and many were "Ten Pound Poms" who were able to take advantage of the Australian government's generous £10 assisted-passage fare. Also, for the first time since the Gold Rush large numbers of "non-Anglo" migrants came to Australia from places like Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Portugal and eastern European nations like Yugoslavia, Hungary and Poland. These immigrants exerted a powerful influence on all aspects of Australian society and notably in popular music—many major Australia pop performers of the Sixties were the children of migrants from Europe and the UK.
(extract from Wikipedia 2011)