Wind band music has been part of Australian life from the beginning of colonisation. Reed and brass and allbrass bands became central to the fabric of the social and cultural life of a vast number of small and large communities beyond the chief cities. Proud and progressive rural communities produced some of the best contesting bands of the pre-World War One era but urbanisation, metropolitan dominance of banding and other factors gradually reversed the fortunes of rural banding. This article surveys, quantifies, and describes the role of banding in rural communities and its substantial decline by 1940. The study is made possible though the author’s ownership of a unique private Australian band history archive, The Arthur Stirling Collection, which includes the only known extant runs of early (pre-1925) Australian band journals (Whiteoak 1995, pp. 4–10).