INXS, Powderfinger, Jet, Courtney Barnett – will Australia support the next generation of music stars?
As a leading body for popular music in Australia, the Australia & New Zealand branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-ANZ) adds its concerns to those of other arts organisations over the lack of focus on the arts in the current Australian election.
Dr Catherine Strong, Chair of IASPM-ANZ, said today,
‘Music is and always has been a key part of Australia’s culture. The cuts to music and arts funding made by the current government in the last budget, and their continued failure make public its arts policies in the lead up to the election, now only days away, is deeply concerning for the sector and our culture’.
IASPM-ANZ members know that the production, consumption and circulation of popular music has many economic, social and cultural benefits. Popular music remains an important leisure/entertainment activity: a report from the Australia Council in 2014 showed that 99% of Australians listen to music and attend a music event in any one year; 32% of young people between 15 and 24 make music; and 14% of Australians play a music instrument.
According to APRA and Live Performance Australia, it is estimated that the Australian popular music industries contribute almost $6b to the national economy, generating revenue of $2b annually.
Recent cuts and changes made to funding related to popular music threaten the health of this sector and our culture.
Strong added ‘we support the policies of the Labor Party, Greens Party and Arts Party, where they have pledged to return funding to the Australia Council, and ensure transparency in the administration of arts funding; restore funding to Sounds Australia, and put in place or retain other initiatives that promote and nurture Australian musicians.”
Given that the benefits to the community and economy of popular music are greater than any of these investments, we call on the current government to also commit to supporting music in Australia.
Contact Catherine Strong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(With thanks to Shane Homan)
The production, consumption and circulation of popular music has many economic, social and cultural benefits. Popular music remains an important leisure/entertainment activity: 99% of Australians listen to music and attend a music event in any one year; 32% of young people between 15 and 24 make music; and 14% of Australians play a music instrument (Australia Council 2014).
It is estimated that the Australian popular music industries contribute almost $6b to the national economy, generating revenue of $2b annually (APRA 2011; Live Performance Australia 2015; Music in Australia Knowledge Base 2015). This is as part of an arts sector that more broadly has higher employment growth rates than the rest of the economy.
Globally, the current powers of multinational music-media aggregators of music content to set the terms of music consumption and revenues have important implications for Australian artists, labels and consumers. The role of industries and the state in promoting the visibility of Australian music in international markets has also become increasingly important. Locally, the health of live performance circuits emphasises the need for continuing reform of our music venues.
IASPM ANZ seeks to emphasise this mix of issues in ensuring policy settings that reflect industrial and cultural priorities. In particular, as political parties increasingly emphasise the need for ‘smart’ cities and innovative industries, there is an urgent need to address the following policy areas:
The strong music scenes of Australian cities have produced many important artists, and are recognised internationally as key sites of music making. This should be supported through:
Ensuring sustainability of funding for the Live Music Office to continue to investigate reform of council and state government regulations affecting live performance sectors
Nation-wide adoption of best practice in noise law reforms, including the ‘Agent of change’ principle and the ‘Good Music Neighbours’ programs established by Creative Victoria. Policy changes in this area have led to a reduction in live music revenue in NSW recently, highlighting the vulnerability of the sector to government decisions that do not sufficiently understand its needs.
There is a growing body of research that shows that not only does music education in schools and beyond help to create the next generation of musicians, but that it also has significant benefits for young people in terms of their learning and wellbeing more broadly. This should be supported through:
Ensuring funding for specialist music teachers in primary schools, in keeping with best international practice
Preventing deregulation of university fee structures that will prohibit the completion of tertiary music courses at reasonable HECS rates
The ability of acts to play in regional areas is decreasing as touring costs rise and the number of venues decrease. There is an urgent need to review and renew the assistance provided to Australian artists to support regional circuits that can address city-centric emphases in live performance.
Peer reviewed administration of public arts funding remains an important part of due process and is respected by the music sector (Australia Council 2012). To ensure faith and transparency:
The $28m cut from Australia Council block funding in 2014 should be restored; and
Rather than existing as a Ministerial prerogative, the $104.8 Catalyst program should be administered by the Australia Council
The federal export program, Sounds Australia, has grown from showcasing 49 acts per year in 2009 to over 200 acts per year in 2014 and 2015 (APRA-AMCOS 2016). To ensure the program continues its work in promoting an Australian presence in international markets, the following should be adopted:
Restore block funding of Sounds Australia within Australia Council funding, removing the need for yearly applications for funding in other funding programs;
Restore prior investments in music export promotion (e.g. Music Managers, International Pathways programs) administered by the Australia Council
The community radio sector remains an important part of the broadcast media ecosystem, particularly in airing emerging local artists seeking state and national profiles. To assist community music radio in remaining viable against mainstream commercial radio, the usual election-cycle plans by political parties to remove community radio funding should be replaced with stability for this sector:
IASPM ANZ calls on the federal government to restore the $1.4m proposed cuts to the Community Broadcasting Program
Popular music research
There is a lack of consistent social, cultural and industrial research mapping popular music activity in broad Australian contexts. This is particularly acute as the Australian Bureau of Statistics partially withdraws from cultural sector research as the result of funding cuts.
There is a need for the federal government to financially support and broker key research landscapes that can inform future social and industrial priorities. This research support should be administered in an impartial and transparent manner, to ensure freedom from industry and government agendas.
A coherent cultural policy
Above all, it is astonishing that beyond Ministerial attendance at an ArtsPeak policy debate, the sitting government does not possess a cultural policy as an alternative to the 2013 Labor government’s Creative Australia.
There is an urgent need for the successful government post-election to construct and implement a coherent national cultural policy that makes clear intersecting arts and cultural industry policies, schemes and activities; and how and where Australian artists are positioned in relation to current and future global shifts in cultural production and consumption.
APRA (2011) Economic contribution of the venue-based live music industry in Australia, Report by Ernst and Young
APRA-AMCOS (2016) APRA AMCOS 2014-2015 Year in Review, online report
Australia Council for the Arts (2012) The music recording sector in Australia: strategic initiatives, June
Australia Council for the Arts (2014) Arts in Daily Life: Australian Participation in the Arts – Report, May
Live Performance Australia (2015) 2014 Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey
Music in Australia Knowledge Base (2015) Estimating the Value of the Music Sector (2005-2014)
Productivity Commission (2016) Intellectual Property Arrangements, April, Australian Government, Canberra