Letter to the Federal Arts Minister
CALL FOR A CROSS-PORTFOLIO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO FUNDING THE CONTEMPORARY POPULAR MUSIC INDUSTRY
The co-signatories to this press release seek the Federal Arts Minister’s help to establish a Federal, cross-portfolio taskforce dedicated to ensuring the future success of the contemporary popular music industry.
Contemporary popular music is an economically productive art form that also makes a significant contribution to Australia’s cultural identity. The everyday lives of Australians, particularly young people, are inspired by the role that popular songs play in the commute to work, relaxing at home, and coming together to celebrate. Contemporary popular music is integral to the economy and ecology of radio, film and television, fashion, video games, and the internet. Because these media are ubiquitous, Australian musicians have a significant role to play in the evolution of a distinctly Australian cultural identity, both at home and abroad.
According to a 2013 study by Music Australia, the contemporary music industry in Australia is worth an estimated $7-8 billion to the national economy every year. 36 of the top 100 albums sold in Australia in 2014 were by Australian artists, proving that Australian audiences want high-quality music generated within our borders. Live music sells more tickets than all the sporting events combined, and is second only to cinema attendance in terms of quantitative audience engagement with the arts.
Nevertheless, contemporary popular music practitioners operate within an increasingly uncertain and constrained industrial context. Globalisation has opened new markets for Australian musicians, while exponentially increasing competition for the listener’s attention. Consumer behaviours are also influencing change; online music piracy, along with the growing dominance of streaming services like Spotify, is significantly impacting on the ability of professional musicians to earn a living wage. The trend towards earlier closing hours for entertainment venues in our capital cities is also making it harder and harder for publicans to afford the cost of staging live music.
Our musicians, and the industry infrastructure that supports them, all need help to navigate the complex opportunities and risks that this social, technological and economic transformation present, so that the music industry’s significant contribution continues into the future. While the macroeconomic success of the Australian music industry is profound, most individual artists currently earn less than $10,000 per year from their work, and this figure is likely to diminish in the future unless innovative solutions to our current challenges can be collectively generated with the support of government. 99 per cent of Australia’s music and performing arts businesses turnover less than $2 million per annum, and some 88 percent are micro businesses, turning over under $200 000 per annum. In other words, almost the entire industry is built on independent or small to medium organisations.
Independent artists have always needed a complex array of interrelated infrastructure to translate their creative vision into something of commercial value. Organisations of different sizes and types support artists across the career lifecycle. National peak industry bodies are vital to ensuring royalties get collected, performance data is provided to government, our greatest successes are celebrated and exported, and practitioners stay up to date with emerging opportunities. The small to medium organisations provide support at an early stage to help an artist hone their skills, until such time that recognition comes from the major labels, promoters and distributors. These small to medium organisations include not only the state music industry development associations, but also the independent labels, managers, agents and publicists that contribute to the promotion and development of those emerging artists.
This sense of interrelatedness also defines contemporary music’s importance to the rest of the economy. What often goes unnoticed is that the music industry is also critical to the success of a number of other industries beyond those in the arts sector. For example, the hospitality and retail sectors rely on music, both recorded and performed, to create the atmosphere that brings people out of their homes. People of all ages from interstate and abroad spend millions every year on plane travel and hotel nights to attend concerts and festivals. The creative industries are a core pillar of the higher education sector, and the demand for those contemporary music courses is partly dependent on the perception that there will be career outcomes upon graduation.
The potential for music to have a greater multiplier effect across the rest of the economy would therefore be maximised by the involvement of a broader group of government stakeholders. We seek the Federal Arts Minister’s assistance to establish a Federal, cross-portfolio taskforce dedicated to ensuring the future success of our industry. There is enormous potential and opportunity in a ‘whole of government’ understanding of the cultural and economic importance of the contemporary music industry in areas as diverse as arts, trade, cultural diplomacy, tourism, education, employment, innovation, health and small business.
The Australian music industry is committed to working closely with the Federal Government to deliver high-quality art to a broad Australian audience and increase the nation’s economic productivity.
AMIN – Australian Music Industry Network (incorporating QMusic, Music Victoria, Music NSW, WAM, Music NT, Music SA, Music ACT, Music Tasmania)
AIR – Australian Independent Record Labels Association
AAM – Association of Artist Managers