Government urged to protect Australian music industry

10 June, 2020 by Brydie Allen

More than 1000 music industry artists, workers, businesses and venues have signed an urgent open letter to the Australian Government requesting essential support for the sector’s survival.

Industry organisation APRA said the letter has five key asks of the government, including the expansion of JobKeeper to excluded artists and individuals who have been excluded, an extension of the scheme until at least the end of the year, direct business grants, a boost to Australia Council funding and tax offsets and red-tape reduction for the sector. 

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The letter said:  “The Australian music sector fell off a cliff on 13 March when Government made the correct and prudent decision to shut the nation down. Without the ability for artists to play and venues to open around the country, the industry lost billions of dollars in revenue. It is estimated the box-office loss in relation to live music alone will be half a billion dollars over six months.”

“From the smallest music venues and festivals in cities, suburbs and towns to the major concerts and events, the Australian music industry is an intricate and complex breeding ground for some of the most acclaimed live talent at home and around the world. Our corner of the global music market has produced a generation of industry operators and professionals that are taking Australian music to the world in a way that is both unique and enviable.”

“While much of the economy starts to re-open, the ongoing restrictions on large gatherings means our industry will continue to be held back from returning to work. Without immediate government intervention, the Australian music sector will be hit twice as hard as the rest of the economy and thousands of jobs will be lost within months.”

The letter described the value of the music industry to Australia as a whole, noting the thousands of workers entwined in the field. Because of this value and the many people directly and indirectly affected by a potential industry collapse, the long term cost to the economy and cultural infrastructure is tremendous and long-lasting. 

“We are a highly skilled workforce with thousands of businesses that continuously adapt to technological change. We contribute $16 billion to the economy and we are an asset that is a lynchpin for the tourism and hospitality sectors and a powerful driver of metropolitan and regional economies and export to the world,” the letter said.

“The four thousand plus venues that present live music across Australia are now closed with no certainty as to when a restart is likely or viable. Every $1 spent on live music circulates $3 into the broader community. There is no clear plan to ensure our sector’s workers are going to be supported through this enforced hibernation.”

It also commended the NZ Government for recognising this and announcing a subsequent support package to save their arts and music industry. Considering Australia’s work to flatten the curve, the undersigned to the letter says there is a golden opportunity to do something similar on our own soil.

The letter ends with the five points the Government are urged to consider as part of an assistance package for the entertainment industry. These are quoted below:

  1. Extend JobKeeper for the music and broader entertainment sector beyond September to ensure the skilled workers, businesses and venues remain viable until trade is realistic. 
  2. Expand JobKeeper to those artists and workers in our industry who work gig-to-gig and contract to contract. 
  3. Establish a specific $40million Australian Music Recovery Fund in partnership with state and territory governments, and as part of a broader $345m live performance industry recovery package, to catalyse Australian music nationally and ensure the sustainability of music businesses, service providers and venues over the next twelve months.
  4. Boost Australia Council funding with $70 million across all artforms to ensure individual artists including musicians and songwriters can access grants as part of the cultural recovery.
  5. Commit to reducing red-tape and incentivising the sector with a rebatable tax offset for live music to support long term rebuild and sustainability for venues and touring, provide an immediate rebate on existing alcohol excise and wine equalisation tax to support the recovery of venues and introduce rebates for the recording of Australian music. 

You can read the full open letter and it’s signatories here.