Labor has promised to invest $28 million in the music industry if it is elected to government in 2019. The substantial pledge is at the centre of the party’s new contemporary music policy, unveiled on Friday by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for the Arts Tony Burke. It comes just two weeks after a New South Wales parliamentary committee found that live music in NSW was in “crisis”, recommending that the state government alone spend at least $35 million to address the issue over the next four years.

“Australia is a better country when we back our arts, when we back our culture, when we back our music,” Shorten said on Friday when introducing the policy.

“Labor has chosen to back live music today because we want to give people something to look forward to, we want to have a vision of Australia which is proud,” he added. “You can either write Australia small, or you can write Australia big – as our songwriters do, as our musicians do… What I feel out of today is a renewed conviction to write Australia big.”

Dubbed Soundtrack Australia, Labor’s newly announced policy promises to deliver over $10 million of new funding to music exports body Sounds Australia. The boost would see the Live Music Office come under Sounds Australia’s remit, a policy development and advocacy organisation that works to increase opportunities for live music in the country.

Another $5 million would be promised to community centres, schools or local governments for the creation of soundproof music hubs, with a mid-career artist on hand to teach and mentor students. Labor has also committed $7.6 million to youth music programs, including APRA’s SongMakers which will increase the number of teachers working in hubs as well as those assisting in schools. A further $600,000 has been promised for the expansion of the ARIA Music Teacher of the Year Award, with new categories to recognise primary, secondary, community and remote music teachers. The party has also promised to find ways to boost existing programs already funded by the Department of Education.

A further $4.2 million has been allocated to two charities working in music and mental health, Nordoff Robbins and Support Act. Nordoff Robbins, which facilitates thousands of music therapy sessions every year in communities, care homes, schools, disability organisations and its own centres, will receive ongoing funding of $200,000 annually. Support Act, which provides grants as well as mental health support to artists, support staff and crew in difficulty, will also receive ongoing funding of $200,000 a year to enable it to create comprehensive mental health programs for those in the music industry.

Labor has also promised to provide a modest funding boost to the Australia Council’s New Recordings Program, which enables the production of 10 albums per year. It would have its funding doubled to $200,000, while $100,000 would go to existing grants programs to support new recordings by Australian artists, helping musicians manage the costs associated with the recording process.

Another $250,000 has been earmarked for the Association of Artists Managers, which would enable the training of new and emerging managers to ensure continuing industry growth.

Labor has also promised to tackle the issue of ticket scalpers by pledging that it will impose a countrywide ban on the use of automated bots to purchase tickets. A price limit on tickets sold in the resale market will also be implemented, while scalpers and websites like ViaGoGo will be subject to a reformed Australian Consumer Law.

On the issue of copyright, the party has at this stage only said that it will consult on any proposed reform, reiterating its belief that creators own what they create and have a right to income.


Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine