Mixed Music Biz Response for Australia’s National Cultural Policy

Australia’s federal arts minister Simon Crean has unveiled its awaited National Cultural Policy, the most significant overview of this country’s cultural activities and its support framework in almost 20 years.

It's carried in “Creative Australia,” a long-term strategy which Crean says is all about “creating excellence, creating jobs, creating prosperity, creating opportunity and creating unique Australian stories” in the creative industries.

As the music industry pours over the details and where tax-payer money will flow, the feedback has been mostly positive. Though some big questions remain.

First, the numbers. The arts sector – which includes the music, film and games industries -- is to receive Australian $195 million ($202 million) in “new money”, and will account for a total of Australian $235 million ($243 million) in funding.

At the core of the new strategy is an overhaul and modernization of the Australia Council for the Arts, which in 2012 handed out Australian $164 million ($169 million) in arts grants. A new grant management system is to be implemented. There’s extra funding for the Australia Council, which lands an extra Australian $75.3 million ($78 million) over four years.

There’s Australian $2.4 million ($2.5 million) earmarked for the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap) over four years, funded through the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Until recently, Amrap’s survival was on a knife’s edge after the community radio initiative was left in defunded isolation.

With a day to digest the information, the Australasian Performing Right Assn identifies the document’s recognition of creator’s rights and further investment in Australia’s music export potential as among its key highlights.

The weighty report also calls for greater support for music and arts education in schools and, through Creative Partnerships Australia, sets aside funding to help foster crowd-funding projects. And there's a reiteration for the Australian $1.75 million ($1.8 million) in funding over four years that had already been secured to expand the operations of export body Sounds Australia.

The Music Manager’s Forum, however, has expressed some disappointment that there’s no provision for tax incentives for investment in music, for which it has lobbied for since the ‘90s.

APRA and various music industry stakeholders have praised Crean’s efforts for seeing through this project in tricky political and economic times. There’s a sense that the film industry and the performing arts are better supported by “Creative Australia” than musicians and the live business.

APRA’s Head of Corporate Services Dean Ormson says the project represents a good start from an industry perspective, but admits only time will tell if "Creative Australia" fulfills its great promise. “Is it enough? It's a good start. But if our goal is to move towards being a net exporter of music, then we need a much larger investment - in music education in schools – in developing a broad-based investment strategy that will drive a strong live music economy and recording industry - in supporting legitimate digital music services –and in exporting our music to the world,” he tells Billboard.biz.

It’s been 18 years since Australia’s last cultural policy, the “Creative Nation” policy, was unveiled in 1994 by then prime minister Paul Keating in the Australian capital, Canberra.

“Copyright protection is vital for creators and businesses whose income is derived online,” said Crean Wednesday in the capital. “Copyright protection will help encourage investment and innovation in digital technologies and content.”

The NCP is a “ten-year vision.” But that vision could unravel if, as expected, the rival Liberal Party is elected to office when the country goes to the polls on Sept 14.

The full Creative Australia report can be read here.