Gotye, INXS, Tina Arena and More Implore Australian Government to ‘Come to Our Aid’

Gotye
Peter Wafzig/Redferns via Getty Images

Gotye performs on stage at the Stahlwerk on Oct. 30, 2012 in Duesseldorf, Germany.

BRISBANE -- Australia’s music industry isn’t going down without a fight.

More than 1,000 of the country’s leading artists, music businesses, captains of industry and employees from across the sector have signed an open letter imploring the federal government to “come to our aid.”

The Australian music sector “fell off a cliff” on March 13 when government made the call to shut down the nation, the open letter reads.

“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,” the message continues.

That figure is already at A$340 million, based on calculations reported by I Lost My Gig, a reporting platform established by The Australian Music Industry Network and the Australian Festival Association to tally the impact of bushfire and the health crisis Down Under.

The growing list of signatories reads like a who’s who of Australian music, with the likes of Archie Roach, Tina Arena, Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, Little River Band, Jessica Mauboy, Ladyhawke, Icehouse, INXS’ Andrew Farriss, Gotye, Alex Lahey, Jack River and many more coming on board.

On the industry side, Live Nation, Mushroom Group chairman Michael Gudinski, Chugg Entertainment founder Michael Chugg, AEG Presents’ Matthew Lazarus-Hall, ARIA and PPCA CEO Dan Rosen, TEG CEO Geoff Jones, APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston and others have signed up.

“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,” the letter continues.

“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,” reads the statement, which notes that, for every $1 spent on live music, $3 is circulated into the broader community.

The 900-word letter also presents five key requests for national government, including the expansion of access to “JobSeeker” welfare payments to artists and individuals who’ve been excluded; a $40 million Australian Music Recovery Fund as a safety net for music businesses and venues; and a commitment to cutting red-tape.

The proposed Australian Music Recovery Fund is part of a A$325 million recovery and relief strategy pitched to Canberra last week by Live Performance Australia, a signatory to the open letter.

Scott Morrison’s administration hasn’t announced any support for the years-long project, though its understood government is preparing an assistant package to the entertainment industry, details of which have not been disclosed.

The same can’t be said for Australia’s neighbors New Zealand, whose prime minister Jacinda Ardern recently announced a package worth hundreds of millions of dollars to save NZ's arts and music industries.

“Our industry is resilient, innovative and creative,” reads the letter to Australia’s leaders. “We fight to stand on our own two feet and in normal circumstances we are self-sufficient. Yet these are not normal times, and we need the support of the Australian Government to help us get to the other side of this crisis.”

To add your name, email comms@apra.com.au. Read the open letter in full below.

WE THE UNDERSIGNED REPRESENT THE CROSS SECTION OF THE AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY MUSIC INDUSTRY AND IMPLORE THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE SECTOR SUPPORT TO ENSURE OUR SURVIVAL. 

Australian music is a proud national asset that entertains, comforts, and uplifts our communities. It helps to define who we are as a nation, is a central pillar of our health and well-being and is a key driver of learning in schools. Our artists and industry are always there to come to the aid of our nation during a crisis. Now it is time for the nation to come to our aid.

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.

Since then much has been said about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people who work and pay taxes as musicians, songwriters, screen composers, crews, managers, promoters, production houses, ticketing companies, agents, background music suppliers and those who work in venues and the entire infrastructure needed to publish, record, promote and present Australian music.

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 long-term cost to Treasury, the economy and the damage to our cultural infrastructure will be immense and long-lasting. We commend the NZ Government for recognising these factors and their announcement of a significant package to save their arts and music industry.

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 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.

Our industry is resilient, innovative and creative. We fight to stand on our own two feet and in normal circumstances we are self-sufficient. Yet these are not normal times, and we need the support of the Australian Government to help us get to the other side of this crisis. We acknowledge the critical importance of the Australian Government’s economy-wide packages JobKeeper and JobSeeker to deal with the crisis as well as the dedicated funding for Support Act, Australia’s only charity delivering crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers.

With Australia flattening the curve, there is a huge opportunity for the local music sector to be a boon for a recovering economy. There is the golden opportunity for federal, state and territory governments to incentivise a greater creation and presentation of music. From songwriting in schools, to rebates on recording local content and tax offsets to present live music, we could also be one of the first global destinations for major touring acts.

We understand that the Australian Government is working on an assistance package to the entertainment industry. As part of any assistance, we implore the Australian Government to: 

  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

The opportunity of COVID-19 is to reimagine federal, state, territory and local government support for the Australian music industry. And the time to do that is now.

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