Boosting Local Music

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By Josh Burns, Labor candidate for Caulfield

Local music is the indispensable soundtrack that enriches our lives and speaks of places, sounds and smells that are common to us. The music that is produced and performed in Victoria is a major reason why our state is the cultural hub of Australia. Husky, Missy Higgins, and Vance Joy are just a few of the exciting young artists to continue the great legacy of Australian music legends like Paul Kelly, Hunters and Collectors, Daddy Cool, and Renee Geyer – all products of the Victorian music scene.

For me, watching Paul Kelly play his tribute to Gough Whitlam at his funeral this week reminds us of the meaningful way our local artists shape our collective history. Paul Kelly gave sound and soul to a moment that was a turning point in the indigenous Australian story. But, we are at risk of losing a new generation’s soundtrack. We are at risk of losing the next generation of musicians to offer their voice and heart, in the way politicians only dream of doing. The Napthine Governments slashing of support to music and artists by over 50% risks cutting the heart and soul out of the future of our music industry.

Local music is under strain. It is harder for artists to make new music and sustain themselves while making music.  It is harder to find and provide performance spaces. It is harder because of the Napthine Government’s slashing of support to music and artists by over 50%. Unless we give it the attention and support that it needs, local music won’t survive as a vibrant and meaningful institution. This is why I’m excited about Labor’s announcement of the “Music Works” package. It’s an acknowledgment of the proud history of music here in Victoria built up under Labor.

Music Works will provide $22.2 million for the establishment of the Music Market and make Victoria Rocks grants available to artists, venues, managers and industry development organisations. The Music Market will be a one-stop-music hub open to all facets of the music industry. It will provide expertise and support for Victorian artists as the headquarters for a new Victorian Music Development Office, contain recording and performance space, and house the Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Victoria Rocks grants, a program scrapped by the Liberals, are an essential support mechanism for the industry that will be returning under Music Works. By helping to support local acts and local jobs the grants awarded to musicians will be crucial to facilitating their work The grants will assist artists embarking on interstate and international tours, support music festivals and community programming, and help provide services such as sound and light engineers, advertising and transport.

Many in the St Kilda, Balaclava and Ripponlea community will be well aware of the challenges faced by live music venues and the regulations that they are required to adhere to in order to balance thriving live music in residential areas. The grants will offer dollar-for-dollar funding for venues to improve facilities and help comply with local sound regulations that have dogged small and medium sized spaces for some time. It’s a shame that a lack of government support in recent years has had a detrimental affect on the local scene. Hopefully another serious blow like the closure of Bennetts Lane can be prevented with the help of this funding.

In an election year we need to promote policy that builds our social capital and maintains cherished cultural assets. I’m really pleased that Labor has taken the steps to address the needs of the Victorian music community in this election campaign. The challenges faced by our music industry often doesn’t make the news agenda during an election year the same way issues such  as a tax cut, or changes to transport. Despite this we must remember that a failure to support our music scene properly will leave us all worse off in ways that may not be quantifiable but are just as meaningful.

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