A Government that does not create space for music robs it of its soul (Op-Ed)


“Without music life would be a mistake.” – Nietzsche

When we shuttered the doors of our two live music venues in March 2020, we wept. We cried tears of infuriation, utter helplessness and of impotent empathy. There were no kind words, no actions of support that we could conjure to console our staff, the artists, the road crews, management and their hospitality counterparts whose lives would be so devastated by the scenes yet to come.

Our industry was thrown into chaos. Billions of dollars have been lost, countless jobs disappeared and the hopes of an industry rising and falling in line with COVID case numbers. It has been a year of constant barrage – akin to nothing seen in this country for generations.

In April 2020, our hopes were temporarily buoyed by the JobKeeper program. A stimulus program, framed by some as welfare, whose true power has been seen by Australia’s rebounding from the economic doldrums, into a spectacular recovery, the envy of the world. It has been effective to say the least, and whilst some have called for a general extension, there are plenty of economic signs that point to the fact that this program has done its job across multiple industries.

Yet there remain a few vital industries for whom the job is not yet done. Whilst retailers such as Solomon Lew’s “Just Group” have posted record profits off the back of JobKeeper, the arts, music, hospitality and tourism sectors remain ravaged husks of their former contributive glory.

With arts and entertainment contributing $15 billion to our national GDP, these industries do not easily fall into the “chump change” category of economic affairs, and require some serious thought from our Governments.

A report from APRA AMCOS found that the music industry had shrunk to 4% of pre-COVID levels. Being reduced by 4% is not a blip or a bump. It is not a slip or a slide. It is a fucking rout, and without serious government support, this industry will remain on its knees for a generation.

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The professionals, venues and businesses who run this industry will not be able to eke out this next period, but will be forced into different industries. Passion alone does not feed your children. The net result of this abandonment, will be a knowledge and experience gap that every new generation relies upon to inform, educate and equip with the tools required to contribute and improve our industry. Without this knowledge, our sector’s recovery will be hamstrung.

Where will the current and next generation of musicians cut their teeth and create their sound, when venues are forced to close? How will the breakthrough artists gain momentum when the tour managers and lighting techs and sound teams are depleted via this forced brain drain? What will our culture look like when the musical backdrop to our children’s lives becomes void of the culture in which they live.

The venues and sounds of our youth hold within them not just fond memories, but a clear path to our shared history, to our progress, our blind spots and to our future. The rooms and the songs that erupted from them are thick with lessons. To remove the ability for the current and next generations to add to this is an act of horrific cultural vandalism.

In order for the music industry to rebound in the same way as other sectors, and for our musical cultural legacy to continue to grow and flourish, there is a clear need for support that must be met by the Government. Means test it, create structure to hold businesses to account, create clear timelines that correlate to the easing of international travel, tourism and restrictions. We aren’t asking for handouts – we are crying for a lifeline.

Any delay in providing support to individuals and businesses and artists is a commitment to denigrating the importance of art and music to our economy, and arguably, more importantly our society. A Government that does not create space for music robs it of its soul. A Government that correlates the profits of big business with societal success, replaces that soul with sand.

Nietzsche was right. Life without music would be a mistake. As we watch this catastrophe unfold, we should commit to not making this one.

Link to the source article – https://theindustryobserver.thebrag.com/government-soul-jobkeeper-jake-smythe-op-ed/

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