Australian Musicians: “Get a Real Job!”

Australia, you need to sort out your juvenile attitude towards the arts. Actually no, it’s not juvenile, children have an insightful view of art and expression. Australia, you need to stop with this “get a real job” rhetoric and start recognising the cultural and financial enrichment the arts bring to all of our lives.

Since first venturing across the seas I’ve noticed that my beloved home country is a long way behind when it comes to appreciating what the creatives give us. Just last week the Australian federal education minister, Simon Birmingham, dismissed an entire industry as a “lifestyle choice” after announcing almost 60 diplomas in the arts will no longer be eligible for student loans. Since the Abbott Government in 2014 we have already had $204.8 million dollars cut from the arts budget. Just today I read a deplorable article in the Advocate by Elanor Watt –  Is Exposure Payment Enough for Musicians in which she argues that if you are passionate enough you should take any opportunity offered to you “because we have all seen the movies, anything can happen.”… urgh. There is an attitude in Australia that working in the arts is a cop out. A job for pot smoking couch potatoes, or worse, not even a “real job” at all.

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Unfortunately this comes as no surprise to me. I first met with this attitude in my youth. Fresh out of home and learning to earn a living for my self I met with hard times. Unemployment benefits were the closest thing I have ever received to assistance in developing my trade, and thank god they were there. Newstart gave me time to find my feet. Time and time again I was asked by Centerlink “what is your profession?” and time and time again I was told “that’s not a real job”. Simple recognition would have made the progression of my career a lot less stressful and possibly a lot quicker. Back then, though it was not enough, I was making more from playing music than anything else. Now, music is not only how I travel the world but it is also how I pay my taxes.

Thanks to national research at the University of Tasmania we now know that the live music sector contributed a whopping $15.7 billion dollars to the Australian economy in 2014 with $3 worth of benefit to the community for every $1 invested. Even more than the footy. These figures are no secret, yet still it doesn’t take much effort to find the typical attitude on public forums of “Why should my tax dollars pay for your hobby?” At face value it may seem like a legitimate question, however dig a little deeper and it’s easy to see that the arts are paying more than their fair share in tax revenue and economic stimulation. Unlike the fossil fuel industry, for example, this is achieved in most part with little or no government assistance.

“Our research shows that for every dollar spent on live music, three dollars of benefit is returned to the wider community. This is a significant, and unrecognised, contribution that includes the dollars that flow to the national economy as well as the ways experiencing live music enriches people’s lives.” – Dr. Dave Carter, Lecturer in Music Technology at University of Tasmania.

One of the first things you notice when travelling through Europe is their pride of culture. I’m not talking about nationalism or patriotism, though they do come into it. I’m talking about their love of food, music, language and heritage. It’s a beautiful thing. Dedicating ones life to the arts is a virtue celebrated by all. I see the same across Asia. I’m yet to visit the Americas or Africa but from my research into future destinations, I keep seeing the same thing. The arts define heritage and heritage defines us.

Maybe it is Australia’s distance from the rest of humanity. We sit alone at the bottom of the world. A nation barely 200 years old, with a tendency to ignore the rich depth of art history laid out by our indigenous peoples. Possibly for the fear of admitting the cultural genocide committed by our forefathers, or maybe because white Australia doesn’t feel as if this is their heritage to be proud of. Maybe it’s a symptom of Australia’s tall poppy syndrome, where we hack at the things we admire most. Maybe we just haven’t properly discussed the situation yet.

In any case, music is my love, music is my life and music is my profession!

*UPDATE
It’s recently come to my attention that Elanor Watt, the author of the article “Is Exposure Payment Enough for Musicians” mentioned in the above blog post works for Fairfax media group. The same group that asked Sydney based reggae band black bird hum to play for free at Fairfax Media owned Noodle Market. Strong arm corporate bullying! Shame on you Elanor. I wonder if this young journalist is aware that she is a pawn of this evil media manipulation. I also wonder if she avoided mentioning Black Bird Hum by name in her article as that would be free promotion, in which case she is promoting herself off the back of the musicians she criticized for not taking an “exposure” gig.

“She’s always ahead of me, I’m not too far behind. We’re like peas in a pod, we’re two of a kind. Music this lucid partner of mine.”

P.S to all you creatives out there, click here to check out some inspirational words on the topic from my man Tony “Jack The Bear” Mantz.

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Top 10 #looptheworld Shows So Far

This was a difficult list to compile. Almost every show I have played since the #looptheworld adventure began has been memorable for one reason or another. Special mention has to go to Choppers Bar, Koh Tao. Those hot, sweaty nights with the Koh Tao Pub Crawl made up a huge amount of the memories that the tour has brought me so far. Every night at Choppers was another crazy party. So too were all of my performances at Harmony, Ios. However, this here list is about those single shows that stood out. The shows that warmed my heart and kept me on a high for days after getting off stage. Those shows that reward me more than financial gain. The shows I’ll remember long after my career is over. The shows I’ll look back on and smile.

No. 10

Surfers Paradise Live Festival May 2015

A festival stage definitely helps to make the top 10 list. A big crowd, a great PA, a professional sound man, the whole kit and caboodle. This was also the last show before we took #looptheworld international. On a more personal note; Surfers Paradise Live Festival was special because my family was there. My mum, my little sister Megan and my adorable little nephew Malakai. It was also the first time my newborn nephew had left the house since his birth. I’m very proud of this fact. It will be a story I tell him when he’s older. I hope one day he takes up the musical adventure that has brought me so much satisfaction.

Show No.9 >

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Top 10 #looptheworld Shows So Far

No. 9

Lotus Bar Ios Farewell Show August 2015

Ios was a big part of the story so far. For two months I played a show every night on Ios at a restaurant called Harmony. Over that time I made countless new friends and came to feel very close with my Ios family. I didn’t start playing at Lotus bar until close to the end of my stay there. I chose to have the Ios farewell show at Lotus Bar over Harmony as it was somewhere different after so many nights at Harmony but also because there was more space for a dance floor. I was nervous that I wouldn’t pull the crowd I hoped for for a successful farewell party. I shouldn’t have been. Everyone that had made an impression on me on that crazy little island made it down and made me feel so very loved and appreciated. I miss those crazy cats.

< Show No.10    |    Show No.8 >

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Gig Profile: Harmony, Ios Greece

This will be the sixth instalment of the #looptheworld Gig Profiles. As I travel the world playing music for a living I will be writing up these Gig Profiles in an effort to help out those that dream of doing the same. I hope you find the information helpful. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to help out as much as I can.

This is the first gig I ever played in Europe. In 2015 while on Koh Tao in Thailand I bumped into an old friend of mine Scott Frost. We used to work in a kitchen together when we were teenagers. Since then he’s gone on to be a chef all over the world. Before landing in Thailand and buying himself his own restaurant on Koh Tao he had spent a season on the island of Ios in Greece cooking in the Harmony kitchen. He introduced me to Kathleen, the owner of Harmony and luckily for me she was in the process of booking her artists for the 2015 season. After a short conversation online she booked me 6 nights a week for two months over July and August.

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The view from our island home.

The gig doesn’t pay a lot but the small and steady income was enough to sustain me quite comfortably. Living expenses are minimal on Ios. Those of us that work on the island receive a few perks in the way of “locals prices” in almost all the bars, a few eateries and even some of the islands adventure activities. In my case I even managed to score a great deal on some accommodation. I was travelling with my partner Hannah so opted to avoid the staff accommodation. But if you don’t mind living in close quarters with your work mates then the staff accom is a cheap option that is always available.

One of the best parts of living and playing on Ios is the feeling of belonging to the community of young, fun loving staff that stay for the season. Within days you’ll be welcomed into the family as if you’ve been there for years. I must warn you though, these guys know how to party, or more to the point, drink! The daily routine on Ios usually consists of waking up late morning, probably hung over, hitting the beach for a few hours then making your way up to Harmony for the “Staffie” meal. At about 7pm most of the island staff head home for a early evening siesta before hitting the town at midnight and drinking till the early hours. Your social life will love you for it but your liver will probably have a different opinion.

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Gettin’ a few zzz’s in  before my set starts.

Harmony is a popular spot for the seasonal staff. The food is amazing! Generous servings of Mexican inspired meals, cocktails, live music, backgammon and giant Jenga. What more could you want? Town doesn’t really warm up until about midnight and Harmony has managed to slot in as the place to go out, before you go out. The restaurant is positioned on a headland looking over Mylopotas beach with a beautiful view. The warm evenings make for great out door dinning. Million dollar yachts are moored out the front and inflated bananas covered in screaming tourists pulled by speed boats often fly by. The PA is delightful for the size of the venue. A nice big sub woofer and several FOH speakers distributed among the restaurant will mean you get a decent sound. You’ll need to do your own mix. If you are not familiar with running a PA the other musicians and Luke in the kitchen will give you a hand figuring it out. Each night there are two shifts for the musicians. The first 6-9pm and the second 9-12am. You will share the roster with 3 or 4 other musicians so if you ever drink a little too much the night before or get run down by the infamous Ios cough someone is always there to cover you as long as you return the favour. The patrons are there to eat and must be seated to be served. Almost every night it’s full but it is firstly a restaurant so don’t expect an energetic dance floor. That doesn’t mean you won’t get tables full of excited diners getting involved. They are mostly after popular covers but once you get the crowd on side there is more than enough space to perform your original material. I managed to move a decent amount of CDs, to the point that I sold out. Make sure you bring enough, the extra income goes a long way. To get the gig you need to talk with the boss Kathleen. She will want to see a video of you performing live to see how you interact with your audience. It’s best to apply for this gig between February and May before the season begins. The season goes from May to September. I suggest staying at least a month to really get into the swing of the island life.

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Best of luck. It really is a great way to spend a European summer.

Gig Location: Mylopotas Beach, Ios 84001, Greece
Venue Contact: Kathleen via the Harmony Facebook page
Pay: 40 Euros + 20 Euro food and drink rider.
Capacity: Approx 80 seated