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.
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!
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.