Walking These Streets Always Makes Me Sad

“Currently there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments or provide ‘lifestyle’ choices but don’t lead to work.”

– Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

“Everything is a lifestyle choice, Simon. Becoming a member of parliament is no more or less part of the cultural capitalist hegemony than deciding to utilise one’s skill in commerce to sell fruit by the side of the road; yet one is done in earnest as a transaction between consumer and merchant and the other is predicated on obscure and theoretical constructions and power structures. The guy selling fruit is the former. You are the latter.”

–  David Le’aupepe, Gang of Youths

Ah, this ole’ chestnut, does Australia have any respect for the arts? Or, is this a culturally barren wasteland, doomed to become a neo-liberalists wet dream, full of consumerist swine, with no cultural diet – other than, the yearly winner of the talent(less) shows, The Voice, and The X Factor.

Sure, call me a bitter pill, and dissect my own creative output, I have no issue with that – that’s why I do it. But, the question remains: is it worth staying in this country, when clearly there is very little respect across the board, for the value that the creative industries bring to our nation?

You can attack it from a few different angles. You have the lockout laws:

Which have seen the foreclosure of numerus longstanding – and, some might say culturally paramount establishments – such as: The Lansdowne (1933 – 2015) where bands like The Preatures cut their teeth. Club 77 (1998 – 2015) where electronic heavy weights like The Presets, and Rüfüs, discovered, and honed their sound. The Spectrum, where both Cloud Control, and Art Vs Science, held regular formative gigs. And, one of my personal favourites GoodGod Smallclub (2009 – 2015) an epicentre for talent, that gave birth to the careers of internationally renowned Australian artists, FLUME, and Nick Murphey (aka Chet Faker).

“Walking these streets only makes me sad”

“Gone and lost, the realest thing that I ever had”

– Emma Louise

Not only have these draconian laws almost completely diminished Sydney’s King’s Cross, into a desolate city stretch, not even worth a mention to an international tourist; but, they have undoubtedly done detrimental damage to the city’s longstanding, and important early stomping grounds for local musicians, and artists. With similar laws now introduced across Queensland, we can surely expect to see the same damage afflicted to what was a growing centre of music, art, and culture, in Fortitude Valley.

Yet, if we take our focus off these laws – which have had their fair share of media attention all year, and last – and shift our focus to a pressing issue in the creative industries, that has had far less attention, like the Productivity Commissions draft report…

(As of September, the final report has been submitted, it is yet to be made available to the public.)

In April, this year, the Productivity Commission produced a draft report, on intellectual property rights, aptly titled: copy(not)right.

Now, whilst most of the suggestions that emerged seemed to make reasonable sense in updating our copyright laws, there were some that sparked concern for many within the Australian creative industries. The current laws, protect the right to an author’s work – of say a published book – for up to 120 years, which they have outlined as excessive, considering that the “commercial shelf-life” of published work, is only around 5 years. It has suggested that a return to the 15 – 20-year protection, that was once held before the Howard Government’s changes, may allow more fluidity within the industry, for commercial use of a creatives work. They argue that currently:

“Australia’s copyright arrangements are weighed too heavily in favour of copyright owners, to the detriment of the long-term interests of both consumers and intermediate users.”

Not only have the proposed “fair use” changes, caused a stir within the literature community, but, also within the music industry.

“Copyright is the mechanism that enables creators to leverage value and commercialise their creativity. The Commission’s report completely fails to recognise the fact that copyright and intellectual property sit at the heart of innovation. Music creators, like all content creators, should be paid for their work. Without music content, services like Apple Music and Spotify would be empty shells. Diluting the scope of intellectual property rights given to creators will impact their ability to earn a livelihood and erode the Australian economy.”

– Brett Cottle, Chief Executive, APRA AMCOS

It all seems a bit absurd for an “outsider”, I mean surely the creative industries don’t play a major role in the Australian economy… Well, the Australian Copyright Council commissioned a report from PwC, last year to analyse what contribution to the Australian economy, the copyright industries delivered.

The report found: The industry employed 8.7 percent, of the Australian workforce (just over 1 million people). It generated 7.1 percent of Australia’s GDP ($111.4 Billion). It was also responsible for 1.8 percent of Australia’s exports ($4.8 Billion).  And, the industry has swiftly shimmied down the ladder, from being the 7th largest contributor to the Australian economy, when the last report was conducted in 2011 – also commissioned by the ACC, and produced by PwC – to the 4th largest contributor.

Also, just last week, APRA AMCOS revealed their year in review for 2015-16, showing an 11 percent increase in revenue ($333 million). Of that $333 million, they happily announced that $294.6 million, went back into the bank accounts of artists. Unsurprisingly, $39.1 million of that revenue came in from overseas royalty agencies. So, whilst, the Australian music industry finally appears to be taking a positive turn for the better, there still seems to be an overbearing need to head overseas to at least break even within the industry.

I have arrived at this point of view, from my own personal experience of funnelling thousands of dollars into my creative works, and seeing a 0 percent return, not even enough to cover my costs; to the many local Brisbane artists I have had in-depth discussions with, on just how difficult it is to begin to see enough money from their work, to pay for dinner before the show. I have met very few members of the Australian music – and writing – industry, who do not still work fulltime in shitty jobs they loathe, just to put a meal on their table, or a roof over their heads – despite having tunes in high rotation on Triple J.

“I do not believe asking a musician to play at an event unpaid by anyone is a tough ask”

“Hundreds of people would be honoured to play at such an event that draws in thousands of people, but hey. obviously royalties are more important to some people.”

– Elanor Watt, The Advocate (a Fairfax, regional Tasmanian Publication)

These words were perpetuated in an opinion piece, in response to Black Bird Hum’s, blatant disdain with their treatment by Fairfax, after being “offered” to play their Night Noodle Market; without payment. The band turned down the “opportunity”, in a very lengthy Facebook post, which has garnered traction around music publications. Both Tonedeaf, and Music feeds, have republished the Facebook post, with their own opinions, on just how disrespectful such a request is.

These opinion pieces centred around the lack of gratitude, that up and coming musicians, and artists have for “exposure opportunities”, tend to find their way in into the news cycle, every few months, or so. Generally, they come from mediocre writers, who are still paying off their debts, which they inherited with their Bachelor of Arts degrees. They usually do this by shitting-out articles full of angst twice a week, for neo-liberalist commercialised publications, with very little substance. Although, clearly some of these maddened, drowning in debt writer’s, haves found themselves positions within Fairfax.

Shadow Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, also highlighted earlier this month, that currently the Government has no plan to continue to fund, Sounds Australia. An organisation that over the last 5 years, has taken 263 Australian artists to the international stage. The funding has allowed around 50 Australian artists to showcase at the internationally renowned music conference SXSW, in Austin Texas. But, currently as it stands there is no guarantee of funding for Sounds Australia past the end of 2016. In May of this year, the Government published the recipients of more than $20 Million, worth of funding through their new Arts program Catalyst; Sounds Australia, were not listed.

Which leads us back to ole’ Simon Birmingham, and his comment on our “lifestyle choices”.

Earlier this week, the education department announced they have successfully obtained remissions for $13.2 million in debt, from the VET FEE-HELP debacle. Which equates to around 1500 student debts. Now, obviously that amount seems significant, but, when you take into consideration there were 270,000 students using the service in 2015, and the national completion of private vocational education, was at an embarrassing low of 22.7 percent; you can bet, there would be a significant volume of young Australian’s carrying around an arbitrary debt, from a course they barely sunk into.

While, the changes to the VET FEE-HELP scheme were mainly due the huge concerns raised over these privatised colleges offering illegitimate courses, and essentially ripping off young Australian’s. We must not forget who implemented the scheme in the first place, and who’s mess is currently being cleaned up.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Government would continue to dismantle any funding for creative studies; especially after the mass fuckery that has been the last twelve months. Plus, why would they see any value in these courses, art, music, culture, all have a track record of being quite left-field, and anti-liberalist swine. The Australian’s former editor, Chris Mitchell, did the baby boomers a favour last month, and took the ABC, and the National Youth Broadcaster to task, in a fiery rant, on how:

“The anti-establishment ethos of the ABC’s home of alternative music eventually infiltrated television and radio.” 

– Chris Mitchell, The Australian

All these angry white-men have made it clear, on how they view “us” in “their” Australia. So, being a young creative, is there much point in staying? We have lost the election – even if only by a marginal majority – and we are stuck with these morons for at least another three years. Already, they have begun stomping their boots in victory, and displaying their prowess. Even just today, as I returned home from work, to come to my unpaid job – typing this babble up, for the pleasure of no one other than myself – Malcolm Turnbull, was proudly on the defensive of, Bill Leak, and his “controversialist” cartoonist ways. Which, to be honest, I think is all just an elaborate ploy to get Bernardi, and the right-wing boys back up in arms, for an amendment to 18c. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the battle is lost for Aus; this time around.

Should we continue to stay here, and fight it out? Wait around, unpaid, and unsupported until the next election rolls around? Listen to the baby boomers whinge, cry and clown around; asking nothing more of us than to conform to their ideals, and sit in silence? Jobs, and growth, right ole’ Turnbo?

Or, should we pack up our gear, and flee from here, in search of something, far greater… Well, these Newscorp Muppets, and their boganistic fellowship, have been chanting away for years; but, finally their ole’ age message is clear:

Love it, or leave it!

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