Millie Millgate, the Executive Producer of SOUNDS AUSTRALIA, believes the Australian music industry is rude health. But this is no reason to be complacent. To ensure the continued success of Aussie musicians, thriving both at home and abroad, the sector needs further investment to build on a rock-solid foundation. Here, Millgate shares her thoughts on what should happen next.
Sometimes I wonder if it's just a by-product of the perpetual cheerleader role that we play at SOUNDS AUSTRALIA. Presenting and promoting Australian music to the world and our need to consistently be positive and upbeat (pardon the pun) means we believe everything is just great.
Turns out that's not the reason. It's because things genuinely are. The profile and growth of Australian music over the last decade has been amazing to watch and an even greater joy to have experienced. Need a snapshot? Here's just the icing.
Alex Lahey, Alison Wonderland, Confidence Man, Middle Kids and Tash Sultana have been amongst first announcements and will be hitting iconic festival stages across the world including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Governors Ball in coming months.
Alice Ivy, Childsaint, Divide And Dissolve, Hatchie, Jade Imagine, Jess Ribeiro, G Flip, Gordi, Mallrat, Ruby Boots, RVG, Thandi Phoenix and Tori Forsyth are all making their SXSW debut this March.
The 2018 APRA Song of the Year shortlist features Ainslie Wills, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Jen Cloher, Jessica Mauboy, Stella Donnelly and Vera Blue while Brooke Ligertwood, Hiatus Kaiyote, Jess Chalker, Sarah Aarons and Sia Furler all received songwriting Grammy Nominations in January.
Courtney Barnett's Avant Gardner has reached 5.7 million views on YouTube while Amy Shark's Adore just ticked over 30 million plays on Spotify.
All of these feats in isolation are significant; cumulatively they are beyond impressive. The results and achievements are considerable and are an absolute testament to the talents of each and every one of the aforementioned artists.
It's not just the award nominations and profiles that have increased though. These artistic achievements are reflected in the economic growth of Australian music. An article in the Australian Financial Review hailed songwriting as "one of Australia's fastest growing export industries", citing the $43.5 million royalties earned overseas by APRA AMCOS members in 2016-17, a 13.6% year on year growth and more than double the $21.8 million collected only four years ago.
Important to note when acknowledging these successes, however, is the strategic and targeted investment that has been made available to those that have played a role behind the scenes building our artists' careers and it's something we can't take for granted, nor can we rest on our laurels.
Although small, Australia enjoys one of the strongest and most sophisticated music industry ecosystems in the world, with multiple initiatives being rolled out in recent years, across State and Federal arts agencies, through dedicated Trade Bodies and Associations and more recently at the hand of commercial corporate and music businesses.
By default or design, together they have produced a generation of industry operators and professionals that are taking Australian music to the world!
Opportunities for Artist Managers have included Control (a project of AMIN and the AAM), The JB Seed, The AAM's Co-Pilot Mentorship and Warners/UJTU Programs, Creative Victoria's Music Passport Fast Track Fellowship Program, which also supports Labels, as does the Release program (coordinated by AMIN and AIR) and The Robert Stigwood Fellowship Program developed by South Australia's Music Development Office.
The AMIN network, APRA AMCOS, the Association of Artist Managers, the Australian Independent Record Labels Association, Music Australia and the PPCA are constantly presenting and delivering year-round artist, industry and audience development programs, such as the Australia Council's Nashville Songwriter Residency and their partnership with the PPCA to support the creation of new sound recordings. We have AIR's Indie-Con, APRA's SongHubs and SongMakers Programs, and the Live Music Office's Live & Local, while the seven AMIN member associations roll out over 100 professional development workshops annually across the country.
Levi's have partnered with BIGSOUND to create the Levi's Music Prize, while Virgin Australia have teamed with ARIA for their Emerging Artist Scholarship, both offering invaluable international tour support. The Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition is now one of the world's most prestigious, and The UNIFIED Grant is empowering the next generation of creatives. APRA's The Lighthouse Award is granted to a female music manager in Victoria and the Josh Pyke Partnership supports an emerging songwriter/artist. The Hilltop Hoods Initiative invests in an emerging Australian hip hop or soul artist while Shane Nicholson has just announced the inaugural Americana Music Prize to support an aspiring Americana/alt-country artist from Australia.
Australia is also home to some of the most progressive and exciting music conference events in the world, including BIGSOUND, Face The Music, EMC Australia and the WAM Festival & Conference, all providing a platform for local artist to reach their next level, while showcasing a wealth of talent to international delegates, made up of key industry buyers, tastemakers and media.
The combination of these programs and opportunities has unified our little corner of the global music market in a unique and enviable way, especially when many of these programs were established during a period of critical funding cuts to the Arts in Australia.
What is vital, if we are to maintain and, more so, increase growth and successes, is continued support flowing into the sector. These programs have been essential to the evolution of Australian music and the opening of opportunities around the world. Now is the time to double down and capitalise even further on these incredible advances.
Some of these key programs have now come to the end of their funding cycle and others are always in a constant state of change and uncertainty, informed by the government of the day. Investment in music needs a permanent seat at the budget table, alongside film and museums.
The success shouldn't mean we're ok now to divert the support or let it lapse. Rather, the measurable outcomes and visible growth of the sector should, in fact, be recognised and acknowledged with an even deeper engagement and investment from a diverse range of partners.
The last decade has shown what can be achieved with a little. Just imagine what we could do with even more.