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12 May Export initiative SOUNDS AUSTRALIA denied vital Catalyst arts funding

SOUNDS AUSTRALIA, the development and export initiative that has helped hundreds of Australian artists gain vital exposure on an international stage, has been denied funding by Catalyst, the newest incarnation of the Australian Government’s arts and culture funding.

The program is currently funded through to December of this year, but without the additional funding that could have been provided by Catalyst it will need to scale back its artist support significantly. Meanwhile, established organisations such as The Australian Ballet received up to one million dollars alone.

SOUNDS AUSTRALIA provides an enormous amount of opportunities for Australian artists, managers and labels to perform, promote, and network overseas. The organisation has been responsible for putting hundreds of Australian artists in front of international crowds, helping them to secure slots on festival lineups or SOUND AUSTRALIA’s own long-standing showcases such as The Aussie BBQ. Additionally, Australian managers and label-owners have been able to secure the connections and networking opportunities they need to promote their artists overseas.

Some of Australia’s biggest recent musical exports such as Courtney Barnett, Chet Faker and Vance Joy received support from the organisation early on, and continued to do so as their careers progressed. Similarly, over 600 artists have been supported over seven years, resulting in over 1000 performance opportunities.

Established in 2009, SOUNDS AUSTRALIA is a joint initiative between the Australia Council, the Government’s arts funding and advisory body, and APRA AMCOS, Australia’s largest royalty collection agency. Catalyst is the Coalition’s arts funding program, which was introduced in November 2015 and is presided over directly by the Ministry for Arts – a contentious decision which has allowed Government ministers direct control over arts spending.

Arts Minister Mitch Fifield‘s office made no official announcement about the new round of funding, choosing instead to stealthily publish the list of recipients on the department’s website. The update was made public hours after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for an election on July 2, allocating the funding at the final hour before the Government enters its pre-election caretaker period.

The Greens’ Arts Spokesman Adam Bandt criticised the move, as well as the program as a whole, arguing that “arts funding should be kept at arm’s length from ministers, especially in election years.”

“The arts sector is already in turmoil because of the cuts made by this government and now instead of orderly, peer-reviewed funding it seems decisions are being made on election timelines.”

When approached for comment, APRA AMCOS Head of Member Services Dean Ormston expressed his disappointment with the decision.

“As one of SOUNDS AUSTRALIA’s primary funding partners, APRA AMCOS is extremely disappointed that the export development initiative has not secured Catalyst funding. SOUNDS AUSTRALIA provides an invaluable service to hundreds of touring artists, and has been instrumental in helping some of Australia’s largest musical exports make the leap to the global stage.

Contemporary musicians are amongst Australia’s smallest and most innovative businesses, but they will suffer without a dedicated commitment towards a service that supports the export of Australian music.”

A petition has been created on Change.org (here) by Laura Wallbridge with the slogan #saveoursounds, requiring 1,250 more signatures at the time of writing to reach its target of 5,000, at which point it will be delivered to the Honourable Mitch Fifield.

As stated by Laura, “Many of us in the Australian music industry have been extremely distressed to learn that SOUNDS AUSTRALIA  did not receive #Catalyst funding for their vital work exporting Australian music into the international market.”

Brandon John
brandon@ripemusic.com.au

Executive Editor - Follow on Instagram