The Brag Media
News August 5, 2020

Jenny Morris to Govt decision-makers: “The Aus music industry is yet to achieve its potential”

Jenny Morris to Govt decision-makers: “The Aus music industry is yet to achieve its potential”

The hub to address global decision-makers and influencers in Canberra featured an address from the music industry today.

Speaking to journalists and policy influencers alike at the National Press Club, Jenny Morris’ address was titled, “Australia — a music nation and the path to become a music industry powerhouse”. Its importance to Canberra lawmakers was made clear from the outset.

“This is one of the 4,000 venues across Australia that present live music, and music lovers thank you,” said Morris.

As a songwriter, performer, recording artist and NZ Hall of Famer with three top 5 singles in both Australia and her homeland New Zealand, Jenny Morris has gained the attention of global decision-makers since the ’80s. Now, as Chair of APRA, she has more than earned her place to discuss the power of song at a national level.

Morris let singer-songwriter Gordi (Sophie Payten) speak her words for her from this point. Morris was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia five years ago and requested Payten assist in delivering the address.

Gordi press shot 2020


Speaking through Payten, Morris spoke of the economic benefits of supporting music.

“A good song also builds Australia’s intellectual property assets, generating big incomes – including export earnings, because a good song travels the world finding new performers and new audiences,” she said.

Morris noted how Australian artists punch above their weight on a global scale, and name-checked recent global players like Tones And I, Kid Laroi, Flume, Sia, Gotye, Courtney Barnett, Vance Joy, Rufus du Sol, and 5SOS, just to name a few.

“There used to be years and years between Australian artists breaking internationally,” she said. “Now, our global popularity multiplies every year.”

tones and i on the cover of rolling stone magazine

Tones And I on the cover of Rolling Stone Australia magazine

“Year upon year Australian acts are booked for career-defining festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and Governors Ball,” she added.

“They’re on NPR, NME and Hype Machine ‘end-of-year’, ‘best of’ and ‘ones to watch’ lists, making show-stopping appearances on US shows like Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, and earning Grammy and BRIT Awards nominations.”

Morris didn’t mince her words when she addressed the policy makers in the room. Through Payten she said Australian music has largely been absent in our cultural policy.

“It wasn’t until the ’80s that a government committee recommended the Australia Council should help develop contemporary music,” she said.

Morris noted that music is a major commercial activity, yet governments struggle with policy. “Maybe it’s because music and songwriting demands the attention of so many parts of government and so many portfolios at both federal and state levels,” she said.

Morris believes the Ministers who need to play a hand in the music industry aren’t just the Arts Ministers. She listed off those who need to be involved:

“Also the Trade Minister for digital exports and tourism. Foreign Affairs for cultural diplomacy and touring. Small Business – every songwriter, musician and music business is a small business.

“State Planning, for laws that either support or kill off live music venues,” she continued. “And Education, Training and Skills Ministers given the limitations of the music syllabus, resourcing and music activity in our schools.”

Morris listed three major pain points hurting the sustainability and growth of our music industry:

1. Education

Morris called for songwriting in quality music education for every child.

“There’s so much research showing how music education improves students’ grades across all subjects. Even better, teaching composition and songwriting invests in Australia’s intellectual property, so we’re creating careers and generating income for the nation.

“Not only that but music is often the subject that entices school attendance, especially in low socio-economic and remote areas,” she added.

Later in her address, Morris noted that Sweden have more US Billboard number ones than any European country besides the UK. “Crucially, they have a comprehensive music education that includes songwriting,” she said.

2. Red tape in planning decisions

Morris noted the mass closure of live music venues by councils and the unnecessary agencies that regulate sound, genres, number of artists and types of instruments.

“In NSW alone, there are seven different agencies that regulate noise,” she said.

3. National music quotas

Morris said that while larger trading partners celebrate and support their creative industries with healthy local content quotas and investment, Australia’s have been traded away, “and capped in our US Free Trade Agreement.”

“Local radio and TV broadcasters argue the impost and cost of local content quotas and global streaming services are reluctant to deal with any notion of local content reporting. Government policy could provide a big carrot, rather than stick, to the production and performance of Australian content.”

“[…] It is the great tragedy of our sector and the real job killer in our industry.”

One of the music industry’s major points of disdain toward the Australian Government of late is the measly hand-out it received amid a global pandemic. The Australian industry has lost over $500 million since the shut down of live music in March. Morris, along with APRA AMCOS has been lobbying for more support ever since.

During her address she mentioned the SOS Open Letter which was delivered to Government with over 1000 signatures in June. “Our artists and industry are always there to come to the aid of our nation during a crisis. Now it is time for the nation to come to our aid,” the letter read.

Morris closed her address with a biting statement about the economic value of our culture, and a four-pillar request for change.

“Nations like South Korea and Canada are realising the massive cultural and economic benefit of investing in music. They’re building a national pride around their songs,” she said.

“[…] The federal and state governments have invested heavily in our screen industry, and we have globally recognised food and wine industries. The contemporary Australian music industry is yet to achieve its potential.”

The four actions Morris called for during her National Press Club address are:

  1. A federal, state and local, whole of government policy and investment commitment to Australia as a net exporter of music.
  2. A commitment to provide equity of access to music in schools nationally and songwriting as part of the national curriculum.
  3. To protect and promote the cultural infrastructure of live music venues
  4. To incentivise and ensure the production and performance of local music content across all media platforms.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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