News August 5, 2020

Jenny Morris delivers powerful message to policymakers

Jenny Morris delivers powerful message to policymakers
Jenny Morris / by Daniel Boud

Australian musician and APRA chair gave an historic address to the in Canberra on Wednesday, calling on policymakers to help realise the potential of exporting Australian music.

Morris addressed decision-makers, the government and other key influencers on behalf of the music industry, with a speech titled ‘Australia – a music nation and the path to become a music industry powerhouse’.

Morris, who was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia five years ago, was assisted by Sophie Payten () to deliver some parts of her address.

“Tens of thousands of Australians earn a living from music,” said Payten, after an introduction by Morris. “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.”

The address asked the audience to hark back to when Australian artist broke overseas every now and then, but now “…there’s so much international achievement that it’s hard to keep track.

“There’s a big conscious rising of First Nations artists – Kid Laroi, Birdz, Electric Fields, Thelma Plum, Baker Boy – getting big applause from global markets,” continued Payten.

Aussie acts re showcasing at SXSW, being booked on festival bills like Coachella, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, featuring on US late night shows, earning Grammy and BRIT nominations… and “It’s impossible to talk about Australian music without mentioning Dance Monkey – the song of the year. Number 1 in 25 countries!”

Despite these achievements, the relationship between the industry and government remains strained.

“Before that global fame, the irony isn’t lost on anyone that, when Tones and I was busking on the streets of Byron Bay, the crowds got so big the police took away her permit.

“What a perfect illustration of Australian music’s historic relationship with government: publicly adored but rarely supported, often seen as a nuisance, and regularly shut down.”

A key issue, noted Morris through Payten, is that “Australian music has largely been absent in our cultural policy”, an issue that remains to this day with music under-addressed by several government departments.

“Education is the first of three pain points hurting the sustainability of our industry and stunting the growth of a major cultural export.

“The second is absurd planning decisions and over-zealous councils closing down live music venues – the places Paul Kelly calls his Universities.

“These are our industry’s workplaces, but red tape is devastating them across our states and territories. In NSW alone, there are seven different agencies that regulate noise.”

Instead, we should be working to generate cultural capital and become a net exporter of music like the US and the UK, and Morris used the example of Sweden as a smaller country with “comprehensive music education that includes songwriting” that punches above its weight.

National music quotas should be embraced, not fought against by local radio and TV broadcasters. To do this, “Government policy could provide a big carrot, rather than stick, to the production and performance of Australian content.”

Morris ended her address be calling for the following four key things needed to achieve the vision of Australia becoming a net exporter of music.

They were:

  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.

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