opinion Features May 16, 2019

The music-lovers guide to voting in this weekend’s Federal election

The music-lovers guide to voting in this weekend’s Federal election

It’s that special time that only comes around once every thousand days or so, your chance to vote for the Prime Minister of Australia, and the political party that will inevitably boot them out of the job in a couple of months.

Now, for most people, election day represents a prime opportunity to check out the local primary schools around your region, jealous rage ripping through your body as you realise kids these days have much better basketball facilities than you ever did, what with the spring-loaded rings, and regulation three-point lines, and real-leather balls. For others, however, it’s a chance to exercise their democratic rights – some like barbecue sauce, others like tomato, and all should have the chance to carefully consider their options and make their choice on the day, unencumbered by social pressure. This is not a metaphor.  

If you are a music-lover and wish to vote for a future in which the arts are treated as the vital economical and cultural institution that they have been in every advanced society since Stoics were delivering speeches on porches, Live Performance Australia have released a report card tallying up the differing commitments that the major parties have made to the arts and cultural industries, and let’s just say they all get a stern “see me after class”, with a good dose of “I stick up for you in the staff room”, “I know you can be a good kid when you try” and “you’ve got so much potential” thrown in for good measure. Tssk Tssk!

Both Labor and Liberal talk a big game when it comes to music. Bill Shorten is claiming “the most comprehensive contemporary music policy by an Australian government”, although it must be pointed out that “comprehensive” doesn’t necessarily mean it will be adequate, just that it will cover a lot.  Scott Morrison has countered this claim by releasing an Aussie music playlist on Spotify.

The Greens lag far behind when it comes to their pre-election commitments to arts and cultural policies, but considering they have no hope of getting into a place of significant power this time around, and on the off chance they do, they will be too burdened with the pesky task of saving the Earth, ending factory farming, halting climate change, regulating the fisheries, and legalising marijuana-infused gummy-treats, we’ll give them a pass and just focus on the two-party system that we have.

Likewise, we all know Clive Palmer’s policy towards musicians from the whole ‘Twisted Sister’ debacle: steal their songs, flatly refuse to pay for the song when challenged by the artist he stole from, and then claim that the song is actually derivative of an old Christmas Carol and therefore all praise and royalties must go to baby Jesus. His theft from the music industry is so blatant that he even stole the eye-smashing yellow on his stream-of-nonsense election ads from the country’s biggest music retailer JB Hi-Fi. Will the crimes against music ever stop?

As for Pauline Hanson, most won’t recall that back in 2007, Pauline Hanson began a relationship with a country musician named Chris Callaghan who had a band named Outback Idle. The pair met at the Tamworth Country Music Festival that January, and even penned an election song together named ‘Australian Way Of Life’ which they performed together at a Gold Coast Media and Corporate Club luncheon. The song’s lyrics go “For our freedom, for the future of our children, for this nation … the Australian way of life.”

I swear I’m not making any of this up. Have a listen.

Now have a shower.

Now, back to ScoMo’s Spotify playlist.

Towards the end of last year, ScoMo released a Spotify playlist named ‘Eighties Plus’ which featured 146 songs, all of which are intended to give voters a vivid visual image of a teenaged Morrison dressed in denim and fluoro, feeling up his future wife at a Blue Light Disco.

Alas, across eleven hours of music, the Australian PM featured only one Australian song. Even worse it was Wa Wa Nee’s synthetic-funk hit ‘Stimulation’ which I point out only to make you imagine Morrison grinding to this song while sneaking slugs of Fanta and vodka from a Roosters flask.

Gleefully haters quickly pointed out this unpatriotic stat, and so ScoMo clearly got one of his aides to pluck out the Aussie tracks from one of Triple M’s 1000 Best Rock Songs To Rock The Rock Out To countdowns – the likes of Sherbet, Icehouse, INXS, The Black Sorrows, et al. – and informed voters that, “If you’re after my Oz playlist, this is the one that has joined me on Syd-Canberra-Syd drives for years. With a few Kiwis thrown in.”

The Kiwis were maybe thrown in for the sake of diplomatic relations, possibly because we have claimed all Kiwis as Aussies for as long as Kiwis have been ruling the international entertainment world, but what he didn’t happen to throw in were any Indigenous artists, nor any of that other underrepresented group of Aussies – women.

Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. He did include one female-fronted band: Martha and the Muffins, who come from Canada. So, no Aussie women in ScoMo’s car trip playlist.

Back in 2016, the Daily Telegraph asked Bill Shorten a series of Desert Island Disc-type questions, one of which was which five records he would take to a desert island. He chose: “Something by Crowded House, Icehouse, Paul Kelly, Col Porter and a recording of my wife singing jazz.”

Now, that is a great answer. I haven’t fact-checked but I assume his wife is Kate Ceberano.

Evelyn Richardson, Live Performance Australia’s Chief Executive pointed out how this election campaign has “lacked significant leadership positions in relation to Australian culture” going on to point out how the arts only enters the national debate when “ad hoc decision making or major funding cuts have forced it into ‘crisis mode’.”

“The industry’s contribution to Australia’s economic and social well-being should be at the front and centre of our policy debates and discussions,” she continues. “The opportunity to generate a substantive national narrative that mobilises our cultural industries as valuable assets has never been more urgent.”

She is very correct. The disconnect between the political discourse and the numbers are startling.

According to ARIA, who exist to know this kinda thing, the music industry contributes close to $6 billion to the Australian economy every year. Globally, the Australian music industry will be worth $100 billion within a decade, although that figure will of course have to be translated to whatever currency we will be trading in after the apocalypse. Live music supports roughly 64,000 jobs, including thousands of sound guys who really want to talk to you about SM58 mics and really don’t want you to rest your beer on their sound-desk. In a calendar year (one of those 12-month ones) more Australians go to live music events than attend sporting matches.

The good news this election is that whether you vote Labor, Liberal, or one of the numerous humorous and non-humorous parties that will funnel your vote into one for either Liberal or Labor anyway, the following support has been promised by both parties.

– Grants to support Australian live music venues and artists ($22.5m over four years – LIB; $20m – ALP)

– The establishment of a Women in Music Mentor program to help women with their music career ($2.1m)

– Support for Indigenous musicians and bands ($2.7m)

– The extension of Australia Council’s contemporary music touring program ($2m)

– The expansion of the Sounds Australia program to capitalise on emerging markets in Asia ($1.6m – LIB; $10m – ALP)

– A trial for the Song Room program ($1.25m – LIB; $5m over three years – ALP)

– Continued support for Count Us In, a musical advocacy program for primary schools ($450,000, or roughly four million chewed-up recorders).

Those are all good things. From this point, Labor bursts into the lead, with a number of vital initiatives that have seen no support form the Libs. (For those who attend both music and sports, re-read that last sentence in Ray Warren’s excited ‘on the burst’ voice for extra impact.)

Labor have committed $5 million to soundproof community music hubs (egg-cartons and foam and that), plan to boost the number of teachers and programs to support youth music, to the tune of $7.6m, with a further $2.6m earmarked to support music industry skills development and mentoring for young people in regional Australia (Maitland and that). They will double the New Recordings program, which funds the recording and promotion of Australian albums, such as those made by Courtney Barnett and even those not made by Courtney Barnett.

They have promised $60m in funding support to ABC and SBS to produce Australian content – with another $4 million for audio. If you read between the lines, this clearly spells the return of ‘Recovery’ and the production of ‘Heartbreak High The Musical: Drazic Blades Again’ – while the $4 million audio budget is to be spent on a Serial-type podcast in which the nefarious forces behind Shannon Noll’s defeat to Guy Sebastian in the first series of Australian Idol will finally be under the investigative microscope.

They will also provide $4.2 million to fund music industry mental health charities; and allocate funds to train music managers through the Association of Artists Managers ($750,000 over three years, plus 20% of earnings from any future reissues of Whispering Jack).

Finally, Labor will contribute $600,000 to expanding the ARIA Music Teacher Of The Year Award to four categories – the primary school version of which I propose we name The Golden Recorder with a trophy shaped like the instrument, but with teeth-marks on the mouthpiece. I further propose some of that funding goes towards commercials of the winners’ speeches to be aired during the TV broadcast ad breaks, so the public are actually aware this award exists.

All in all, if continued music funding is your bag, Vote Labor. If you enjoy imagining Scott Morrison lip-syncing ‘Head Over Heels’ by Tears For Fears while making unbroken eye contact with you, just stream his ’80s Spotify playlist and vote Liberal.

And if you want to vote United Australia Party or One Nation, simply draw a cock and balls on your form. The power is yours.

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