Why No Politician Will Save The Music Industry… But It’s Their Job To Try
As the pandemic winds on and our two biggest cities are in lockdown for the foreseeable future, the Australian music industry is undoubtedly at its lowest ebb arguably in history. With JobKeeper gone and no roadmap out for live music, it’s easy to clutch at straws and wonder how we got here. Today’s headline in The Industry Observer starts with its self-admitted “wild” statement, that Gladys could in fact save the music industry. It’s a great piece and it’s the kind of conversation we should be having. But I respectfully disagree with the premise.
The Federal Government has hung our industry out to dry. That much we can agree on. The loose change that has been thrown our way has been inadequate and many would argue mis-targeted. I can get on board with that. Where the argument loses me is with this very key premise:
“Why would any political party give money to its vocal opposition? Particularly when there is next to no chance our collective industry would vote for the Libs.”
The statement is centred around whether we should accept our lot right now because we’re a historically vocal opposition to the government and Gladys’ roadmap is the best we’ll get from here. That’s perhaps a simplistic version and I don’t want to verbal what is a far more nuanced piece, so I urge you to read it for yourself. It makes logical sense, is definitely pragmatic and in a lot of ways very sensible but accepting this key premise means accepting a view of what government represents that I refuse to sign up to.
Why should any political party give money (or let’s better term it ‘support’) to its vocal opposition? Here’s my simple answer. Because it’s their fucking job. While building car parks nobody asked for or giving out sports grants to mates may raise its head from time to time, the job of a government is to make decisions for the good of a nation and by and large most people in parliament on all sides work to that aim. If we shift the ground away from that, then we lose, regardless of which political persuasion we are. I would suggest that there are plenty in the Liberal Party who would agree. It’s not utopian, it’s a fundamental belief in what democracy should be.
The music industry should be supported because of the massive amount of jobs it supports. It should be supported because pre-pandemic it was worth $1.8 billion to our economy. It should be supported because of the ecosystem that it creates. It should be supported because it’s cultural value reaches through every part of our lives. It should be supported because it brings massive value to the hobbyists and aspirants that find joy through their journey through music. It should be supported because Tina Arena said so. Nah just kidding on the last one.
If none of those things are enough to convince a government that we need support (any government of any stripe) because they don’t think we’re on their side, then we need to advocate to change the government to one that understands their role, not look deeply within ourselves about whether we’ve sucked up to the right people or not. I understand the reality. Government doesn’t like being shat on. Nobody does. I would argue that the music industry, given its current plight, has dealt with the government very politely and very respectfully throughout this pandemic, as it should.
I also think that the idea in the piece that those in the music industry are naturally lefties is also worth challenging and plays into a stereotype that those who want to view the music industry as a hippy convention would like to be portrayed. If a government doesn’t like the message they are being respectfully given by us, the answer is NOT to roll over on our principles and arguments and go away quietly or expect that lack of support to be reasonable in case we poke the bear.
At its best, music is an agent of cultural change. It brings true Australian stories to people in a way that only music can help digest. It brings First Nations stories and voices to the front. It discusses issues that resonate with all kinds of demographics. It challenges people. It is essential in maintaining mental health. It puts Australian role models in front of people to give them a way to connect, participate in and find the emotions that music brings.
Our whole reason for being is about emotion, agitation and connection. We do our industry no favours when we lose the hunger to be contrary and to fight for our own importance in the hope of catching more crumbs that fall off the table. You don’t save your soul by selling it.
Why would the Liberals help us? Not because there’s votes in it (although there may well be). Because it makes sense for Australia.
I’m not going to go into whether Labor state premiers locking down the population or the Liberal federal government botching the vaccine rollout are more the enemy of live music than the other.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter. This time next year we may have a Labor government. This time next year the Senate could be controlled by The Greens. This time next year the Senate could be controlled by Craig Kelly. None of it actually matters.
We’re not here to pick sides, we’re here to advocate for music and when we give up because we think the government might hate us for being contrarian, then what kind of slippery slope are we allowing ourselves to go down as a society?
If we are going to see a return to live music, it won’t be God willing, Gladys willing or Albo willing. It will be health advice, reality and national interest willing. If it’s not, then accepting that we haven’t been nice enough to people in power is not the answer. Getting respectfully louder and shining a light on a system that allows partisan interests to thrive is.
Do I think we’re likely to get much support from the Liberals? No. Do I think we should give them enough credit to believe and advocate that they should make their decisions on economic, health or national interest grounds and then fight tooth and nail against it if they don’t? Yes.
Why? Because advocating for a strong and vital industry is our job.
And supporting our $1.8 billion industry in a pandemic is their fucking job.