Music Policy

The Nugent Rescue PDF Print E-mail

The Nugent Rescue

Dick Letts The Nugent Committee has closed its office. It’s now over to governments and the companies themselves to restore the health of the major performing arts sector.

The Final Report of the Major Performing Arts Inquiry (the "Nugent Inquiry", after its Chair, Dr. Helen Nugent), was released just before Christmas.

Titled, like its preceding Discussion Paper, Securing the Future, the report makes 95 recommendations to address the financial and artistic crisis faced by a number of the 31 music, opera, theatre and dance companies comprising the "major performing arts sector". (The Discussion Paper was reviewed in Music Forum 6/1, October 1999.)

So far as I know, there has never been such a comprehensive review of a non-profit arts sector, taking in as it does the financial and artistic operations both of the companies and the government agencies that fund them. It brings to bear a level of business expertise that possibly exceeds that available to previous inquiries into arts companies.

It seems to this writer to be an excellent report. Undoubtedly, it will be an influential one, not only for the operations of the major performing arts sector, but probably also for the rest of the subsidised arts. Any critical comments found below should be taken within this context of general approbation.

The Inquiry is said to have had its genesis in a cry for help from a number of the companies. It was revealed in the Discussion Paper that at the end of 1998 twelve of the companies had both negative working capital and net liabilities – i.e. they were technically insolvent and a decision by their Board members to continue trading could carry personal financial risk. The combined reserves of the companies were equal to the current combined annual net loss. The Inquiry discovered many other issues to be addressed (summarised in the box on p.13)

The following commentary will make more sense to readers who have traversed the summary of recommendations in the boxes beginning p. 14.


Disposing of some criticisms of the Inquiry

The Inquiry has been criticised for its business orientation: but in the circumstances, how could it not address the business issues? To its credit, the Inquiry Committee seems to have responded to the criticism of a few months ago with a clearer up-front acknowledgement that financial viability is not an end in itself; rather, it is a basis for the achievement of artistic goals and ‘artistic vibrancy’. Indeed, the Report includes artistic goals. It even goes so far as to see investment in artistic innovation as a survival issue!

The criticism, also heard, that the Report is ‘economic rationalist" and therefore anti-art seems to me, in sum, to be pretty weak. But to check it out systematically, I have looked at all the recommendations to see whether any might be construed as anti-art. You will find the possible candidates in the box on p. 16.

Nevertheless, it is true that the Report in some ways fits the current government fashion, exemplified especially in the policies of the Kennett Government, to treat the arts as an industry. Such policies emphasise the value of the arts as contributors to the economy, providers of employment, sources of export income rather than nourishment for the spirit. For instance, the Report’s Guiding Principle #1 says: "Australia should have a vibrant major performing arts sector that enriches Australian life…" That supports the non-economic value of the arts. But the statement then goes on: "… and builds its image as an innovative and sophisticated nation." Why? Because this will assist exports and tourism.

An important distinction can be made between the need for expert management of arts companies pursuing an artistic purpose, and official policies that see the primary purpose of arts companies as economic. This by and large is not a trap that the Inquiry falls into, but its report could be read selectively to give comfort to the economic rationale. The danger of the arts-as-industry approach obviously is that profitability takes over from artistic value as the reason for activity. Arts activity for which there is no exchange of money may as well not exist and activity which is not adequately rewarded by the marketplace is literally under-valued (e.g. choral music performance).

Another criticism of the Discussion Paper was that it addressed only the Major Performing Arts sector and ignored the companies and artists in the rest of the performing arts – and the arts as a whole.

But the terms of reference for the Inquiry require it to investigate the Major Performing Arts sector, and no more. If we want a broader inquiry, we should take the matter to the government or the Australia Council, and not bash the Nugent Committee.

That said, there are crucial interdependencies between the major performing arts companies and the rest of the performing arts and its audiences which might have been addressed but were not.

Another criticism of the Discussion Paper was that it was not forthright in proposing more subsidy for the companies. This is not a failing of the Report: it is firm in such recommendations, stating that the survival of the sector depends upon more funding.


Some possible collateral effects of the Report

The Report directs the attention of governments and funding bodies to the big end of the performing arts sector. Historically, there have been recurrent incidences of conflict between the interests of the large companies and the rest of one or another artform sector. For instance, around the beginning of the 80s there were proposals that the Australia Council should redirect its funds to national "flagship" companies (a term that has been reincarnated in the Nugent Report). In the mid-80s there were similar difficulties around funding policies in theatre and in music/opera, where the small and large companies were pitted against one another. It would be better if we were without such conflict, but that requires some equitable dealing.

Government adoption of the recommendations will mean that the large companies are strengthened and receive an even larger portion of the available performing arts subsidies. If they meet the challenges of the Report, they will build larger audiences, box office income, corporate support and employment, all of which is admirable. But the relative disadvantage of smaller companies and individual artists will increase, with who knows what consequences. After all, they all compete in the same market.


Comments on some recommendations



The recommendations cover geographic and demographic access: i.e. equitable (in proportion to population) provision of performances around the country, and some measures to reach youth, ethnic and schools audiences. Provision for the less affluent is still, as in the Discussion Paper, overwhelmed by the marketing ethos, despite the following statements.

"The Inquiry strongly supports the principle that the arts are for everyone." (p.55)

"Attendance should be encouraged from individuals with diverse income backgrounds. The major performing arts sector needs to shed its ‘silver-tail’ image and ensure attendance by the less affluent." (p.7)

The ABS publication Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues Australia (1991) shows that among the obstacles to attendance at classical music concerts and dance performances, cost ranks highest.

"Government funding for the major performing arts is critical. It increases accessibility…and enriches the lives of Australians by making lower ticket prices possible." (p.37)

This is a misleading statement. We have to recall here that virtually all of the companies in this sector are financially marginal or below the line. It is true that subsidy makes lower ticket prices possible, but given the financial state of the companies, the prices drop only to the top level that the market will bear. Given the trend to falling attendances, some may be charging more than even affluent audiences want to pay. (In 1997 the ACO increased its prices by 6% and sales dropped by 6%..) Without subsidy, they would simply be unable to set prices within the market limit. At current prices, most could not be seeking seriously to accommodate the less than affluent.

If the Inquiry wants these financially marginal companies to provide access for all Australians – as it does and should – it might have gone beyond a probably unrealistic invocation to the companies and dealt with the financial implications.

True, it does recommend that companies offer free performances. That’s good, but results probably in a free performance once a year. How about cheaper seats that allow for regular paid attendance and a real membership in the audience culture?

How could this be supported? Presumably, by subsidy or sponsorship.


Subsidy levels

Dr Helen Nugent has informed Music Forum that at the inception of the new funding arrangements, the operation of the subsidising formulae, plus disbursement of the additional subsidies requested from governments, will leave no company worse off. This is worth mentioning because an analysis of the figures in the report indicates a large drop in subsidy for a few companies, including Musica Viva and Opera Queensland.

The Report says that over time it is expected that funding ratios for the concert orchestras will diminish. In the absence of any explanation, we are left with the suspicion that these are the tall poppies, with the highest funding ratios. Let us remember that by European standards, they are not well funded — and they have to compete for players with the European orchestras. Excepting for the OA, they carry the largest wages bills of any of the companies. And their future ability, especially in the smaller cities, to replace public money with private, is speculative.

On the other hand, while I am a very strong supporter of the orchestras, I have to say that they might have a stronger case for high subsidy if their level of commissioning and performance of Australian and contemporary works were not so mediocre. One justification for high subsidy is programmatic risk-taking. And why could not at least one of these orchestras give thought to devising a program that systematically builds an audience for contemporary orchestral music? That should be worth some extra funding!


The special case of the Australian Chamber Orchestra

It is not clear what is to happen to the Australian Chamber Orchestra. For unstated reasons, the Inquiry classifies the ACO as a chamber music organisation, not a concert orchestra. (Is it because it has ‘Chamber’ in its title?) As the former it qualifies for 15% subsidy, as the latter, for 50%. In recent times, the ACO has worked its subsidy level up to an inequitable 18% (1998), as compared with, for instance, 86% for the TSO, the orchestra nearest in size (though not operation), or with 48% for the SSO, the other major Sydney concert orchestra. This is a subsidy level ruled by history, not rationality. It puts the ACO at a great disadvantage with its domestic, not to mention European, competitors.

The Inquiry seems to be trying to sidestep that issue by persisting in recommending "exploration" of a merger between the ACO and Musica Viva, on the grounds that if it is to achieve its aspiration as a "global" company, the ACO needs a stronger administrative base. (Presumably, that could be solved with a bit more subsidy.) Of course, the decision is one for the ACO and MVA. Part of the motivation for MVA is that it might gain the ACO’s Richard Tognetti as joint Artistic Director. That could be very good for Musica Viva, although it could well and truly extend Tognetti. But statements from the two organisations indicate that a major difficulty is that the merger would be costly (!!!). Sharing accommodation would be another difficult issue, not least because ACO has just moved into beautiful purpose-built premises on very favourable terms.

Subsidies and programming

The Report states that the history of the companies has been a consideration in setting the funding ratios. But recent history shows a serious decline in various artistic matters such as commissioning and production of new works, and the number and seniority of artists employed. In order to return companies even to their previous artistic status (for some, hardly daring!) will require more money. The committee has thought of that. This will come from a special fund to "lift artistic vibrancy". But that is not an on-going fund. It is requested for three years only. How will "artistic vibrancy" – which the Report sees as crucial to financial viability – be maintained after the three year period? Why was not this particular purpose included in the request for continuing funding?

Special funding for innovation

One global and three niche companies receive special continuing funding to support risk-taking productions. The other companies evidently are expected to engage with risk as part of their regular funding. Would it not be possible to offer further financial encouragement to them also, even if on a competitive basis?

Notably absent is any apparent inducement to the opera companies to commission or present new works. This is despite the total failure of the companies to do so during the period surveyed by the Inquiry. Opera is the only art form in which this was so. The problem is financial. The closest the Inquiry comes to dealing with this issue is to agree that the state companies are free to produce new small works on their own account, without the collaboration of the other companies. This is nothing new: they have always had the freedom, but not the funds to exercise it.

There is enormous interest in the musical community in producing new music theatre works. The Inquiry has lost a major opportunity to support such initiatives. Tactic for the State opera companies: consider reconceiving yourselves as niche companies.

The proposed collaboration of major companies with smaller companies to produce innovative work has its pros and cons. The small companies can take advantage of the resources and expertise of the large companies. However, even more of the performing arts sector comes under the control of the majors — whose influence may well be very conservative.

State responsibilities

There is a rather curious situation that arises out of the conceptualisation of funding responsibilities. Because the Commonwealth takes greater responsibility for the internationally or nationally orientated companies, and the States for the ‘Regional Flagships’, the burden of funding, for instance, the Sydney and Melbourne orchestras remains with Canberra, but funding responsibility for the Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane orchestras is shifted slightly towards the States (with a greater shift envisaged for the future). In one sense, this is logical. On the other hand, Sydney and Melbourne get the benefit of the most performances, from the best orchestras, at least cost to their State governments. The governments of the smaller States, with smaller State budgets, have to pay more subsidy for less service. The disadvantage goes beyond orchestras. A smaller state like Queensland is home only to Regional Flagship companies, and the Commonwealth share of subsidy to those companies is never more than 20%.

Footnote: Queensland has unilaterally chosen to invest more in its opera company and orchestras than other states. What happens if under the "normalised’ funding formulae, the funding required from the Queensland Government were reduced? Can it be assumed that, having met its formula responsibilities, the Queensland or any other government is free to provide such additional core subsidies as it desires?

Artistic assessment

The Major Performing Arts Board would be the funding conduit for all these companies and would have responsibility for their artistic assessment. However, in its proposed structure it is dominated by business people and there is no clear proposal for competent artistic assessment.

This is potentially a contentious matter because at least one of these companies have been known in the past to insist that it has no artistic peers and so no-one capable of such assessment. This is an unacceptable position. On the other hand, the assessment must be expert and credible.

Further, if funding is tightly tied to the funding formulae, there seems no possibility of financial reward or punishment related to artistic achievement or failure, as is the case for the rest of Australia Council clients.

Performance contracts

Companies will be required to sign performance contracts setting out the funding bodies’ expectations of them. On the one hand, this is perfectly reasonable, could keep companies on course and pre-empt unjustified criticisms. But great care is needed in instituting this practice. Look at the tertiary institutions. They have a form of the accountability disease. Who doesn’t know lecturers who are at their wits’ end with multiplying administrative tasks, all perfectly ‘reasonable’, intended to increase accountability but instead seriously detracting from their real work?

The arts are even more vulnerable. On the one hand, the show must go on. There’s the discipline and the rigour. Deadlines must be met. Companies must be viable. On the other hand, risks must be taken. The creative impulse sometimes has to be waited upon. Fine judgement is needed, and it’s hard to write that into an accountability document.

Immunity of the MPAB

The Report notes that in recommending that all companies come under aegis of a new Major Performing Arts Board, concerns of the companies had to be placated: probably, that their funding may become embroiled in the broader policy arguments in the Australia Council. In the event, Nugent proposes that the government, not the Australia Council, should set the funding level for the Board and that the Board should escape the control of Australia Council in some crucial aspects.

One might ask why the Board and its clients should escape exposure to the concerns affecting the rest of the arts community. Two of the seven MPAB members will be chairs of other Australia Council boards. Since all chairs sit also on the Australia Council, the MPAB will in effect have three representatives on Council. That, and line-item funding, should be enough. It’s a Board, not a Duchy.


Ability to market and fund-raise

The expert Nugent Committee perceives that many companies in the smaller cities are unable to market their productions effectively and to secure corporate sponsorships because they lack employees and expertise dedicated to these tasks. The mergers are intended to pool resources to buy an upgrade.

If this predicament faces even the largest performing arts companies in those cities, how much more urgent must be the problem for non-major companies! What to do about that?!

Consortium to purchase advertising

This excellent recommendation proposes that the major companies should combine their buying power to secure better advertising rates. Why not extend this collaboration to the non-major companies and even to the major venues and festivals?

Will governments cough up?

Minister Alston, official instigator of the Report, seemed positive at the time of its release. John Howard poured cold water on the prospect: the government would have to consider its priorities.

The fact is that a number of high profile companies are on the precipice, and their demise would leave dirt on the faces of governments and some of the high profile business people on company boards. Will the federal government, proposed provider of more than 50% of the total of new funds, pay a few million to keep its face clean?

One suspects that a right wing federal government will reluctantly come to the party with some more funding for the major performing arts companies (it’s a tiny amount, after all), but will not want to know about the situation in the rest of the performing arts.

As to the state governments: who knows? On past history, they may be more preoccupied with ensuring that they need pay no more than in addressing the actual problems. Some, notably Victoria and Queensland, complained about the recommendations immediately upon publication. Horses will be traded.

One crucial concern is whether the Commonwealth, in supporting the Recommendations for additional funds, would rob Peter to pay Paul. It would be very poor, both practically and symbolically, if funds for the major companies came at the expense of, for instance, the smaller Australia Council clients.

Additional funding for the major performing arts companies should be new money. It should not come from the existing arts budget. 8

— Dick Letts. Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not the Music Council of Australia.


The Nugent Inquiry investigated the circumstances of the major theatre, dance, music and opera companies. These are the music and opera companies.

Concert orchestras: Adelaide Symphony Orchestras (ASO), Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) [which was treated, however, as a chamber music organisation], Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO), Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO), Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO), Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO), Western Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO).

Pit orchestras: Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (AOBO), Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO), State Orchestra of Victoria (SOV).

Chamber music: Musica Viva Australia (MVA).

Opera: Opera Australia (OA), Opera Queensland (OQ), State Opera of South Australia (SOSA), Western Australian Opera (WAO).

Service organisation: Symphony Australia


Artistic vibrancy

"The companies’ artistic standards are being put at risk as a result of financial problems" and the consequences:

production of fewer new works

fewer new productions of existing works

a move to less risky, more popular repertoire

increased co-productions and buy-ins [note that this is cited as a risk to artistic standards, but required for the state opera companies]

reduced or subscale ensemble sizes

reduced scale of works [theatre is cited]

use of less experienced artists [opera is cited – an especially worrying trend]

fewer opportunities for young artist development

consequent reduced ability to present Australia’s cultural distinctiveness.



Access is affected by decline in various activities:

reduced touring to regions, Hobart and Darwin

reduced number of mainstage performances

participation rates in the smaller cities much lower than in Sydney and Melbourne

reduced ABC-TV broadcasts of complete productions by the major companies

low youth and ethnic attendances

pressure on companies’ schools education programs.


Financial viability

The companies are not financially stable and are incurring regular losses, which reserves do not cover. The pressures result from demographic changes, technology developments, and globalisation. In particular:

costs are rising faster than each of box office and private and government subsidies

large scale commercial productions and festivals, as well as film and CD sales, affect all art forms

the effect on companies in cities other than Sydney and Melbourne is especially severe

companies’ strategies are inadequately focussed and there is inadequate alignment between them and government objectives

many companies lack the resources to increase earned income

some government policies, especially a proclivity for project rather than core funding, further stretch the companies financially.


The rationale for much government funding is unclear and inequitable

the funding responsibilities as between State and Commonwealth governments are not logically allocated

the funding responsibilities as between the Australia Council and the Commonwealth Department for the Arts are not rationally allocated

the companies face different expectations from different funding bodies, and there is no consistency in monitoring them.



There are 95 recommendations, based upon four guiding principles.


Australia should have a vibrant major performing arts sector that enriches Australian life and builds its image as an innovative and sophisticated nation; (the sector should include dance, music, opera and theatre, aspire to the highest artistic standards, be a leading exponent of Australia’s cultural distinctiveness;)

Australia should cost-effectively deliver broad access to the major performing arts; (equity in access required for all four art forms, considered geographically, at all levels of income, education, ethnicity, age, gender, and can be provided through technology;)

Australia should have a financially viable major performing arts sector that supports artistic vibrancy; (all companies should have appropriate operational strategies, Amaximise income, minimise costs, achieve best management practice;)

Government support for the major performing arts should be transparent and based on an understanding of the responsibilities of all parties; (applies to Federal and State governments).


The recommendations are divided into two broad categories: for actions by governments, and actions by the companies. Here is a summary of the recommendations.


Criteria are established for designation as a major performing arts company. These have to do with high artistic standards, size (minimum average income of $1.2 million) and financial viability.

Companies are to be assigned to one of four categories, based on considerations of their strategic roles, and three areas of difference between them: fundamental economics (e.g. of touring), artistic quality, and breadth of product range. The four designations are Global Companies, Australian Flagship Companies, Niche Companies, and Regional Flagship Companies.

The music companies have been designated as follows:

Global Company: Australian Chamber Orchestra because, inter alia, it tours internationally successfully and regularly.

Australian Flagship Companies: Opera Australia including the AOBO, Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, because they are of international standard, are national artform leaders, but cannot be designated as global companies because they are prevented by size and cost from regular touring. Musica Viva, which meets other criteria and is responsible for touring companies nationally and internationally.

Niche Companies: The niche companies specialise in a particular part of the repertoire or a particular type of work and potentially may bring some productions to an international audience through working with the festival circuit. Some specialise in producing new Australian works. The only musical company in this category is the State Opera of South Australia, presumably because of its production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Regional Flagship Companies: includes Adelaide, Queensland, WA and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, Opera Queensland and the WA Opera. These companies are seen as state leaders, of national importance and international aspiration, undertaking annual intrastate touring and mounting a significant education program.

The State Orchestra of Victoria and the Queensland Philharmonic are not categorised, presumably because other recommendations would have them merge with their state concert orchestras. Symphony Australia is rarely mentioned. It is seen as an effective service organisation to the concert orchestras, without need of reform beyond those proposed by the orchestras themselves.

Split of funding between Commonwealth and State governments

The benchmark division between governments is proposed as follows:






Australian Flagship






Regional Flagship




However, the Australian Flagship orchestras would be 85% Commonwealth-funded, and the Regional Flagship orchestras 75%. This would represent a small move away from the historical situation in which funding is provided almost totally by the Commonwealth.

Major Performing Arts Board (MPAB)

It is recommended that all Commonwealth funding for the 31 companies should pass through this new board of the Australia Council so that consistent, informed procedures may apply. It is further proposed that funding to the MPAB should be a government "line item" within the Australia Council budget, and that the Board should have some autonomy from the decisions of the Australia Council.

Companies in difficulty

Companies would be permitted to build reserves of up to 20% of annual costs without risk to subsidy level. A special "Reserves Bank" would be established to assist companies in difficulty, subject to conditions.

Fund to stabilise and reposition the companies

Subsidy levels will be calculated more systematically, based upon the cost of delivering the artform, the envisaged strategic roles, and geographic access considerations. A ‘normalised’ cost base would be established for each artform and category of company, taking into account an agreed level of activity. "A standard artform funding ratio would be applied to the ‘normalised’ cost base of each company to give a level of base artform funding for each company." The ratio is the percentage of normalised cost funded by governments.

The following artform funding ratios are set, based on the income earning ability of Sydney and Melbourne companies, the minimum subsidy necessary for survival, and the historical performances of the companies: theatre, 13%; chamber music 15%; dance 20%; opera 25%; concert orchestras 50%.

These base ratios are adjusted upwards for companies in the other states to take account of their smaller populations and more modest earning ability. Subsidies to the music companies would then be the following percentages of their costs: ASO, 64%; QSO 64%; TSO 86%; WASO 65%; State Opera of SA, 56%; Opera Queensland, 50%; WA Opera 52%.

There is also an upwards adjustment for three of the six niche companies, plus the Sydney Dance Company, "that are committed to developing new and innovative work and have the potential to take Australian works to the rest of the world." Companies could not increase their activity without funding body approval.

Increase in total funding

An increase in the total continuing funding to the sector is proposed, amounting to $4.6 million a year from the Commonwealth ($6.9 million in year three), and $3.4 million from State governments, both promised for three years. Further, it is recommended that the Commonwealth and States should provide an additional $25 million over three years, with about 70% coming from the Commonwealth, to assist the companies to "lift artistic vibrancy", and change industry structure and their cost-revenue dynamics. Core funding should be on a rolling triennial basis.

Assessable performance agreements would be instituted between governments and the companies, setting out their respective obligations. Also, data on performances, attendances etc would be collected by the companies and the MPAB.


Ensure artistic vibrancy

The companies are called upon to commission new works and new productions, consistent with their roles, both autonomously and in collaborative relationships with innovative smaller companies. Niche and Regional Flagship Companies especially are encouraged to work with festivals to develop and showcase new and innovative works, with a further view to exposure in overseas festivals. Festival managements are encouraged to make programming decisions up to two years in advance to allow for, even support, proper development of these new works.

Some companies would be supported in increasing their size as a means to building audiences, access and artistic quality.

Opera Australia and the theatre companies are encouraged to work with unions to reduce constraints on the importation of artists of international standing.

Companies should support young artists development programs. The concert orchestras and Symphony Australia should give better support to conductor development.

Increase access

"The Inquiry strongly supports the principle that the arts are for everyone."

Geographic: The overall level of regional and rural touring should be maintained.

Companies should selectively establish ‘mentor’ relationships with regional and rural companies.

Companies should work with the ABC and other broadcasters to increase the number of complete works broadcast on television and radio. They should also explore the internet as a delivery vehicle and as a marketing tool.

Demographic: Pilot programs should test ways to appeal to youth and NESB markets.

The companies should present a number of free performances, including at festivals.

With backing from the education system, companies in each artform should find corporate support and mount a major schools education initiative to build future audiences.

Change financial dynamics through artform cooperation, and geographic cooperation

We refer here only to the music-related recommendations.

Opera. WAO, OQ and SOSA should agree to jointly commission, or buy in from Opera Australia or overseas, all new mainstage operatic productions. Opera Australia should be involved in any production and presentation of less well-known mainstage works. State opera companies should be able to produce small scale new works or productions in their own right.

Orchestras. "A ‘community of musicians’ concept should be explored" between the MSO and the State Orchestra of Victoria, in which musicians "should flexibly be able to cross between providing pit and orchestral services with, over time, the core number of players dedicated to the SOVA being reduced." Presumably, this is through a merger. SOVA should be maintained as a separately branded entity providing pit services to OA and AB. This proposal results from the financial losses and under-utilisation of SOVA.

A similar arrangement should be explored between the QSO and the Queensland Philharmonic. In this case, the separate branding of the QPO would permit it to continue to offer concerts, as well as provide pit services.

To provide a stronger administrative structure to support the ACO becoming a Global company, the ACO and Musica Viva should further explore the possibility of a merger, but maintaining dual branding.

In order to be in a position to attract marketing and development staff of the calibre required to address their current financial difficulties, there should be exploration of the establishment of shared resources companies between the ASO and the State Opera of SA, and between the new Queensland orchestra, Queensland Ballet and Opera Queensland. For similar reasons, West Australian Opera and WA Ballet should establish a holding company structure, possibly to include eventually the WASO.

Improve earned income and private sector support

The recommendations propose measures to improve marketing and fund-raising. These address in particular the employment or training of staff, and specific initiatives regarding private philanthropy.

Reduce costs, build reserves

The orchestras should work with unions to introduce more flexible work practices.

Companies should work with venues to improve backstage processes

Tenders should be called for major production expenses.

Companies should establish a cooperative to improve buying power for advertising.

Companies should build reserves of up to 20% of annual costs.

Improve management

The recommendations envisage greater management training and strengthened planning processes.


Frankly, I cannot find recommendations where an economic rationalist approach brutally overwhelms artistic motivation. Some of the recommendations might cause a bit of collateral damage. These are the worst I can find:

The companies should vigorously pursue private sponsorship. Private sponsors are attracted by larger audiences. The Report does not acknowledge that this probably pushes towards popular programming rather than the innovation called for in other recommendations.

The limitations imposed by the funding bodies on a company’s activity; the categorisation of companies, the related proportional funding responsibilities set for State and Federal governments, the performance contracts: all add rigour and transparency, but also can lead to a considerable loss of flexibility which might have artistic consequences.

There is a hint that companies should select repertoire to serve audience needs, rather than bring the audience to repertoire chosen for artistic reasons. (14.1.1) Depending upon how it is implemented, this is potentially a somewhat subversive move towards the norms of the commercial sector.

Although the Report itself sees the practices of buying in or co-producing productions as inimical to artistic standards, it proposes them as the only method by which state opera companies can mount new mainstage productions, and by which any opera company can bring about new productions of less well-known mainstage works. (The financial imperative is acknowledged.)

Concerning the proposed mergers between companies, there can be a down-side: less artistic product, less choice for audiences, less competition between companies, less employment for artists

The future for our orchestras PDF Print E-mail

The Future for Our Orchestras? Richard Letts looks at the prospects for continued orchestral funding.

June 1996

A newspaper reports that in the face of threatened budget cuts to the ABC, the popular response among ABC staff is to drop the ABC orchestras.

"HERE IS THE BAD NEWS", blared the headline in the Australian on May 11. Said the following caption: "The ABC is bracing itself for funding cuts. What kind of streamlined organisation is likely to emerge from the process?"

The article surveyed some of the possibilities floated within the ABC for meeting its share of the imminent $8 billion cut to the Commonwealth budget. Written by the Australian's media reporter, Errol Semper, it notes that the ABC has been running already at a deficit, and that a cut in its government funding when stacked on top of the existing shortfall could precipitate major organisational changes. One change that has had a lot of play in the press is to close one of the AM radio networks - probably the "metropolitan" stations; the ABC euphemism is an "amalgamation" between the metro stations and Radio National. Other alternatives are to restructure ABC TV along British Channel 4 lines, with programs bought from local independent production houses rather than produced internally; to drop TV sports programming; to combine radio and television news gathering; to have all full-time workers work full time; to cut "bloated" middle management. Having noted all of these possibilities, Semper says:

"This leaves the majority's favourite for the axe, the five State symphony orchestras. This could save about $35 million a year and arguments for lopping the orchestras are strong at first glance. Strictly they don't constitute broadcasting, they play largely to attendant audiences and the Sydney orchestra has already been partially removed from the ABC umbrella. But somebody - probably State governments - would have to foot the orchestra bill and [ABC General Manager Brian] Johns is totally dismissive of what he regards as "such simplistic" solutions."

(There are, of course, six orchestras. Perhaps Semper did not count the SSO - or alternatively, has unwittingly adopted the plan in some minds to knife the Tasmanian orchestra.)

So, for music, there's the bad news and the good news: the ABC could be in a financial jam serious enough to prompt a major reorganisation; the "majority" view within the ABC says solve the problem by dumping the orchestras; Brian Johns says over his dead body.

A few forceful propositions.

The symphony orchestras are fundamental and indispensable to a viable classical music culture in this country. Without the orchestras, kiss goodbye to live classical music of a quality sufficient to interest an audience.

The orchestras cannot survive without adequate public subsidy.

We should never assume that public subsidy is assured, and it is in fact chronically in danger.

The whole music community should fight tooth and nail for the orchestras and their public subsidy.

It is time to get smart about this issue: look at strategy and tactics, and not be rolled by decision-makers who do not have music's interests at heart.

In an article in the last issue of !Bulletin, I put a case for some of these propositions, so I'll just repeat the general thrust here.

The orchestras are indispensable to a viable classical music culture because it is orchestral and operatic music that attracts the great proportion of listeners. For whatever reason, small scale classical music performances seem to be attractive mainly to middle aged and older people. Presumably most of these people have attended orchestral concerts when younger; if they had not been able to do so, one can speculate that by middle age they would be lost to classical music.

Orchestras are indispensable also because of this chain of reasoning: classical music performers require intensive formal training over many years; no-one will undertake this training if it does not hold a realistic prospect of a career; for most, the prospect is for an orchestral career, with the other option of chamber music performance available to very few players and providing usually only a part-time living. Further, the availability of the formal training depends upon the existence of the classical music teaching institutions; their viability depends on having a reasonable number of students, and they will not reach this number if the training is not justified by the possibility of orchestral careers.

In short, this is partly a question of a level of "critical mass" of audiences, students, institutions and players, and it will not be reached if there are no orchestras.

The orchestras cannot survive without adequate public subsidy because they are labour intensive in an economy which has replaced labour with cheaper machines and computers. The problem increases as machines and computers become ever more efficient because as a consequence the CPI for the labour-dependent orchestras and opera companies grows faster than the CPI for the whole economy; this means that subsidy has to grow faster than the CPI whereas it often falls behind CPI. The problem also increases because audiences, through experience with recorded orchestral music, expect live performances of international quality. To meet this demand for quality, orchestras compete for the best players and conductors, in an international market, through offering higher salaries or fees. Quality is a survival issue, and it costs.

A full time professional orchestra cannot survive in Australia from its earned income. The current ABC subsidy to its six orchestras is reported to be $34 million. (There may be other hidden costs of services such as accounting, occupancy costs and so on.) While private sponsorship might contribute in a minor way to meeting orchestral deficits, there seems no prospect that it will kick in anything like $34 million. In any case, even the $34 million could be argued as insufficient to deliver quality orchestras to Australia when the competing overseas salary levels are compared with ours.

We should never assume that public subsidy is assured. Public subsidy for the arts competes with all the other claims on the government purse: health, education, defence etc etc. Public subsidy for music competes with subsidy for all the other art forms, and public subsidy for orchestras competes in some ways with subsidy to other forms of music. Some would say that orchestral music is privileged compared with subsidy to other musical forms, and this is true; but in that truth also lies a vulnerability since the basis of the privilege can be questioned. The privilege was largely condoned by the musical community in years past on the basis that our classical music was of special quality and cultural importance. It may be that as our culture fragments and becomes ever more diverse, that consensus is threatened and governments eventually do not subscribe to it. To temper this alarmist view, we might say that there could be a reaction to the fragmentation and that we will begin to look for things of some cultural permanence that bind rather than divide us; the commitment to classical music could be reconfirmed. However, there is a danger and there will be a fight to be fought.

If the need arises, the whole music community should fight for the orchestras. There are those in the music community who are antagonistic to the orchestras' subsidy, thinking that if only the orchestras would disappear their money could be distributed among other musical activities to greater effect and for more equity. There is some justice in this position, but not much practicality. If the orchestras were dropped the funds would be much more likely to be reassigned to buying fighter planes or some other non-arts purpose. The government thereby would have significantly watered down its commitment to supporting the arts, with more general negative ramifications for arts funding, education in the arts and the way our society regards the arts. It should be remembered also that orchestral subsidy pays the salaries of hundreds of musicians.

The music community should not begin from an assumption that taking a position in support of orchestras implies an opposition to some other forms of music. If we are forced to a choice, then we can make it according to the issues in that context, not on the basis of a prejudgement for or against anything.

It's time to get smart and have some strategies and tactics at the ready. The rest of this article opens up that discussion.

Taking the offensive

The arts community, in the face of years of economic rationalism, has tended to roll over, accept and publicly state the view that there will be no increases in public support to the arts - even in recent years at the very same time there have been substantial increases. One might even believe that there is a sort of acceptance that this is how it ought to be. There is also much too much acceptance of the proposition that the arts like anything else are primarily an economic activity. If they can't support themselves, say the rationalists, that only goes to show that they have no value or right to exist.

In the orchestral realm, we are always hearing about the threat that for economic reasons one or more of the ABC orchestras (usually the Tasmanian or Adelaide) will be dropped. I don't know whether this proposition has ever had any real currency in the upper echelons, but it should not be allowed to gain a hold.

I propose that rather than simply fighting a defending action, it is time to go on the offensive.

More orchestras

We should be looking to create more orchestras rather than allowing the number to be reduced. For instance, the big regional centres are beginning to reach a size where they could float the possibility of resident professional orchestras. Newcastle's experiment with a professional orchestra is very interesting. It has presented concerts of quite a good standard and adventurous repertoire. For many years, it had a very marginal existence as an amateur orchestra. When it turned professional, its audience increased markedly, and now it has about 500 subscribers, attendances of around 800 for its regular repertoire and 300 for 20C repertoire (the latter pretty good even by the standards of larger cities), presents nine or ten programs a year, and also is entrepreneur for the three concerts of the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Newcastle. Until recently it was presenting schools concerts but insufficient subsidy cause their termination.

Newcastle's move to professional status was possible because although there were very few symphonic players of professional standard living in the city, it could import nearly all of its members from the professional pool in Sydney, a couple of hours drive away. It is interesting to note that the Newcastle Orchestra now includes among its members a small but gradually increasing number of local residents. A reinforcing circle is building between the orchestra and the Newcastle Conservatorium, with musicians having the possibility of constructing a living through jobs with both organisations. This creates the possibility of a broader enrichment of the musical life, for instance through formation of chamber groups and their presentation in concerts.

Canberra, Geelong and Townsville/Cairns (if they could stop fighting) could take this path now or in the foreseeable future. Canberra also can bring players from Sydney, and Geelong from Melbourne. Cities like Townsville and Cairns, remote from the major cities, probably would have to find full-time local employment for their symphony players - perhaps unfeasible. Taking seriously this proposition for the next extension of our orchestral life throws open the whole question of orchestral subsidy: its sources and how it is divided, delivered and managed. I'll touch on that briefly at the end of the article.

More subsidy for higher quality.

Another aspect of taking the offensive concerns orchestral quality and character. This argument partly depends upon the conjecture that an orchestra cannot attract a sufficient audience if it does not reach a high standard, with the requisite level determined partly by local conditions but also by the audience's experience of quality through broadcast and recordings. Issues of character and the style and energy of presentation also come into play, as exemplified by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Audiences respond accordingly.

Some aspects of quality and character of presentation depend more upon intelligent, creative production and management than money. Here, the orchestras themselves have to pull their weight.

However, performance quality ultimately is dependent upon the quality of players and conductors, and that depends in turn partly on the quality of students induced into our conservatoria and partly on the result of an international bidding war. If the reward for a violinist with twenty years of intensive training from the age of five is the salary of a bus driver, only the musically obsessed or the terminally unworldly will choose an orchestral career. Australian society generally does not yet support the arts to the degree that it will encourage its sons and daughters to make economically stupid life decisions. Of those who do commit to the musical life and graduate, many live and earn abroad. We have to compete for high quality players, whether our own or foreigners, with European and American orchestras often paying much more than our salary levels. Australian rank and file players earn $28,000 - $47,000; top US orchestras pay $90,000 and European $110,000. We can fight back with lower living costs and arguably better life style, but they may not be tangible to an overseas player who has not lived here. The bald numbers are what they will see, and the geographical isolation. Only increased subsidy could adequately change the numbers.

(Parenthetically, it would be worth working through the arguments about orchestral size. One hears the argument that an orchestra cannot make it to the top level unless it has 96 or 104 or 108 players. An aspiration of the smaller Australian orchestras has been to grow to "full size". One wonders, however, whether if the extra subsidy were available it would be better spent on lifting the standard of conductors and the players at the existing size.)

Adequate subsidy to support artistic risk.

Another related reason for maintaining or increasing subsidy is that it allows for more interesting programming, and for the performance of new works by our own composers. If subsidy is choked off, the repertoire moves to the lowest common denominator and then possibly to death by boredom. One orchestral manager has said to me that he fears that unless the orchestral repertoire is revitalised and brought into the twentieth century, that the orchestras will die with their present audiences. This is not intrinsically a problem of subsidy, but it calls for some daring and experimentation by orchestras and that brings financial risk, a risk that cannot be borne when the financial situation is on the precipice.

Bonding with the community.

Finally, it is essential that the orchestras build the strongest possible bonds with their own community and their own core audiences. Ultimately they will be best supported - and defended - not by an ABC or government bureaucracy, but by the sense of ownership, pride and excitement of the people of their respective cities. This depends on performance quality and character, but also on the orchestra somehow establishing itself as a vital contributor to the city's identity and cultural life. To put it more prosaically, it also has to make itself useful around the place. It is interesting to note the change in the activities of the TSO, which became admirably resourceful in the face of the frequent proposals for its termination because of its high cost for a small population. Probably more than any other ABC orchestra, it has a local citizenry ready to fight for its existence. But it also has outflanked the critics by serving a larger purpose through using its smaller establishment size as the basis for relatively economical touring, reaching audiences in regional centres on the mainland, appearing for diplomatic flag-showings exercises overseas and making itself available for special activities such as contracted pit work.

The ABC has the ABC orchestras in trust

The Tribe Report of 1985 is still influential in the thinking about the best way to take the orchestras into the future. Keating clearly argued from it when he increased the funding to the Sydney Symphony and attempted to sever it from the ABC. The Tribe Report argued that "the basis of support for an orchestra is an audience of perhaps no more than a few thousand people, prepared to leave their radio or TV sets for an evening, travel to a concert hall, and pay for the privilege of sitting through an orchestral performance. It is an audience which the orchestra reaches in the flesh, not through the airwaves. And so the essential operation and success of an orchestra is local. Its activities, responsibilities and accountability must be seen initially as local...This is the core of the argument for local control, and thus divestment" of the orchestras from the centrally controlled ownership of the ABC. Tribe also saw divestment as one key to lifting orchestral quality.

At the time, the opposition to divestment was motivated especially by the fear that in the act of divestment, the Federal government would also find a way to reduce or abandon its own subsidy to the orchestras (although Tribe made it clear that divestment was recommended only if the funding was maintained and re-routed) and dump funding responsibility onto the states, for instance. The orchestral subsidy would be safer, the argument went on, if it was left within the control of the ABC.

One rejoinder from the protagonists was that neither should the orchestras be assumed to be safe within the ABC. They asserted that there will be those in the ABC who, in a pinch, will argue that the essential responsibility of the ABC is to broadcasting, not to running orchestras. The Semper article seems now to confirm this. Such people ("the majority", says Semper) have appeared in the present upheaval with the proposition that not only should the ABC not have the responsibility for owning and managing the orchestras, but that the orchestras should be tipped out of the ABC and their $34 million subsidy retained and applied to other ABC purposes. One can perhaps be pleased to discover that naivety on this scale is not the exclusive property of the music community. We of course will not countenance for even a moment such hijackery.

The Music Council of Australia has agreed to seek an agreement from the Minister for the Arts to formally instruct the ABC that it holds the orchestras and their Commonwealth subsidy in trust, and that if the orchestras go, the funding, including any invisible funding through in-kind services, goes with them.

Further, if in the light of any reconsideration of orchestral policy, it was decided to change the ownership of the orchestras or the means by which funding is channeled to them, this should be seen by the Commonwealth as an opportunity to improve the performance of the orchestras, not to reduce their subsidies. An undertaking to maintain subsidy at least at the present level should be sought from the Minister.

A new plan for orchestral development

This in theory leaves the way clear for a review of the situation of orchestras in Australia and a fresh plan for the future development of orchestral music, without the need to constantly look over the shoulder in case propositions for improvement be used for ulterior purposes by one or another of the participants in orchestral support or management. Considering the present need to re-establish our bearings, such a review should take place now. However, in the light of the overall budgetary uncertainty, timing becomes more sensitive and it might be preferable to wait until the dust settles.

Should the ABC orchestras stay within the ABC?

If the ABC does not want them, certainly not. The Tribe Report clearly said no, but many of its criticisms arose from circumstances at the time, and these now have changed. On that account, in order to be fair and especially to be wise, it will be best to reassess the situation with an open mind. It should be noted, nevertheless, that other Tribe arguments were inherent in the situation of ownership by a centralised bureaucracy/broadcaster and still pertain.

There is a structural obstruction to the funding of new orchestras. There is no obvious source to which to turn for funding support. The ABC has been regarded as the main financial support to orchestral music, but while, since Tribe, it has been quite supportive of its orchestras, rumours still recur about the prospect of dropping an orchestra and it certainly appears unlikely to add any. The Australia Council has to be concerned with an equitable spread of its funds through relatively small grants to many, many applicants. It is not funded to support orchestras, and unless instructed by the Commonwealth government that certain funds must be set aside for orchestras, would find it very difficult to justify, for instance, a grant of a million dollars to a new orchestra when such an amount represents say a third of its support to all other classes of music clients. Perhaps funding through the Major Organisations Board could be a solution to this practical problem. However, there has been considerable anxiety among the States and the large arts organisations about the volatility in the Australia Council, and that may preclude even this solution.

One possible alternative could be the establishment of an orchestral funding authority, structured along Australia Council lines but with responsibility only for orchestras. This could channel Federal funds to all orchestras, and also possibly provide services such as tour coordination. Tribe proposed something along these lines. It could include some representatives of existing orchestras, but should not be controlled by them in case their interests prevail totally over the larger responsibility for orchestras present and future. A disadvantage could be that its visibility and isolation make it vulnerable to attack - but on the other hand, an attack would be obvious and could become a public issue. At present, one would hardly know what is happening to orchestral funding.

But perhaps the greatest advantage of such a body is this: that it could take a long and comprehensive view on orchestral development - a responsibility that accrues to absolutely no-one at present.

Richard Letts is the Chair of the Music Council of Australia.

National Review of School Music Education: report from the National Workshop PDF Print E-mail

National Review of School Music Education

Report from the National Workshop

Tina Broad


Representing ‘Music. Play for Life’, Tina Broad was a participant at the recent National Music Workshop. As the AMA coordinates the workshop reports and writes up the action notes to present to Julie Bishop, Tina summarises the workshop discussions and speculates about the way forward.


There is little doubt that the National Music Workshop, sponsored by the Australian government through the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and held in Melbourne in late August, was a significant event in itself. When, after all, had such a gathering ever taken place to discuss the future of music education?

When she announced the Workshop in July,  Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop,  said  it would put “music education on the national stage.” The gargantuan task of bringing it all together fell to the Australian Music Association with significant input from a range of interests including education, music, community and parent groups.

The event also saw the attendance of a Federal Minister (Arts: Minister Kemp) and the Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Pat Farmer, together with several senior DEST officers. Add those to the other 165 or so invitees from the music and education sectors from around Australia and you can see it was a pretty high-powered two days.

But what did it achieve? Like so many of these events there is an immediate benefit: the meeting of minds, the sharing of ideas and the breaking down of silos. There is also the promise of longer term gains to be made for music education. Unfortunately, these longer term gains are often the big things, the really critical things, that need to be done to break the current nexus. These seismic shifts also require others to want to change and need champions to take the agenda forward. So there’s still much work to be done. Anyone hoping that a magic wand would have been waved to fix all the ills of music education (which, let’s remind ourselves, have been decades in the making) will be disappointed.

The AMA’s Ian Harvey described the process of moving the music education agenda forward with Government as the running of a relay. Initially, it was MP Chris Pearce, people like Richard Gill and the MCA itself in commissioning the precursor Stevens Report, who picked up the baton and ran the first leg. Their initial efforts were successful enough to have had the National Review commissioned by the then Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson and Arts Minister, Rod Kemp. The baton was passed to Margaret Seares and Robin Pascoe and the team at Murdoch Uni, who were the two leaders over the next leg. The success of their efforts and those of the Steering Committee and Review Team led directly to the Workshop. The role of the Workshop was to provide a whole-of-sector response to the Review and prepare a number of action points that would help see the Review recommendations brought to life.

This response needed to be strong. It was important that we could present a united case to the upcoming Ministerial Council for Education, Employment Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) and the Cultural Ministers Council (CMC).  The Workshop outcomes will require the full support of the sector and those of the Federal and State Governments if long term, sustainable change is to be made – once and for all.

After the two days of discussions the delegates were able to agree on a number of key messages that will underpin the Workshop report.  The following points were the broadly agreed statements at the final plenary session:

The participants to this National Music Workshop, representing educators, industry and governments from all Australian jurisdictions:

1.   Affirm the findings of the National Review of School Music Education and applaud the Review’s recommendations.

2.   Reaffirm the many benefits – including academic, social, economic and artistic - of active music making for all school children in Australia.

3.   Agree that the education and music sectors, together with Governments, should work together over time to achieve the following important goals:

a.   Afford music the status of a core area of learning within all Australian schools and all Australian school systems.

b.   Provide all Australian children with the opportunity to participate in continuous, sequential, developmental music education programmes as part of their schooling from years K – 10, including the opportunity to participate in instrumental and vocal activity (programs)

c.    Ensure that all teachers and individuals involved in the provision of music education within Australian schools have the skills to deliver programs that reflect world’s best practice

d.   Enable talented and gifted students to be identified and nurtured for vocations in music education, performance, composition or production

4.   Undertake – collectively and individually – to work together with an ultimate goal of ensuring that good music education practice is shared and furthered to enable every Australian child the opportunity to experience the benefits and joy of making music.

5.   Support the concept of a model curriculum for school music, which is consistent and accessible for both specialist and generalist teachers

6.   Call on all jurisdictions to report the standards, extent and outcomes of school music teaching and learning in an accurate, timely and open manner.

Of course, some of these points re-state the Review recommendations such as the issues regarding the value of music education, the need for continuous, sequential and developmental programs throughout primary and into secondary school, the notion that music be a core area of learning and that our talented and gifted students are provided with opportunities to excel.

Other points above do move things forward, in particular the idea that all the groups represented at the Workshop undertake to work together to ensure that good music education practice is shared with the outcome that all children have the opportunity to experience and benefit from music learning. A model for this sharing and working together already exists in the UK. Known as The Music Manifesto, it brings together government and the music sector to support the provision of music in British schools. Initial reports show that participation in school is indeed increasing since the implementation of the Manifesto several years ago. The Music Manifesto, at least in concept, is something we should look at examining here and a recommendation to that end would likely be included in the Workshop report.

The notion of a model curriculum, a curriculum that is harmonised to achieve maximum benefits in terms of resource sharing yet still allows each of the States to meet their own needs, extends on the Review Recommendation 6, which talks up the need for a cohesive and inclusive curriculum that meets student needs and interests.  Funds for the development of curriculum resources such as the model curriculum were previously allocated by Brendan Nelson when he accepted the Review at a handover event in November 2005.

The model curriculum could be based on the Review’s Guidelines for Student Learning (Item 4.1 pp83 of the National Review of School Music Education).

There is also little doubt that there is a need to report on the provision and extent of music learning in Australia.  It’s a sorry state of affairs that, even after the initial MCA-commissioned Stevens Report (2001) and now the National Review, we still don’t know what the levels of provision actually are in Australia. If we are going to continue to spend large amounts of effort and, as it is hoped, resources to further music education, then we need to know the current baseline and be able to measure our progress from it.

The Workshop examined the Review recommendations, breaking them into four themes: teacher education; training and professional learning; curriculum content and policy; curriculum provision and implementation and partnerships in music education. Each of the themed discussions was related back to one or more of the Review recommendations.

While a strong, consistent and agreed response from the sector was needed, we also needed to be creative and Think Big. Just trying to do what we are doing now but a little better, or a little more broadly, isn’t going to achieve the results we want. There was also the pragmatic sense that more money alone wouldn’t solve the problems either. There are lots of examples in lots of areas here and around the world that show that such entrenched issues don’t get resolved just simply by throwing more and more money at them. That said, resources are an issue and there is acknowledgement that much more and much better resources are required. Nonetheless, the changes needed to ‘fix’ music education need more than just budgetary support.

So – what of the major challenge for the Workshop: the development of some creative ideas that would break apart the current nexus and allow music to be more readily available in schools? The Review points to a number of elements including curriculum, school leadership, resources and teacher education and training that require change or improvement. But which ones will have the most impact and which are the most likely to succeed?

Around half the Workshop’s total time was allocated to questions concerning curriculum policies, content, provision and implementation. Clearly for the benefits of the Review recommendations to be effective, improvements to curriculum provision and access need to be made. The issue of music’s place in the curriculum needs to be resolved and school leaderships need to be more effective in supporting music learning than they currently are, though recognition also needs to be given to the circumstances and pressures faced by school leadership, not just on the question of music but on many other aspects of curriculum and resource management. However, the bottom line seems to indicate that a good, well-trained teacher can deliver excellent outcomes using a modest curriculum, whereas even the best curriculum cannot make a modest teacher great.  What we need most is more great teachers – lots more.

So while there were a number of areas that the delegates agreed require attention, there seemed to be broad consensus that, of all the areas covered by the recommendations, teacher education is probably the one most critical to affect change in the mid to long term.

Fittingly, the teacher education issue was starkly highlighted in the opening presentation by Deidre Russell-Bowie from the University of Western Sydney.  She focused on the training of generalist primary teachers and asked how, in just a few hours of pre-service education, student teachers could get both a music education and learn the teaching approaches required to deliver effective music programs in primary classrooms? The answer is that, despite the best efforts of Deidre and her colleagues around the country in similar situations, they can’t. Back in the 1980s when 60 or more hours of music learning was included in undergraduate study, it may have been possible but with just a handful of hours of music education in 2006 the situation is dire. For 30 years or more arts education reports have consistently said that generalist teachers providing music and arts learning struggle with a lack of skills and confidence in delivering the curriculum.

The issue is that undergraduate generalist primary teachers -  more often than not -  haven’t had any prior music learning. Why? Because most schools cannot provide the continuous, sequential and developmental learning recommended by the Review. This is the vicious cycle that we need to break if music is going to be widely available to Australian schoolkids in the future.

The reality is that those 60+ hours of music education training available back in the 1980s aren’t likely to come back to tertiary music educators and their students, nor has time proved that 60 hours is enough in any case to resolve the issue of skills and confidence deficits in music among our generalist teachers.

This is why the Review recommended that all primary school students have access to music specialist teachers.  A view endorsed by the Workshop through its affirming of all the Review recommendations.

The question of primary specialist music teachers however does require some pragmatism, too.  It is a mid to longer term goal.  Potential specialist music teachers do not exist today in the kinds of numbers we need.  Then there is the training which will also take some time to complete  - even if we could find the necessary numbers in the short term.  Beyond that there are questions of resourcing and working conditions as these need to be improved if we are to encourage larger numbers into the profession.  It says a lot about the status of music learning when you consider the oft-quoted anecdotes about teaching taking place in glorified broom cupboards!  That’s not a situation that will encourage more people to put their hands up for a career as a school music teacher.

So the consensus was that specialist music teachers are required in all our schools if the quality and status of music is to be improved. However, the issues raised above mean we need a further, more immediate and pragmatic intervention.

Consideration was given to the development of suitably skilled musicians into teaching (again something addressed in the Music Manifesto) though again we will need to improve conditions and resources to encourage and sustain a change of career.

One further proposal from the Workshop floor, an amalgam of ideas from a number of participants, calls for undergraduate generalist teachers to be provided with the necessary music skills to deliver existing and future curriculum. If this can’t be achieved through their standard course work (and it has been shown that it can’t) then some co-curricular activity is required. The suggestions, now being developed, include the training of undergraduate teachers in the area of voice, keyboard or guitar, music technology during the course of their undergraduate study. If, because of the poor status of music in our schools, these students do not have any prior music learning before they enter university then maybe they can have that critical prior learning before they begin their teaching practice?

In the end there seemed to be little doubt that the way forward was to further develop the musical skills of our teachers, especially in primary education, in both generalist teachers and increasingly via specialist teachers.  The base need is for good, musically capable teachers of both types in our classrooms  - supported by a quality curriculum and resources.

It can also be argued, as it was at the Workshop, that curriculum approaches such as Essential Learnings can benefit music education. Music, it is said by advocates of the Essential Learnings approach, can be integrated into all areas of student learning, - and in theory it can. However, the reality is that if they lack skills and confidence, teachers won’t include music in their programs through an Essential Learnings approach anymore than they include it in their current teaching practice.

There is a further argument that specialisation actually puts music more at risk. Such action has the potential to make us the equivalent of education’s little finger, easily cut off at some point in the future for economic or other reasons, whereas we should be part of the blood stream, a core part of the body that can’t be removed unless you are prepared to sacrifice the whole thing. This is especially the case in primary education.  While this is a persuasive  argument and one we should give consideration to as we move forward, there is a more fundamental point. That is the notion that everyone is musical and everyone can make music -  something many of us will subscribe to.  It seems we believe that everyone is musical, except for generalist teachers!  The bottom line is that we can’t give up on generalist teachers, but we do need to find ways to help improve their ability to deliver music learning in their classrooms.  The co-curricular music learning approach might be one way to achieve this. Who knows: it might also result in the creation of the new specialist music teachers we need in our schools?

Of course there is no value in training these people only to find they are not resourced when they arrive at a school.  The extension of the training concept is to provide ‘music trained’ generalist teachers with the equipment they need to undertake music in their classrooms when they arrive at their school.

The cost to Government is not significant in the scheme of things and many of the organisations involved in the Workshop could contribute in a number of ways. Over time it would be desirable for this prior music learning to be included as part of future teacher registration processes, as it is already in many countries around the world where the ability to sing and play the piano or guitar are prerequisites for entry into teacher training.  A well supported program over an initial five year period might be some kind of circuit-breaker and achieve some real outcomes for music education in the longer term.

This concept, coupled with a range of other ideas emanating from the Workshop in the areas of curriculum, communications (a portal for the sharing of teaching experiences and resources), improved resourcing and the development of more partnerships between the sector and governments, means that we might be able to make some serious inroads to the issues raised by the Review in the next few years. We are all keeping our fingers crossed.

The immediate need now is for Julie Bishop and her eight State colleagues to support both the findings and Recommendations of the National Review and the action points of the National Music Workshop via the Ministerial Council process. They must then find the will to coordinate the implementation. A bipartisan approach from Labour, and Federal Labour’s support amongst the State Governments, would also be useful at this time.

As the process moves forward, the baton has now been passed onto Minister Bishop by the sector. The next leg is hers and we should all be urging her on.


Side bar

The Workshop was attended by two representatives of the Australian Government, Minister Kemp who jointly commissioned the National Review of School Music Education in 2004 and Pat Farmer, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister For Education Science and Training who represented Minister Bishop and who opened the Workshop.  Here’s a little of what they had to say.


Pat Farmer MP

…’s a matter that each and every one of us here in this room works hard on suggestions for the Government and suggestions for future bodies, whether they be at a local, state or federal level, about how we can move forward as far as integrating music into the education system.

(Music) is not just for the elite, it’s not just for those that are particularly musically inclined; it’s for each and every one of us. And as we look at the school curriculum, we know and understand that there are children that, from all sorts of different backgrounds, that need music in their life; they need to know and understand music and they need to have that experience. They need to have that experience because they need joy in their life, they need fun in their life, they need happiness in their life, they need uniformity in their life, and that’s what music brings to each and every of us.

What that review really found was among other things, was that many generalist primary school teachers lack the confidence and the skill to teach music and they need more support in teaching music. Schools need support and music facilities and equipment.

There needs to have—stronger partnerships between schools and community organisations are absolutely imperative to the success of this program, so it’s not just about the schools working in isolation, the parents and teachers working in isolation; but it’s about involving the whole of the community around them with the schools and with the musical curriculum that they can formulate.

Amongst those recommendations included lifting the status and the quality of schools’ music and something that I feel very strongly about, celebrating excellence through music awards for teachers and for school principals. Only through this can we encourage those teachers and the school principals to take on board music in schools and music in education. Mapping out strategies to improve teacher education, filling gaps in the curriculum in the syllabus and supporting materials are absolutely vital…Establishing, developing and maintaining partnerships between schools and experienced musicians and finding ways of engaging students with their music community.

Music education has also been included among the priorities in the Australian Government, as well as quality teaching programs that support professional learning to strengthen and to update teachers, their skills and their knowledge.

We will be working with the States, the Territories and local governments to be able to ensure a balance in the professional learning activities undertaken in 2007, including music, most importantly music.

The results of the workshop will then be presented to the Australian Government for the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Honourable Julie Bishop and to the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment and Training and Youth Affairs…What we want from this workshop is that the people here to put their ideas forward, to discuss where we’ve been, where we are now and where we might be headed to in the future to make sure that we can improve and enhance our children’s education.

Teachers are in a unique position to give students the gift of music, a gift that will stay with them throughout the course of their life. Music can help students to discover and to improve their capacity for a productive and self- expressive life.  When taught music in schools, students become better students; they become more settled at school, they have opportunities to be able to know and experience other lessons through music and to be able to develop their learning in other areas through music and through the connections that it makes for students to work together as a group.


Senator Rod Kemp

Out of this workshop it would clearly assist our ongoing work if there was a clear agreement on what we want in a good music education and an agreement to develop a model curriculum to achieve these ends. To borrow the words of the History Summit, we want clear agreement on “a model curriculum… based on sound principles of [music] literacy”.6

Further, it is obviously important to be able to monitor progress towards achieving this goal. How are we meeting the key benchmarks? How do we encourage greater transparency and accountability? What additional support is needed to get the most deprived schools up to a strong base line?

However, I readily acknowledge that having a range of art forms taught, under the one umbrella of “the Arts Learning Area” can clearly be problematic for the teaching and learning of something as specific as music. I understand that, in some schools, students might only have a music program in one term out of four in any year. This is clearly sub-optimal. In other schools music is integrated into other key learning areas, and this is to be applauded, but only if this is not the sole exposure that students have to learning music.

As you all know, music needs a long development process in which skills in reading, writing and performing music are built steadily over time. It is not a subject which can or should be taken in starts and stops.

In the light of the obvious problems with music education outlined above, it seems to me that making a start on the development of such a curriculum for music would be a very useful outcome from this workshop. You have an obvious starting point with the guidelines provided by the Review which, reflect research, exploration and synthesis of a range of curriculum documents and approaches. Furthermore, these guidelines have already been validated by a range of key stakeholders. Solid work on your part here would mean that one of the Review’s key recommendations - “to initiate and lead a music curriculum development project” – could be underway for national implementation as soon as is feasible.

National Annual Reports on Schooling have not reported on music since 1998  and music does not appear on the national Key Performance Measurers…”. I fully endorse the recommendation in the Review that accountability recommendations be put in place, to monitor the status and implementation of reforms. There are a variety of ways this could be done, although MCEETYA would seem to be the obvious body.

Payola is back PDF Print E-mail

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Music Forum Article

Music Forum 8/6 August 2002

Payola is back

A coalition of US music organisations has written to Congress and the Federal Communications Commission concerning a number of trends in radio that are very damaging to music. Some of these trends seem to depend upon the ever narrowing ownership of radio in the USA resulting from corporate mergers, and also a vertical integration of activities as radio broadcasters branch into such things as concert and touring production. There are similar ownership trends in Australia and thus the possibility for similar damage to music. Music Forum’s source for this letter is the Future of Music Coalition of Washington D.C.


We are a diverse coalition representing performing artist groups, labor, record labels, merchandisers, songwriters, community broadcasters, consumers and citizens advocates. We urge the government to revise the payola laws to cover independent promotion to radio, to investigate the impact of radio consolidation on the music community and citizens and to work to protect non-commercial space on both the terrestrial radio bandwidth and the emerging webcasting models.

Radio is a public asset, not private property. Since 1934, the federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, has overseen the regulation and protection of this public asset to create a communications medium that serves the public interest. Unlike other businesses, radio stations have acquired their distribution mechanism – the airwaves – without any expenditure of capital. The public owns the airwaves. Owners of broadcast stations were given access to the broadcast spectrum by the government for free. The quid pro quo for free use of the public bandwidth requires that broadcast stations serve the public interest in their local communities.

However, it has become clear that both recording artists and citizens are negatively impacted by legislation, regulatory interpretations and by a number of standardized industry practices that fail to serve the public interest. We call on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to undertake a comprehensive review of the following aspects of the radio industry that are anti-artist, anti-competition and anti-consumer. Further, we call on Congress to be vigilant in their oversight of the FCC to ensure the public interest is being upheld in regards to radio.


1. We request that payments made to radio stations which are designed to influence playlists (other than legitimate and reasonable promotional expenses) be prohibited, unless such payments are announced over the air, even when such intent is subtle and disguised. This includes payments made through independent radio promoters.


2. We request an investigation of the impact of recent unprecedented increases in radio ownership consolidation on citizens and the music community.


3. We request an examination of the way vertical integration of ownership in broadcasting, concert promotion companies and venues decreases fair market competition for artists, clubs and promotion companies.


4. We request that policies that protect non-commercial space in the radio bandwidth and in the emerging webcasting models be enacted, securing the benefits of programming diversity for the music community and citizens.



Pay for Play and Independent Radio Promotion

Payola – the practice of paying money to people in exchange for playing a particular piece of music – has a long history in the music industry. The practice didn’t garner much public attention until the late 1950s and 1960s when rock and roll disc jockeys became powerful gatekeepers who determined what music the public heard. Federal laws were passed starting in the 1960s that forbid the direct payment or compensation of disc jockeys or other radio staff in exchange for the playing of certain records unless such payments were announced over the air.[1]

The various laws and hearings from the 1960s-1970s muted the prominence of payola for a while. However, payola-like practices eventually resurfaced, but in a more indirect form. Standardized business practices now employed by many broadcasters and independent radio promoters result in what we consider a de facto form of payola. Often, in an effort to stay within the law, the payment is characterized as, for example, payment to receive first notice of the station’s playlist “adds.”

The new payola-like practices take two primary forms. Radio consolidation has created the first type. Radio station group owners establish exclusive arrangements with “independent promoters,” who then guarantee a fixed annual or monthly sum of money to the radio station group or individual station. In exchange for this payment, the radio station group agrees to give the independent promoter first notice of new songs added to its playlists each week. Stations in the group also tend to play mostly records that have been suggested by the independent promoter. As a result of the standardization of this practice, record companies and artists generally must pay the radio stations’ independent promoters if they want to be considered for airplay on those stations.

The second payola-like practice occurs after the music labels hire an “independent radio promoter” to legitimately promote their records to specific stations for a fee. Reportedly, certain indie promoters use the labels’ money to pay the stations for playing songs on the air.

These practices result in “bottom line” programming decisions where questions of artistic merit and community responsiveness take a back seat to the desire of broadcasters to gain additional revenue. As a result, many new and independent artists, as well as many established artists, are denied valuable radio airplay they would receive if programming decisions were more objective. Furthermore, whatever form the pay-for-play takes, these “promotion” costs are often shared by the artists and adversely impact the ability of recording artists to succeed financially.

To protect the public interest, we request the payola prohibition be revised by the FCC so that it cannot be circumvented by any entity via the use of independent promoters. If the music played on the radio has less to do with the quality of the song than the economics of the business arrangement, how does this serve the needs of citizens? Also, when payments are not announced, isn’t the public misled into thinking that the station chooses which songs to broadcast based on merit?


Impact of Widespread Industry Consolidation

The federal government must also examine the impact of loosened ownership caps on the listening public. Until 1996, the Federal Communications Commission regulated ownership of broadcast stations so any company could own no more than two radio stations in any one market and no more than 40 nationwide. When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the restrictions governing ownership of radio stations evaporated. Now, radio groups own numerous stations around the country and exercise unreasonable control over the airwaves. For example, in 1996, there were 5133 owners of radio stations.[2] Today, for the Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40 formats, only four radio station groups – Chancellor, Clear Channel, Infinity and Capstar – control access to 63 percent of the format’s 41 million listeners nationwide. For the country format, the same four groups control access to 56 percent of the format’s 28 millions listeners.[3]

This consolidation has led to a new dynamic in the music industry. Radio station groups have centralized their decision-making about playlists and which new songs to add to the playlist. These centralized playlists have reduced the local flavor and limited the diversity of music played on radio. Due to their sheer market power, radio station groups now have the ability to make or break a hit song.[4]

With the increased leverage resulting from ownership consolidation, at least one group owner is considering charging labels for merely identifying the name of the artist and song played. The CEO of Clear Channel told the Los Angeles Times that it might sell song identification as a form of advertising. This miserly practice would harm the music community and citizens as it would make it difficult for radio listeners to identify new artists and purchase music. Once again, this practice would impact the ability of new and independent artists to succeed.

We request that the FCC investigate consolidation of radio ownership focusing on the public interest which radio stations are supposed to serve. This investigation should look at the difficulties small independent broadcasters face when going up against large and powerful radio station groups in a specific market. It should study the role that national playlist decisions have had on the skyrocketing cost of radio promotion. It should also take into account the impact of reduced staffing levels on members of local stations and the reduction of classical, jazz, bluegrass and other formats from the airwaves.


Vertical Integration of Radio Owners

Many radio groups are also vertically integrated companies increasing their already substantial leverage and control. For example, Clear Channel, a company that owns over 1200 radio stations, also owns tens of thousands of billboards, and various promotion companies and venues. In 1999 Clear Channel purchased SFX Entertainment, the nation’s most powerful concert promoter. This gave Clear Channel control of the concert promotion industry in most of the key regions of the US virtually overnight. Clear Channel therefore has a direct economic interest in promoting its own concerts and tours on its numerous radio stations over those of the competition. It also has an interest in limiting the promotional support of bands and artists who are performing for other companies, at other venues or who are sponsored by other stations.

Some of the remaining independent concert promoters have alleged that Clear Channel is engaging in anti-competitive behavior by using this leverage to force smaller companies out of business. In particular, the mid-size promoter NIPP in Denver brought suit against Clear Channel in 2001, alleging that Clear Channel – which owns all three rock stations in the Denver area – was not running the ads that NIPP paid for on its stations to promote last year’s NIPP-promoted Warped Tour.[5] There have been other allegations from bands and performers – mostly off-the-record for fear of retaliation – who have stated that radio station groups have pressured them into playing shows for free in exchange for airplay, or who have had their songs removed from playlists for playing non-exclusive venues.[6]

We would like to see the FCC investigate whether an artist’s choice to play or not to play in Clear Channel venues or to use or not to use Clear Channel’s promotion company impacts the artist’s positions on or removal from Clear Channel playlists.


Community Radio

Rampant consolidation of commercial radio and increased budgetary pressures felt by non-commercial stations have led to a reduction in radio play for musical genres like classical, jazz, opera and bluegrass. Congress needs to reevaluate the current status of non-commercial radio, including exploring new strategies for sustaining existing community radio stations and moving forward with full implementation of community-based Low Power FM radio. After an intense lobbying campaign by the National Association of Broadcasters and NPR, the FCC’s Low Power FM plan was scaled back significantly via an Appropriations rider in 2000. The FCC is currently following Congress’ request for additional testing of the impact of these tiny stations on existing broadcasters. Once the FCC report is submitted to Congress, Congress must move forward by passing legislation to authorize the FCC to license these stations in urban areas. If consolidation in the radio environment has stifled competition and reduced diversity of programming, low power radio can begin to address the lack of community-based programming.



We are deeply concerned about payola and payola-like practices, as well as the problems caused by radio station ownership consolidation, and the vertical integration of station ownership with venue ownership and concert promoters. New rules must be written by the FCC to prohibit payments to radio stations from “independent promoters” unless such payments are announced. The FCC must seriously evaluate whether a radio station is even satisfying the current license requirement that sponsorship identification or disclosure must accompany any material that is broadcast in exchange for money, service, or anything else of value paid to a station, either directly or indirectly. The FCC should also consider whether radio stations are serving the public interest by contributing to localism and independence in broadcasting. Finally, Congress must be vigilant in ensuring that the FCC is upholding the public interest in all of these matters.

Respectfully submitted by the following organizations:

American Federation of Musicians (AFM)

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)

Association for Independent Music (AFIM)

Future of Music Coalition (FMC)

Just Plain Folks

Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI)

National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM)

National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB)

Recording Academy

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)



1 Boehlert, Eric. “Pay for Play”,, March 14, 2001.

2 “State of the Radio Industry 2000”, Federal Communications Commission.

3 Wirth, Todd. “Nationwide Format Oligopolies”, Journal of Radio Studies, VIII (2), (2001), 255.

4 Wirth, 249-250.

5 Adler, Carlye. “Backstage Brawl”, Fortune Magazine, March 4, 2002.

6 Ahrens, Frank. “ Making Radio Waves”, Washington Post, August 22, 2001.

7 Boehlert, Eric. “Rock n Radio Rumble”,, August 8, 2001.


Future of Music Coalition: website


US Senator Moves on Broadcasters

US Senator Russell Feingold has unveiled a bill designed to kick-start competition in the broadcast and concert industries and curb the power of sector giants like industry leader Clear Channel Communications. The Competition in Radio and Concert Industries Act seeks to address a host of problems that have arisen as part of the unprecedented growth in market concentration the last six years. Among them are market dominance, high barriers to entry for independent players, high ticket prices for concert goers and what Feingold calls a "shakedown" system: the practice whereby radio station owners extract large sums from record labels for playing their music.

The bill would give the Federal Communications Commission a mandate to pull the license of radio stations that use "cross-ownership of promotion services or venues" to muscle artists or industry rivals out of the market. More broadly, it would direct the FCC to keep a close eye on market concentration and put a cap at current levels on local-market ownership rules, preventing future expansion.

The legislation also calls for stricter interpretation of federal "payola" regulations to eliminate a station's ability to be influenced by payments from record labels or independent promoters without on-air disclosure of the arrangement.

The Music Council of Australia is monitoring the situation in the Australian broadcast industry.


Music as a charitable activity? PDF Print E-mail

Music as a charitable activity?

By Dick Letts

Mostly, we would not want to think of music as a charitable activity. But a current Commonwealth government inquiry motivates some prudent thought.

No-one has been able to tell us the agenda behind the Federal Government's Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations.

Whether it is a mark of our cynicism or the Government's, we have not found anyone yet who assumes that there is no hidden agenda and that the Inquiry is simply what it says it is.

The common interpretation is the obvious one. If the Inquiry comes up with a narrower, or possibly just a more precise definition, some organisations now included could be excluded, and therefore could not offer tax-deductibility to donors. The government would then collect taxes previously foregone through the donations to those charities.

This theory is thrown into some confusion by the evidence that the government is simultaneously attempting to get business, charities and the community to take on a lot of the present responsibility of government agencies. It has even broadened aspects of the tax-deductibility regime so that, for instance, the value of donated art works can be deducted from taxable income.

The Music Council responded to the invitation to make a submission to the Inquiry. In doing so, it had to set aside such considerations and respond to the terms of reference. Here is a brief version of its arguments.

The submission notes that the practical purpose for an organisation to be classified as a charity is to be eligible for certain privileges under the law which enable it to survive and to pursue its objectives. The definitional exercise undertaken by the Inquiry is not merely academic. It has real-world consequences.

The Inquiry's Discussion Paper gives a good deal of attention to definitional distinctions such as whether an organisation is wholly or partially a charity if some of its activities generate a surplus, or whether a charity can be said to have a primary and a secondary purpose.

The view expressed by the Music Council was that creating these distinctions serves no useful purpose and simply invites tedious and expensive bureaucratic hair-splitting. The crucial question is the ultimate purpose to which a profit is applied. The defining characteristic of a non-profit organisation is not that it does not make a profit, but that the profit is not distributed, for instance to share-holders. "Profits" stay within the organisation to be applied to its purpose. In a charitable organisation, that purpose will be charitable.

The Music Council's strong recommendation to the Inquiry was to seek to achieve the maximum simplicity in the regime of definitions such as to facilitate the greatest public benefit.

The most fundamental recommendation to this end was for the retention of a single category, "charity", as presently defined. To explain: there are four categories of charity cited in the Discussion Paper: charity, public benevolent institution, religious organisation or community not-for-profit service organisation. If an organisation qualifies under any of the latter three, it also would qualify as a charity; therefore, prima facie those categories for practical purposes are redundant.

Is there musical activity which can be said to be "charitable". The submission notes that the purpose of non-profit charitable activity in music is (a) to provide to the public a cultural benefit which would not be available to it were provision dependent totally upon market forces, or (b) to provide a service or benefit to assist those who are making the provision to the public.

What is this cultural benefit? Music offers a cultural benefit to the public when the public, hearing the music, experiences spiritual and/or intellectual and/or emotional value. Such value can include the emergence or clarification of personal, community or national identity. Musical activity also can create a sense of community and community belongingness, whether in the shared activity of creating music, or listening to it.

As to the evidence that the community experiences such benefit, we need only cite two items: the raw evidence of public demand for music is the c.$2 billion size of the Australian music industry, and of the nature of the musical experience and the non-material value placed upon it, millennia of written descriptions going back at least to ancient Greece.

Music of any style is capable of delivering cultural benefit to those attuned to its meanings. Musical style should not be taken into account in assessing eligibility as a charity.

So there is a $2 billion music industry. What then is the need for music to be treated as a charity?

The submission cites the Commonwealth's own "Nugent" Inquiry into Major Performing Arts. It found that many of the 29 major companies, including orchestras and opera companies, were heading towards bankruptcy due mainly to changing external circumstances. These companies depend, among other things, upon individual donations. The donations are encouraged by the tax-deductibility provisions under tax legislation.

It can be inferred that smaller companies are in similar or worse jeopardy. Note that smaller companies tend to be unsuccessful in gaining corporate sponsorships but have some success in eliciting the private donations encouraged by tax legislation.

Lacking subsidy and/or private charitable support, many companies would be unable to present their services and the public would forego the benefit.

All governments, Federal and State, contributed additional subsidy to address the problems of the 29. Governments themselves thus reconfirmed their belief in the public benefit afforded by the companies' cultural activities.

At the same time, the recent trend in the nature of government provision, towards project funding to the neglect of core funding, has caused great difficulty in meeting core costs. Support from private sources is a possible partial remedy. However, often that support is provided on a similar basis.

These and other pressures have obliged companies to attempt to become less dependent upon government subsidies by increasing earned and donated income and under stress,downgrading the scale or quality (and thus cost) of the artistic product.

An inability to achieve classification as charitable organisations would be likely to reduce the ability of many arts organisations to find from private donations that marginal income necessary for financial viability. Some would be forced out of existence, and the public benefit from their activity would be lost.

Indigenous Communal Moral Rights PDF Print E-mail

Indigenous Communal Moral Rights

Arts Law asks what protection will they provide to Indigenous communities and their artists?

Arts Law Centre


The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) wants to know how effective the protection promised by the Government will be in the upcoming Indigenous Communal Moral Rights legislation. Arts Law is the national community legal centre for the arts, also providing a legal service for Indigenous artists and their communities.

In 2003, the Government provided Arts Law with a draft of the Indigenous Communal Moral Rights Bill for input. The Bill clearly did not guarantee Indigenous communities the protection the Government said it was intended to provide and so Arts Law suggested amendments.

While the aim of the Bill was to protect Indigenous community ownership in an artists' expression of traditional knowledge, the draft legislation made it nearly impossible for communities to secure such rights, thus disabling any practical application of the law. A further problem was the voluntary nature of the scheme - if an artist/filmmaker/musician does not want to acknowledge the embodiment of communal knowledge in a work, the community has no rights.

Robyn Ayres, the Executive Director of the Arts Law Centre of Australia, said:

“These rights should arise automatically on the creation of a work – in the same way that individual moral rights arise. There is a clear parallel, why should Indigenous moral rights owners be disadvantaged because their ownership is traditionally community-based?”

Arts Law has been advised by the Attorney General, Mr Phillip Ruddock, that the

Government is introducing a new version of the Bill in the Spring session of Parliament. At a recent meeting with Arts Law, Mr Ruddock provided no indication that the inadequacies of the 2003 Bill identified by Arts Law (and other arts advocates) have been addressed.

Arts Law’s Indigenous lawyer, Samantha Joseph said:

“We are told that the Indigenous Communal Moral Rights Bill is to be introduced into Parliament. There is a lack of knowledge in the Indigenous community about this legislation and what it means. At Arts Law we are trying to address that lack of knowledge but we cannot do so if the Government refuses to share information with key stakeholders, including Indigenous communities and us”.

Indigenous musician Kevin Carmody said:

“Indigenous artists and their communities continue to be exploited. Will the Government’s legislation do anything to address the current problems? On top of this, sound recordings and many traditional songs and performances will not be protected”

Arts Law proposes to convene a public forum to discuss the new Bill. Mr Ruddock indicated he was prepared to address the forum but only after the legislation has been introduced.

For further comment contact: Robyn Ayres, Executive Director, Arts Law Centre of Australia on 02 9356 2566 or 0431 947 789.

Australia home to new international arts federation PDF Print E-mail

Australia home to new international arts federation

by Sarah Gardner

The first global network of national arts funding bodies has been formed in Sydney, Australia. To be co-located at the Australia Council, the primary aim of new Federation of Arts and Culture Supporting Agencies (IFACSA) is to share information and expertise of benefit to artists, arts organisations and communities throughout the world.

Jointly initiated by Sarah Gardner, former Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Australia Council, and the Canada Council, IFACSA was officially launched last December at the inaugural World Summit of Arts and Culture in Ottawa. Over 300 delegates and observers from over 55 countries, ranging from Japan, USA and Russia to Niger, Sri Lanka and Panama, unanimously voted in an interim board, to be chaired by the Director of the Canada Council, Dr Shirley Thomson. Members from Ireland, Venezuela, South Africa, Singapore, Finland and Australia, will attend the board’s inaugural meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, in April 2001. To ensure the broadest range of skills and regional representation, additional members are still to be appointed to the board and full elections will take place at the next World Summit of Arts and Culture, scheduled for 2002.

IFACSA was set up to serve and link the over 80 countries currently home to arts councils and arts council-type organisations. In countries lacking an arms-length arts funding body, the department of arts or culture will be eligible for voting membership. Affiliate memberships will also be available to individuals and organisations with an interest in supporting the arts and artists. In-principle endorsement for the Federation was offered at the World Summit by organisations such as UNESCO, l’Agence de la Francophonie, Culturelink, Americans for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Board’s inaugural meeting in Johannesburg will tackle such issues as governance and budgeting and set priorities for joint research initiatives, staff exchanges and other collaborative projects. Central to IFACSA’s operations will be the establishment of a website, to enable the widest possible exchange of policy, program and research information. Also high on IFACSA’s agenda are such concerns, voiced by many delegates to the World Summit, as arts and education, sustainability of the arts sector, the impact of globalisation on cultural diversity, and the interaction between artists and the community. IFACSA, which aims to facilitate the development of best-practice in the administration of arts funding, via the pooling of information, will be funded by fees and contributions from member nations, graded by GDP, and by private foundations and sponsors. Sarah Gardner, who spent 12 months researching and developing the proposal, has been appointed to manage the Federation.

A Private Member's Motion to Federal Parliament on Behalf of Music Education in Schools PDF Print E-mail

A Private Member's Motion to Federal Parliament on Behalf of Music Education in Schools

The motion by Chris Pearce MP, Federal Member for Aston, Victoria, to the House of Representatives on Monday 10th February 2003 was passed by the House. The motion should contribute to a positive environment for the launch this year of the Music Council's campaign for more music making and music education.

PEARCE, Mr Christopher John, Aston  11.15 pm.

I move that this House:

(1) recognises the importance and value of all children learning music as part of their school education;

(2) appreciates how the learning of music can provide additional benefits to a child’s overall academic and educational development;

(3) acknowledges the significant contribution and effort that people from all walks of life make to their local communities through music and arts initiatives, particularly those that support our youth;

(4) recognises the positive link between the wellbeing of our youth and their appreciation and active participation in music activities; and

(5) calls on the Government through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) to actively support and encourage:

(a) an increased presence and heightened importance of learning music within the various education curricula throughout Australia; and

(b) an increase in funding for school music education programs from respective State and Territory governments.


I believe that every child in Australia should have a comprehensive education in music.


If this can be achieved, I believe those young people will have a better life and that Australia 'and, for that matter, the world' will be a better place. Music, rather than being treated as a peripheral subject, should form part of a student's core and compulsory learning throughout their entire school life.


For centuries, the value, importance and impact of music in society and on human beings has been extolled. Plato said:

Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon them, bringing with them and imparting grace if one is rightly trained.


Music can and does make a difference.


Today more than ever we are questioning the world we live in. We wonder how we can convert negative to positive and we seek, sometimes in desperation, to hold on to those values which bind us together as people, families, communities and nations.


The future of the world rests with our children so, in seeking a better future, we must focus on them. One-way a child's life can be enriched is through music, whether by learning, understanding, appreciating or actually performing.


Music has been identified as making a major difference in our world in many ways, and these differences come together for both the individual and society.


Let us look at the benefits to the individual.


In the area of education, there is a raft of evidence from around the globe that demonstrates the potential benefit of music to the development of our young children.


Research in Hungary in the 1950s comparing the academic success of children at special music kindergartens and primary schools with that of children in mainstream schools found that playing music increases memory and reasoning, time management skills and eloquence.


In 1993, a two-year study in Switzerland conducted with 1,200 children in more than 50 classes conclusively showed that playing music improved children’s reading and verbal skills through improved concentration, memory and self-expression.


Ongoing research conducted at the University of California and the University of Wisconsin in the US has demonstrated that learning and playing music builds or modifies neural pathways related to spatial reasoning tasks.


This is important, as it is this area of development that can greatly assist in the ability and functioning of the brain in activities such as maths, chess and science.


A further study placed a set of children into four distinct groups: those in the first had computer lessons; those in the second had singing lessons; those in the third learnt music using a keyboard; and those in the fourth did nothing additional. The results were remarkable. The children who had the music lessons scored significantly higher 'that is, up to 35 per cent higher' than the children who had computer classes or did nothing additional.


Finally, at Brown University, research has revealed that children aged between five and seven who had been performing under par in their general schooling had rapidly improved and somewhat caught up with their fellow students after several months of music lessons.


This demonstrates the valuable remedial role that learning music can play in helping under performing students.


The fact is that the more music a child can experience, the more likely that child will develop, improve and excel in academic achievement overall.


Now let me focus on the benefits to society. Can there be any finer example of how music can benefit society and bring people together than the release and outstanding success of the hit song We are the World? This song brought together a wide-ranging and disparate group of performers, all with one objective: to help the fight against hunger. Through this song, millions of dollars were raised to assist those most in need.


Last year over 100,000 young Victorians benefited locally from the Freeza program, which was introduced in 1996 and provides an opportunity for young people to organise, perform and enjoy music in a drug and alcohol free, supervised, safe and secure environment. It is this kind of contribution that music can make to our society and to shaping the ability and character of our young people.


Right now, more than ever, there is debate about the impact of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs and depression in our society and debate about what can be done to eradicate these problems.


When I first entered this House some 18 months ago, I raised in my first speech the concern about the incidence of depression and youth suicide in the community, and even then I noted the role of music as 'the greatest natural antidote to depression that I know'. I believe this is still the case, and that is why I am moving this motion today.


In January 1998, the Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse reported that secondary students who participated in band or orchestral music programs recorded the lowest levels of lifetime and current use of all substances.


This finding is supported by further research at Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. In particular, a longitudinal study called Champions of Change concludes that students involved in music programs are far less likely to be involved with drugs or crime, or to have behavioural problems.


As a result, these music students are better citizens in their local communities. Louis Harris said:

Music is a great uplifter of the spirit. It liberates depression, raises the levels of exhilaration and cleanses the soul.


If we want our youth to be happier 'and more connected with and more active in our communities' music and the great experience of sharing and performing music together can help.


Music can help keep our kids on the straight and narrow.


There is an abundance of evidence that links music making and wellness too. Nicole Lehmann from the University of Wisconsin said:

Music gives us hope in sadness and depression, releases our feelings of grief. It can put a smile on our face and a rainbow in our heart.


The science journal Nature reported that studies have found that schoolchildren who had music lessons were generally more successful in school than those who did not, overall. It reported that music encouraged and developed self-discipline, problem solving skills, co-operative and social skills and sensitivity to one's environment.


Having said all that, what is the problem?


The problem is that music is slowly being marginalised as part of the school curriculum in Australia.


To illustrate my point, let me quote from a paper titled Music in schools in the 21st century: an endangered species? The paper, which was written by Dr Anne Lierse in 1997, expressed concerns about music in Victorian secondary schools. She had two key findings. In essence these were as follows: firstly, 48 per cent of secondary schools had cut or reduced their classroom music programs because of the crowded curriculum; and, secondly, an increasing number of schools were moving the emphasis on music education from the classroom to the extra-curriculum area, to avoid pressure on the overcrowded curriculum.


This is evidence why, despite the proven and substantial benefits of music, I fear that music's survival as a core part of students' academic education is at risk.


I am, of course, not saying that music can solve all our problems. It is not a panacea for all ills. What I am saying is that music can make a difference - a positive difference.


It is long overdue that we as a community embrace what is good and dump what is not.


Surely we should do everything we can to promote and encourage anything that makes the world a better place.


Music should be a core subject, just like English and mathematics, for every student in every school throughout Australia for their entire school life.


Governments need to recognise the clear and tangible benefits music can bring.


They should do this by putting investment in, developing new and extended music curriculum programs, providing more funds for classroom music programs and providing more music teacher recruitment, training and development–and I use the word 'investment' because this would be an investment in our children and in the future.


I want to conclude by restating that the true value of music lies in its ability to shape an individual’s abilities and character. It lies in its capacity to positively affect the creative, intellectual and emotional development of human beings. Quite simply, I cannot imagine my life without music. It is this value that we should promote.



Four other MPs delivered fine supporting speeches, two from Government and two from the Opposition: Kerry Bartlett (Lib), Kay Elson (Lib), Maria Vamvrakinou (Lab) and Sid Sidebottom (Lab).


Some quotes:


Vamvrakinou: “…One of the challenges that faces the education system with regard to music is that of retaining the integrity of music as a discrete subject area and reversing the growing trend which is moving towards a generically based arts curriculum Music needs to continue being treated as a separate and unique area of each child’s curriculum. Finally, music education should not be a luxury; it should be an integral part of the curriculum, affordable for children from all walks of life…”


Bartlett: “…It is essential that efforts to promote music education be supported by our education authorities. There is pressure from a flood of other aspects on the school curriculum, but the threat to what is intrinsically valuable by this process of attrition must be arrested… A greater focus on music within the education curriculum and greater resourcing by the state and territory education departments is an essential starting point in reversing this trend…”


Sidebottom: “…[Music] is a wonderfully effective means of multi-intelligence education. It helps to develop valuable listening skills and promotes positive self-discipline. The social benefits of music participation and appreciation are equally important, encouraging teamwork, sensitivity and self-confidence…”


Elson: “…A growing trend is that music students tend to score better on tests, have better communication skills and are more disciplined students. They tend to be more prepared for the work force and are more readily hired by businesses. I am also aware…of several instances where music kept a student in school who would have otherwise dropped out. [Also] We should not underestimate the value of music to society – not just culturally but also economically. Music is a billion dollar industry…”


The speeches can be read in full in Hansard for the House of Representatives on Monday February 10, 2003. You can reach Hansard through the web:

A Digital Agenda for Music PDF Print E-mail

A Digital Agenda for Music

Michael Hannan

There are many issues facing musicians, the music industry, music education and music broadcasting as a result of the way music is now produced, distributed, promoted and consumed in the digital domain. This article outlines a number of these for consideration.

The rights of musicians and other intellectual property holders are protected by the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Bill 1999, which covers the communication of works to the public by digital as well as more conventional means. Enforcing these rights is, however, difficult because of the way the internet and computers are being used by consumers of music and other products. The article begins with consideration of issues of music piracy, one of the most serious issues facing the economic viability of the music industry. It then considers the consumer rights that may arise from attempts to prevent piracy in a heavy-handed manner.

Since the 1980s and the advent of digital music production, there has been a large impact on the way music has been produced. Do it yourself (DIY) record production facilitated by digital music systems has seen a decline in the work available for performing and recording musicians and a shift to the prominence of the composer/producer. This phenomenon is examined along with related issues such as the trend to create music by sampling already existing music. The evolution of the technology of music production and its impact on the industry is considered.

One of the problems faced by music educators both in schools and universities is how to keep up with new technologies and how to fit more relevant subjects into the curriculum without letting go of treasured traditional approaches. A curriculum re-evaluation agenda is promoted in this arena.

Finally from a consumer point of view, issues related to access to broadband and impending digital radio services are presented.


With the advent of the CD burner’s general availability in computers and also the increasingly small cost of writable compact disks, owners of computers are able to copy commercial CD recordings for around a dollar. Even the artwork can be reproduced reasonably cheaply using scanning and image manipulation software.

This practice is becoming widespread especially among teenagers. It drastically affects the profits of record companies and the royalties of musicians who have record deals. It even has a huge effect on artists who self-produce CDs and replicate them in small runs. Many gigging artists that do not have a record deal still need to have a CD of their current work available for promotional purposes. Some festivals will not consider engaging artists if they do not have a CD for sale. Gig door sales have been the main way these artists have of funding the expense of production and replication. Now, with CD copying being so widespread, there is less chance of recouping these costs through gig door sales. Only one person in a particular community or even at a festival needs to actually buy the CD. The CD is then passed around for others to copy it.

How are the record labels and other content companies trying to stop you from copying?

Attempts (some more successful than others) have been made to develop copy-protected CDs that won’t play in CD ROM drives. If they only play in CD players they cannot be copied. But because car CD players use CD-ROM drives (as distinct from the audio CD drive of standard CD players) these copy-protected CDs will not play in car radios either. They also won’t play in DVD drives (which in fact will make it necessary to own a CD player in addition to your DVD player). This raises serious issues for the rights of consumers. They naturally want the right to play a CD they have bought in a variety of machines and circumstances.

Legislation is being proposed in the US (called the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act proposed by Senator Ernest Hollings) to introduce standards in the manufacture of computers and operating systems that will prevent unauthorised copying.

There are other consumer issues here. Content owners wish to limit the consumer’s options for copying their products. There is also a business conflict between the content owners and the producers of computer hardware and software.

Godwin (2002) outlines the basis for the conflict:

One way to understand the conflict between the Content Faction and the Tech Faction is to is to look at how they describe their customers. For the content industries they’re consumers. By contrast the information technology companies talk about users.

If you see people as consumers, you control access to what you offer, and you do everything you can to prevent theft, for the same reason supermarkets have cameras at the door and bookstores have electronic theft detectors. Allowing people to take stuff free is inconsistent with your business model.

But if you see people as users, you want to give them more features and power at cheaper prices. The impulse to empower users was at the heart of the microcomputer revolution: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak wanted to put computing power into ordinary people’s hands, and that’s why they founded Apple Computer. If this is your approach it’s hard to adjust to the idea of building in limitations. In a basic sense, moving bits around from hard drives to RAM to screen and back again with 100 per cent accuracy in copying, is simply what computers do. To the Tech Faction, building DRM [digital rights management] into computers, limiting how they perform their basic functions, means turning them into special-purpose appliances, something like a toaster. This approach is anathema to the user-empowerment philosophy that drove the PC revolution.

The Tech Faction believes people should be able to do what ever they want with their digital tools, except to the extent that copyrighted works are walled off by DRM. The Content Faction believes the digital world is not safe unless every tool also functions as a copyright policeman.

At the heart of the argument are two questions: whether computer users can continue to enjoy the capabilities computers have had since their invention, and whether the content companies can survive in a world where users have those capabilities.

From the consumer point of view there is considerable concern. One U.S. based consumer group, Digital Consumer has devised a Bill of Rights in response to these issues:


Bill of Rights

1. Users have the right to "time-shift" content that they have legally acquired.

This gives you the right to record video or audio for later viewing or listening. For example, you can use a VCR to record a TV show and play it back later.


2. Users have the right to "space-shift" content that they have legally acquired.

This gives you the right to use your content in different places (as long as each use is personal and non-commercial). For example, you can copy a CD to a portable music player so that you can listen to the songs while you're jogging.


3. Users have the right to make backup copies of their content.

This gives you the right to make archival copies to be used in the event that your original copies are destroyed.


4. Users have the right to use legally acquired content on the platform of their choice.

This gives you the right to listen to music on your Rio, to watch TV on your iMac, and to view DVDs on your Linux computer.


5. Users have the right to translate legally acquired content into comparable formats.

This gives you the right to modify content in order to make it more usable. For example, a blind person can modify an electronic book so that the content can be read out loud.


6. Users have the right to use technology in order to achieve the rights previously mentioned.

This last right guarantees your ability to exercise your other rights. Certain recent copyright laws have paradoxical loopholes that claim to grant certain rights but then criminalize all technologies that could allow you to exercise those rights. In contrast, this Bill of Rights states that no technological barriers can deprive you of your other fair use rights.


The use of internet file sharing for pirating music and movie files

File sharing software has resulted in the piracy of music files online. Illegal and legal music files on individual computers on the World Wide Web can be easily transferred from computer to computer, thus seriously damaging the economic basis of the record industry and the royalty-base of composers. Some of the file sharing software companies (such as Napster, Scour, Audiogalaxy) have been successfully stopped by litigation by the record industry, but others keep appearing (eg currently KaZaA and Win-Mx).


KaZaA is an Australian company that is avoiding attempts to close it down by setting up operations in Vanuatu and the Netherlands. In many countries it is not illegal to trade in file sharing software. The issue is also not covered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaty.


The industry is desperate. Currently a US Congress bill is being proposed by Howard Berman to allow copyright holders to hack into consumers’ computers in order to take measures to prevent them trading pirated songs and movies, in effect legalising all the antisocial internet activities they have been trying to stamp out for a decade. This in itself brings up serious invasion of privacy issues.


As a result of the problems associated with piracy, viable music e-commerce of digital music and music/multimedia products in file format is stalled.


There was a huge advertising campaign in the US in September 2002 by the record industry using their big stars to plead with the public not to rip off music. Artists from Pavarotti to Eminem have participated. An example of the text of one of the ads is Britney Spears saying: “Would you go into a CD store and steal a CD? It’s the same thing people going into the computer and logging on and stealing our music”.


The public is not likely, however, to be particularly sympathetic to this desperate campaign. There is a feeling that the record industry has itself to blame for not adopting online delivery mechanisms in a viable way. For example they have withheld songs from There is also a poor selection of songs available to be downloaded legally on subscription services like MusicNet (a joint venture of Real Networks , AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and the EMI group) and on Press Play (owned by Universal and Sony). There are even restrictions on the number of songs that can be retrieved and on how long you can keep them on your hard drive.


Until the record industry starts offering a service commensurate with what can be obtained illegally it is unlikely to be able to convince the public that file sharing is unconscionable.



Decline of work opportunities for instrumental backing musicians and session musicians.

In the early 1980s music technology was revolutionised by the invention of a number of digital devices. The world’s first dedicated music computer available on the music equipment market was the Australian-made Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (CMI). This expensive machine involved the first sampler and a little later the first sequencer, allowing for studio music production without the involvement of session musicians.


Around the same time the first personal computer (Apple) appeared. Then in 1983 MIDI was introduced. MIDI (an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface), was developed by the Roland Corporation with cooperation and input from other synthesiser manufacturers. MIDI is a digital data format in which control signals generated by a keyboard or other type of controller can trigger the tone generating circuits of a synthesiser or bank of synthesisers. MIDI data can also be stored using computer sequencing software which then allows for playback. MIDI data can also be edited, allowing for "fixing up" improvised material.


The advent of MIDI allowed for affordable music production facilities and revolutionised the music industry and the nature of music. Significantly it signalled the change of emphasis from the performer to the composer/technician in the production of music. The nature of music production expertise changed also. For example it became possible to do arranging without being able to read and write music.


The nature of what constitutes music, particularly popular music, underwent radical changes. This was the beginning of the electronic dance music era. Popular music styles developed that did not have lyrics, melodies or chord changes. Any noise that could be sampled or synthesized was now a legitimate sound source for composition.


The development of hard-disk recording and editing in the early 1990s further facilitated the DIY production of music.


Just what has this meant for performing musicians?


Digital forms of backing, particularly MIDI files, are readily available (either legally or illegally) for playback in a music-minus-one situation, thus reducing the demand for backing musicians. MIDI files can be changed to suit the vocal range and the tempo and instrumentation preferences of the (vocal) performers.


Generally the livelihoods of highly skilled recording session musicians have been undermined by the computerisation of music production. Most television and documentary film soundtracks and most radio and television music advertisements are now predominantly electronic. The same is true for much of the music used in live theatre, particularly dance theatre. A high percentage of pop music is also entirely digital except for the human voice. (Even the voice is typically digitally manipulated.)


Shift in the market for music equipment

As personal computers have become more powerful, the need for dedicated music hardware devices has lessened. Whereas keyboards and sound modules are based on the concept of turning synthesis software into a (hardware) chip, it is now possible for this kind of software and large volumes of sounds to be stored and operated on a personal computer, thus effectively dispensing with the need for dedicated music hardware devices.


Thus there is a shift taking place in the music equipment market from hardware to software devices.


Software such as “Reason” that includes sampler, synthesisers, drums machine, sequencer, digital effects and other features within the one program for around A$500 can be used to create creditable music tracks.


Because music production devices such as this are available in the form of software (rather than hardware) they are easily pirated. This poses a new problem for the music equipment manufacturing industry.


However the shift to software has further revolutionised the means of music production. This kind of system -- a computer and a couple of bits of software -- allows composers/songwriters to get a professional sounding result extremely cheaply. More interesting experimental software is also available e.g. generative music tools such as Koan Pro (as used by Brian Eno).


The adverse effect of the digital recycling of heritage music upon original music

Ever since the appearance of the CD in the early 1980s, original music has suffered from the endless recycling of recordings from the past (regardless of genre). Records from the past can be digitally remastered, thereby arguably improving on the original. Most of the music played on radio is from the past, not necessarily the hits of the past but rather the most bland music of the past (e.g. Neil Finn is played more often than the Beatles on Australian radio).


A new wave in this trend is about to hit in the form of surround sound remixing of old recordings (although the technology will obviously also be applied to new recordings).


The proliferation of old music in different formats on the music market will continue to have an impact on the market share of new recordings, and therefore on the economic viability of creative music of all kinds. The situation may even decline as the boomer generation consolidates its wealth and increases its leisure spending.



Unauthorised sampling

Sampling and other digital manipulations of existing recordings have the potential to breach the moral rights of musicians as well as their copyrights. Or is it just good clean fun? The current bootlegging trend called “bastard pop” (these records are also called “mash-ups” or “bootlegs”) is a case in point -- e.g. Oops!...The Real Slim Shady Did It Again combines Eminem and Britney Spears. These records are made illegally and circulated illegally in clubs and via the internet.


Of course sampling in the sense of appropriating the sounds and ideas of other composers is an age-old practice. When Dimitri Tiomkin accepted his 1955 academy award for best original score he said “I would like to thank Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Strauss, Rimsky Korsakov….”


I suppose it depends a lot on your sensibilities. The sensibilities of James W Newton Jnr, a jazz professor at Cal State Los Angeles, were offended when one of his students pointed out that his work Choir had been sampled (and credited) on a Beastie Boys track called Pass the Mic. The Beasties had obtained a licence for the recording through the record company but not for the composition itself because they had been unable to contact Newton. Newton was outraged and pursued the matter through the courts but, to his dismay, found that because the Beastie Boys track had only used three notes of his work (although they had looped it through the whole song) it did not constitute a copyright infringement.



Digital Music Technology

As music and creation, performance, production, distribution and marketing becomes increasingly digitised, music education needs to change with it to reflect industry practices.


A large percentage of the activities of the music industry is not serviced by educational programs in schools and universities.


In a number of 2002 interviews I did with Tony Gould (VCA) and Stephen Whittington (Elder School of Music), both described their frustration with the fact that the tertiary curriculum is so full of subjects that most people consider are core activities, and that there is no room for new areas of study (such as digital music production and multimedia) as they appear. Gould said the contemporary tertiary music curriculum didn’t look too different from the one he studied more than 30 years earlier. Whittington asked the question: “Do you have to be able to write a fugue before you do multimedia?”


Whittington also described a new breed of composition student who works entirely in the digital domain and has no use for music notation.


The digital revolution has brought about the convergence of different digital media (music, sound effects, sound design, graphics, animation, digital video and film, interactive media etc etc). Of course specialisation is expected in one or more of these areas, but versatility or collaboration is needed to create work. Music and arts schools need to recognise the requirements of these new media in their curriculum planning.


Unless music schools seriously re-evaluate the relevance of their offerings, their students will fall behind in the skills and knowledge required to survive in the music industry.



Broadband internet services in Australia

Broadband internet services are not universally available to Australians and are also too expensive. Both problems are a result of Telstra having a monopoly on broadband infrastructure. Use of the internet for music and multimedia is adversely affected by this situation.


Nguyan (2002) explains a further problem:


Most of the content we request and see online is held or runs through networks, gateways, routers or other telecommunications infrastructure owned by American companies. This gives them concentrated powers to charge non-US carriers such as Telstra relatively high prices, resulting in a discrepancy between what they charge us for carrying traffic across their networks and what we can charge them. This discrepancy is ultimately borne by all Australian Net users through higher prices.


Digital Radio

Unlike the digital television situation there is no government directive for the radio industry to change from analog AM and FM radio services by a certain date. However in March 1998 Senator Richard Alston initiated a planning period for the introduction of digital radio and various technical testing projects have proceeded since then. The system suggested for Australia is Eureka 147 (used in Europe but not Japan or the US). It is being tested using VHF (Channel 9A) and L-Band spectra. VHS has a longer range and better penetration than L-Band but a combination of both will be needed for national coverage, and even then there is some doubt that coverage of rural areas could be as good as that of the current analog services.


Although the signal and audio quality of digital radio are far superior to those of the analog FM and AM, the quality of the medium depends on how much bandwidth is used for each station. A number of stations can be bundled into the same allocated bandwidth, each with corresponding smaller bandwidth (and lesser audio quality). Other types of data can also be transmitted taking up more bandwidth, thus further reducing the quality of the individual stations being transmitted.


The way radio stations play this game will determine the quality of the services. There is no point is going digital if the FM quality we now receive is not improved upon substantially.


Another issue is the question of whether there will be enough bandwidth for all stations to participate. Larger commercial stations may have the political and economic clout to push out the smaller community stations vying for a fair share of the bandwidth.


A degree of vigilance is needed on the part of the community to try to prevent the radio industry offering an inferior quality product to that which is already available through analogue radio, and to make sure that existing community services are not reduced.



This article has presented some of the issues relating to the impact of digitisation on music in its production, distribution, promotion and consumption. All these aspects need to be considered also in the education and training of musicians and music industry workers. While a fair amount of territory has been covered there are many issues that may well have been neglected or glossed over here. I invite readers to communicate to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on any other issues or angles on issues in this field and also, if they wish, to provide me with sources of information on digital music issues to enable further investigation and analysis.


Michael Hannan is Chair of the Music Council of Australia, a composer, musician and author, and Dean, School of Contemporary Arts, Southern Cross University. Publication of his book, An Australian Guide to Careers in Music, is planned for February 2003. Publisher is the University of NSW Press in conjunction with the Music Council of Australia.



Godwin, Mike. (2002). “Hollywood vs. the Internet” Sydney Morning Herald (Icon) September 21-22, pp. 8-9

Nguyen, Maria. (2002). ‘On the Broadband Wagon’. Sydney Morning Herald (Icon), July 13-14, p.3