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Why Sounds Australia Funding Cuts Are Really Bad For Aussie Musicians

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A few days ago the Ministry for the Arts announced the allocation of over $12 million in funding to 45 arts organisations, including The Australian Ballet and the National Library of Australia. However, Sounds Australia, the music industry’s peak body for exporting the work of Australian musicians, crucially missed out. They received no funding commitments after 2016 as part of the Catalyst Program, the Federal Government’s funding program for the arts.

This funding decision has thrown serious doubt over the capabilities of Sounds Australia to support and aid Aussie bands and their management in their quest to reach overseas markets and (most importantly) grow their audience. If a band or musician wants to play an international festival, be heard by a label, or score a publishing deal, Sounds Australia are there for artists and their teams to help create and secure those opportunities.

Plenty of artists, industry professionals, and music lovers have rallied behind the #SaveOurSounds campaign, which includes an online petition that’s already amassed over 5,700 signatures to date.

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According to triple j, Sounds Australia’s Executive Producer Millie Millgate said the organisation were shocked to miss out on the Catalyst funding, especially when the live music export initiative “has worked, is working, and could continue to do so”.

“With the comparatively small amount of money that’s been invested in the initiative, I think the results and what’s been able to be achieved has been enormous…I [thought] we had a really good shot,” said Millgate.

Millgate says Sounds Australia needs around $2 million to continue operating, but have “certainly been doing [a lot] with a lot less than that to date and we started on next to nothing”. Since launching in 2009, Sounds Australia have supported the careers of 620 artists at 48 different international events in 52 cities across 19 countries. Royalties body APRA AMCOS estimates “top tier artists” see a 300 per cent earnings growth within the three years of their first international Sounds Australia-organised show.

“To not have Sounds Australia present or doing what they do so well would be absolutely horrifying…”

Several Queensland music industry professionals feel the Catalyst funding cuts to Sounds Australia will be extremely detrimental to Australian musicians and bands looking to expand into overseas markets. Kylie Cobb, Owner of management and marketing agency Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, says artists have little hope to be heard on the world stage without the financial and strategic backing of Sounds Australia.

“Cutting funding to Sounds Australia amputates our country’s opportunity to share its unique voice and human experience with the world. It takes an incredible investment of time, energy, and money for emerging artists to build a powerful profile to the point where it can successfully break through with the support and international exposure provided by organisations like Sounds Australia,” said Cobb.

Ben Preece, Director of management and publicity agency Mucho Bravado, says Sounds Australia is a vital part of the process when attempting to export any Australian band.

“I’ve had numerous bands benefit from working alongside these passionate and tireless individuals. Hungry Kids of Hungary, for example, garnered fans and a handle of international markets in the UK, the US, and Europe, none of which would’ve been possible without the assistance they provided.”

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“We accumulated international teams, played lots of shows, massive festival slots in the likes of Holland, a plethora of syncs…and the list goes on. All of this could be attributed to the introductions and support Sounds Australia offered us. Every single manager and every band that has played SXSW, CMJ, and The Great Escape would have a very similar story.”

“To not have Sounds Australia present or doing what they do so well would be absolutely horrifying,” said Preece.

Tim Price, Owner of heavy music publicity agency Collision Course PR, says the Catalyst funding cuts to Sounds Australia and it’s export programs for Australian contemporary music is extremely short sighted.

“The Good Ship and Pricewar Music went to Canada for CMW in 2013 and received SO MUCH help and guidance from Sounds Australia. At a time when I was not as confident as a music industry worker as I am now, they made me feel at home and made so much time for me.

“I’d like to personally thank Millie, Glenn, and Esti for their support over the years and hope that Australia Council for the Arts will re-fund this program at some point, hopefully sooner than later!” said Price.

ABC News reported the Federal Arts Ministry said in a statement funding for Sounds Australia covers work until January 2017. “An evaluation is underway and discussions will continue,” the statement said.

Sign the online petition to reinstate Sounds Australia’s Catalyst Funding HERE