Monday, 27 March 2017
Tonight I want to mention two definitive life experiences that are the reasons why I am so passionate about promoting and defending Australian musicians and why in future you will see me doing the same for our writers, authors, filmmakers and artists, from painters to printmakers and photographers.
We must support those Australians who tell our stories and who, by doing so, show us who we are, remind us who we were and suggest to us who we might one day be. The role of our artists is not just important locally; it is critical to explaining our culture and our way of life to the world. Our musicians do this particularly well, and I am delighted that the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Live Music—which I co-chair—event this Wednesday, 29 March will be attended by music legend and APRA chair, Jenny Morris, with performances from 7 pm by iconic Australian artists including Diesel, Daddy Cool, Eskimo Joe, Daryl Braithwaite and fabulous new talent Montaigne. The Herald Sun's Rob Harris and Buzzfeed's Alice Workman will MC, and The Australian's very own talented in-house musician, James Jeffrey, is going to pipe us in to ACDC's Thunderstruck.
I grew up listening to singers like Jenny Morris, Daryl Braithwaite, Diesel, Daddy Cool and ACDC pretty much everywhere I went. Every Saturday of my childhood was spent driving hours to my parents' football, netball and tennis matches in country South Australia. There was no child-friendly music in our car in those days—or at the footy club discos that followed! Instead, my siblings—Johnny, Simon and Belinda—and I were raised on the very best of Oz rock, from Cold Chisel to Daddy Cool, from ACDC to The Angels and Rose Tattoo. At home we watched Countdown on Sunday nights and Rage on Saturday mornings—the ABC was one of only two TV channels we had.
I spent my high school years booking live bands like Swamp Donkey and Lyrup Syrup for school socials, but the first real gig I attended was the Cold Chisel reunion tour in 1998. It remains my sentimental favourite, but as Chisel would say, 'Who needs that sentimental bullshit anyway.' Later, my siblings and I graduated to Triple J and then to the Big Day Out, and bands from the Testeagles to The Waifs, from the Hilltop Hoods to Eskimo Joe, from Little Birdy to Magic Dirt and to so many more. There have been many gigs since, including last Saturday when my sister and I saw Tim Rogers, The Whitlams, the Violent Femmes—who I will proudly claim as Aussies because their bass player has lived in Tasmania since 2006—and the Hoodoo Gurus at A Day on the Green.
Music has not just informed my life but also my career as a columnist. At The Advertiser I wrote about the
importance of female musicians as role models. I wrote about Cold Chisel and The Waifs, bands who describe Australian life from the city to the country, tell our stories of war and the strange experience of homecoming or leaving it all behind. Which neatly brings me to why these issues matter. Locally and internationally, we need artists who tell our stories and explain who we are. We need to support our music industry, which contributes around $4 billion to $6 billion to the Australian economy. Boosting our music exports would generate even more income, and more tourists might visit to see our bands—already live music generates revenues of $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year alone. In my home state of South Australia in any one month around 70 per cent of live music gigs are performed in our pubs and hotels. Our pubs and their employees are a very important part of
our live music scene.
We also need to encourage our creatives to create, and that means ensuring they are properly rewarded for
their creative efforts. In a practical sense, musicians are not really that much different to newspaper columnists. Respectively, they are dependent on record labels or their newspapers for a contract that provides them with their income. Both need strong copyright laws to protect their income and their intellectual property. This has been ever more challenging in a world where technology has outpaced the law. Letting online providers give away this content for free or turning a blind eye while others do undermines artists, labels and newspapers' income and their fundamental right to protect their creative efforts and property. As ACDC famously sang, 'It's a long way to the top, if you wanna rock'n'roll,' so let us not make it any harder for our artists and our musicians to do so and let us protect their intellectual property when they get there.