How the Australian music industry can level up internationally

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How the Australian music industry can level up internationally

Words by Christie Eliezer

Australian music needs your support.

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) has set a target — that the local music industry and the government work together so Australia will represent five per cent of the global music business by the year 2030.

By then, it will be worth US$41 billion (or A$59.8 million at current rates) according to an estimate by financial analysts Goldman Sachs. That’s just recorded music. The firm reckons that with publishing and live touring revenue, we’re talking US$100 billion, or A$146 billion in current rates. That would mean an A$7.3 billion music export market.

Currently, music exports (covering artists, publishers and record labels) are $195 million a year, according to The Australia Council of the Arts’ Born Global: Australian Music Exports report. To put it in perspective, that is similar to that of the coal and beef industries, but less than the $2.5 billion generated annually by the wine sector.

At his keynote speech at BIGSOUND in Brisbane this month, ARIA chief executive Dan Rosen pointed out that $195 million “is 20 per cent of the Australian music industry’s revenue. So we need to switch it around by 2030, where exports are 80 per cent”. He talked about the importance of Australian musicians not content with just reaching the 25 million people in Australia. “We have to get the two billion people who watch YouTube, or the four billion walking around listening to iTunes.”

Rosen pointed out how streaming has made global success quicker and cited Tones and I’s rise in the past 12 months. She’s gone from busking in Byron Bay and living in her van to selling out parts of her European tour and topping overseas charts. In Australia she’s playing the AFL Grand Final this month and chasing Kylie Minogue’s longtime female milestone of longest run at #1 (seven weeks with ‘The Loco-Motion’).

The good news is that currently four in ten music creatives report some sort of foreign income or expense. But the bad news, and you knew there’d be a ‘but’, according to Born Global just ten per cent of artists account for 97 per cent of foreign earnings.

Three things need to be fixed says Born Global. Maybe government grants need to be about spreading the joy rather than focusing purely on “export ready” talent.

Our biggest overseas music markets are the US, UK and Germany. We need to be working on more markets, as Sounds Australia is already doing with trade missions to Asia and South America, and APRA AMCOS is holding its songwriting collaborations SongsHub in more global cities.

France, South Korea and Britain see contemporary music exports as part of a wider branding of their countries and as part of their tourism draw. Nordic countries  emphasise how music education in schools lead to more musicians and demanding music lovers, and a culture where corporate businesses play their part in spreading music abroad.

It is also worth emphasising that the industry contributes $10.5 billion to the Australian economy and employs 92,370 people, as per 2016, according to a PWC study for the Australian Copyright Council.