In her enlightening ‘State Of The Nation’ keynote at BIGSOUND 2023, ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd revealed some damning figures on Australian radio.
It’s been a massive week at BIGSOUND 2023, and we’ve learned a lot about the Australian music industry – and how to move it forward – over the past few days. Some of the most enlightening info we heard came from Annabelle Herd – CEO of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) – who took the stage at Meanjin/Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre yesterday (September 7) to deliver the annual State Of Play keynote.
During her presentation, Herd revealed some damning figures on the state of Australian radio – namely, that broadcasters get away with grossly underpaying artists (while overpaying their own talent) thanks to government legislation. According to Herd, commercial radio broadcasters only ever have to pay a maximum of 1 percent from their total revenue for the use of all sound recordings. She explained that “at the moment they pay 0.4 percent of revenue, which is about $4 million – or $1 million less than Kyle Sandilands’ salary”.
Sandilands currently works with the KIIS Network (via the Australian Radio Network, or ARN) as the longtime co-host of the The Kyle And Jackie O Show. Jacqueline “Jackie O” Last also takes home an annual salary of $5 million (“a win for gender pay gaps,” Herd quipped in her keynote), meaning the pair are paid more than twice as much as every artist whose music is broadcast on commercial radio across Australia cumulatively.
“It’s not good enough,” Herd said. “It’s anti-competitive. And there’s no other legislation like it in markets around the world, meaning our artists are at a disadvantage on their home court.”
To help combat the issue, ARIA has formally backed the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) in their Radio Fair Play campaign, which Herd noted aims “to grow the pie of income for artists and labels when commercial and ABC radio play music”.
She pointed out that the ABC’s distribution of funds is “even worse” thanks to the Copyright Act, which states that the government-funded broadcaster only has to pay $0.005 (half a cent) per Australian citizen for the free use of all sound recordings. According to Herd, that tallied up to “about $123,000” last year. “For comparison,” she said, “the ABC was given [$500,000] to conduct a scoping study on Double J going to over-the-air transmission from digital only.”
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It’s not all dismal, though, as Herd optimistically declared “a turning point” for the Australian music industry. She explained: “When we were here last year, the Music Industry Review had just been released. 12 months later and we have Creative Workplaces led by the very experienced and well-respected Kate Jenkins: a dedicated office within government to look at ensuring music workplaces are safe.
“A year ago we were waiting to see what the Arts Minister and the government would agree to for music as part of the National Cultural Policy. 12 months later we have Music Australia – the first ever dedicated agency within government focussed on contemporary music with a commercial focus – with a council that includes artists as well as strong commercial representation and export knowledge including from Petrina Convey, Nathan McClay and of course [Michael Chugg].
“Music Australia has a big job ahead of it. We need it to urgently get a world class export program in place [and] build on the amazing work that Sounds Australia does to put together a well-funded and cross-government dedicated export strategy. This huge opportunity will come from increasing streams of local music to an expanding global market in both established and emerging territories...”