State Budgets Look At Long Term Investment For Music Industry

14 June 2024 | 10:50 am | Christie Eliezer

“It's something we need to be strategic and listen to what’s happening, and make the changes we need to make.”


BASSINTHEGRASS Festival (Source: Supplied)

Constant dialogue with their respective music sectors has seen State Governments take a long-term investment approach in their recent Budgets. Some are tied with tourism dollars and major events, as well as cost-of-living solutions addressed to across-the-board industries.

Earlier this week, the Queensland Budget included $1.6 million in funding for venues and artists. This came after discussions with Premier Steven Miles and Arts Minister Leanne Enoch, particularly with peak music association QMusic.

The $1.6 million will be administered through Arts Queensland, with input from the music industry. QMusic CEO Kris Stewart told, “We’ll be part of the assessment and strategic process about where the most need is and how we can put in place a system which musicians and the music businesses can access fairly and equally.”

The music biz found the Premier fully aware of the crisis facing live music venues under the 500-cap. They bore the brunt of rising expenses and declining spend-per-head, and their viability lay in their important role as a starting point for music acts and fans.

But at the same time, the Premier was also aware that it’s more than helping music venues. There was also a more long-term investment as the music industry grapples with a generational swing in audiences and a change in the business models of music venues.

Stewart noted: “This shift actually started about four or five years ago, about what our audiences want to buy, when they want to buy, how much they want to spend once they’re in the venue, and do they want earlier or later shows.

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“But it was hidden in some ways by COVID. Now, it’s a much more urgent and interesting aim for the industry. Some 800-cap and genre-themed venues are really successful. So, this is not a one-size-fits-all moment. 

“It's something we need to be strategic and listen to what’s happening, and make the changes we need to make.”

Artistic-focussed outcomes, which will help facilitate performances and tours, ways to access support, sustain a career outside capital cities and reconnecting with tourism networks, are also a priority for QMusic. 

Nighttime Commissioner

QMusic’s President Natalie Strijland and Stewart had also led discussions for a year on the set-up of a Nighttime Economy Commissioner. 

The new Budget confirmed funding for the role through the offices of the Minister for Employment and Small Business and the Minister for Training and Skills Development.

The last figures for the Queensland Nighttime Economy was $24 billion in 2018/9, 178, with 780 jobs and 19, 789 establishments.

According to the Government, “The new Commissioner will work with industry to support, promote, and advocate for key aspects of the nightlife economy, with an emphasis on partnerships that encourage the growth, sustainability, and vibrancy of the diverse local businesses that underpin this important sector.

“While Brisbane is a focus, the role is designed to bring positive change and economic growth to all our communities–whether that’s supporting a local pub in Toowoomba, a music festival in Cairns, or nightlife spots on the Sunshine Coast.”

Minister for Small Business Lance McCallum described, "Queensland's nightlife economy has always outdone itself on the national and international stage, boasting iconic live music venues, theatres, arts, entertainment, festivals, hospitality, nightlife and tourist activities that make our cities vibrant cultural hubs and economic powerhouses.

“We’ve all seen what happened to Sydney when the NSW Liberal Party choked their night-time economy beyond repair; only Labor has a real plan to keep our nightlife vibrant, grow night-time activation in communities, attract more visitors, create more jobs, and drive local economic outcomes.”

Unlike in NSW, where the Nighttime Commissioner had to introduce a number of initiatives within the first nine months because of bad decisions by the previous Government, the Queensland music sector agrees with the State Government that it will not be making multi-million dollar announces in the first months.

Rather, the idea is that the Commissioner and their initially small team will take their time having conversations around the state to work out what’s working and where pressure points are.

Kris Stewart agreed, “It’s important to find out what the truth really is on the ground. There are a few assumptions we’re making about some of our nighttime precincts, and those things are not necessarily true any more.”

Investment Fund For SA

The focus on long term investment in music was reflected in other states. Last month, the 2024/5 South Australian Budget invested $47 million in the arts sector – and included a new $20.7 million Arts Investment Fund.

The fund will provide approximately $5 million annually to drive strategic initiatives in the arts, culture, and creative industries.

“Opportunities to experience arts and culture are essential for the well-being of South Australians and help shape our understanding of the world, its past and present,” said Arts Minister Andrea Michaels

“South Australia is renowned for its extraordinary arts and culture, and the Malinauskas Government is committed to supporting and growing that legacy for the future.”

Included in the $47 million arts boost was $720,000 to construct four permanent structured pavilions in Mount Gambier for the Generations In Jazz festival, which is aimed at young players, and the introduction of a $200 voucher for music lessons for about 100,000 schoolchildren.

$19 million over three years was allocated for new fit-for-purpose accommodation for the State Theatre Company, State Opera, and Country Arts South Australia.

The Government is yet to provide more details on the Investment Fund, which is what the contemporary music sector would be most interested in.

But it's expected to take the form of the $850,000 See it LIVE Music Activation Fund, which is delivered through the Music Development Office to support small, dedicated live music venues.

Grants of up to $60,000 have been allocated to costs such as artist fees, crew fees, marketing and equipment hire, as well as business advice in a collaboration between the Music Development Office and the Office for Small and Family Business.

Other earlier arts investments included $35 million to upgrade the Adelaide Festival Centre, an additional $8 million for the Adelaide Fringe, an extra $2.3 million for Adelaide Festival, an additional $8 million to support small/medium arts organisations, and an Artists at Work Taskforce to investigate work insecurity for artists and arts workers and make recommendations to the Minister.

The Budget also made space for marketing dollars to bring business, sports and entertainment events to SA from abroad and around Australia.

In the meantime, MusicSA, in partnership with the Music Development Office, the City of Adelaide, and Festival City ADL, commissioned BDO EconSearch to research and report on the economic contribution of the music industry in South Australia to deep dive into further investments and strategies.

NT Events

The Northern Territory Budget from May almost doubled its funding to its Northern Territory Major Event Company to $41.5 million to continue eight major cultural, music and sporting events and 70 community events per year.

Under its previous $25 million funding in 2022/23, its events boosted the NT economy by  $130 million, delivered over 313,000 visitors nights, and created 724 jobs for local music, production, and security workers.

It ensures the continuation of the BASSINTHEGRASS, Darwin and Parrtjima – A Festival In Light festivals.

BASSINTHEGRASS this year drew a record 16,000 to Darwin’s Mindil Beach, 4,000 of whom came from interstate. It’s expected to generate $13.1 million in economic benefits across the tourism and hospitality sectors. 

“It is profitable; for every dollar invested, we’re getting $4.90, or about $5, back in the economy – that’s a great return on investment for any business venture,” former Major Events Minister Brent Potter said.

Parrtjima—A Festival in Light recorded 21,363 attendees over ten days, many of whom journeyed to Alice Springs for the music and light show against the ancient MacDonnell Ranges. It generated $14.7 million for the Northern Territory economy, of which 81 per cent ($11.9 million) was new money to the NT.

The Darwin Festival (August 8 to 24) is expected to exceed last year’s 50,000 ticket sales.

The NT Government teamed up with the Federal Government to fund the first Regional & Remote Music Summit (August 7—9), where music experts, artists, policymakers, academics, and community leaders from across the country will meet to discuss regional and remote live music and festivals, policy and investment, storytelling, connecting with audiences, the climate crisis, safe spaces, skills gaps, and building capacity.

Way Out West

The 2024-25 Western Australia Budget, also released in May, provided substantial funding for securing major blockbuster events and created a new Metro Events Program to support more local events.

While there was a focus on games, screens, and tourism, $6 million went to arts organisations and $5.1 million for refurbishments, upgrades and improved access at the sports and entertainment HBF Arena and HBF Stadium.

Culture and the Arts, Sport, and Recreation Minister David Templeman said: "Both arts and sports are at the heart of how we connect as a community, allowing expression of self and improving physical and mental well-being. 

“I am proud that the Cook Government is prioritising funding for these sectors."