Now in its fifth year, Ausmusic T-shirt Day looks to celebrate everything we love about Australian music. But the day is about more than just repping a cool tee from a cool band, partnering with charity organisation Support Act in 2016. Here CEO Clive Miller speaks about the not-for-profit organisation that's helping musicians who are doing it tough.
This story was originally published in the November issue of The Music. Pick up a copy of it on the street now or head here to read it online.
We all understand the importance of merch when it comes to generating income for our favourite artists and bands. It’s also a fun and affordable way to rep the music that we love and flesh out our wardrobe at the same time.
Triple J and ARIA captured the moment in 2014 when they created Ausmusic T-shirt Day as a massive nationwide celebration of our strong local music scene. They described it as the ultimate free dress day for fans, with the idea being to show support for artists by buying and wearing their merch, in turn helping them tour and continue to make the music we love.
Realising that nothing is real unless it is documented on social media, they encouraged fans to post photos of themselves wearing their best T-shirt, or proudly displaying their full collection.
If you want to see just how passionate lovers of Australian music are when it comes to their merch choices, check out hashtag #AusmusicTshirtDay.
Music industry charity, Support Act, was also looking for ways to expand access to their services for artists, roadies and music workers who have fallen on hard times, and in 2016, we were invited to be a partner. We did this by encouraging people to make a donation to Support Act when they were posting their photos to social media.
Last year, we thought it would be cool to reclaim the casual Friday concept, but this time with T-shirts rather than jeans.
If you don’t work in an office, you might not be familiar with the idea, but it essentially means that staff get to rock their favourite T-shirt to work in return for making a donation to Support Act. And instead of posting an individual T-shirt to social media, we encouraged the whole office to get involved and post a group photo instead.
Universal Music Australia were one of the many music industry companies that got behind our fundraising efforts last year, raising over $8,600 (including matching funds from the company) and claiming the number one spot on our leader board. Their staff put together an impressive program of activities in the lead-up to and on the day, making it a real celebration of music while repping a cause that is close to all their hearts.
Midnight Oil fan club, Powderworkers, was another team that really got behind the day, mobilising support from their members in Australia and around the world. Their power and passion was fantastic to observe.
In all we had close to a hundred team pages set up on our website – ausmusictshirtday.org.au – and we raised $110,000. This far exceeded the original $30,000 target that we had set ourselves for the day.
We received great feedback as well. Not only in relation to the T-shirts that people were proudly wearing, but in support of the services that Support Act provides to people in the music industry who might be struggling with their physical or mental health.
"Research shows that people in the music industry suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues at far greater rates than other sectors."
It’s no secret that many people in our industry are doing it tough. Many can survive on modest incomes (often from a variety of music and non-music related sources), but when something unexpected occurs – such as injury, illness, death of a partner or colleague – then things can tip into crisis mode very quickly.
Last year, Support Act provided more than $850,000 in programs to support music workers in crisis. This included crisis relief grants of more than $350,000 (a 21 percent increase on the previous year), and in the majority of cases, our support enabled our service users to return to some form of work in the music industry.
Often, our grants keep people in their homes (avoiding possible eviction), allowing them the time to recover from their crisis in a less stressful environment. We also help with medical expenses and equipment, phone and utilities expenses and we provide funeral support when this is needed.
The Support Act Wellbeing Helpline is also proving to be an essential resource for our community. Research shows that people in the music industry suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues at far greater rates than other sectors.
This can sometimes be the result of factors such as financial insecurity, irregular working patterns and environments, transience, and/or the lack of safety nets such as private health insurance and superannuation.
The helpline, which is a free 24/7 phone counselling service available by calling 1800 959 500, provides support for people concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.
To date, more than 200 artists, road crew and music workers from all genres have accessed the service, utilising more than 500 counselling hours. Career concerns head the list of reasons that people have been calling, followed by anxiety, depression and other personal issues. The helpline has also provided support in relation to financial and relationship issues, stress management, health issues and substance use.
Support Act is invested in leading industry change toward good mental (and physical) health, but we can only do this if we have additional funding.
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Which is why we are so excited that our fundraising campaign in support of this year’s Ausmusic T-shirt Day is off to a good start with more than 70 individual and team pages created – and we hope many more to come.
It’s not too late for you to get your company, school or network involved. We still have time, and creating a team and getting your networks involved is quick and simple to do. If you can’t get a team together, then please consider making a donation to one of the existing teams. They will be delighted to receive your support!
You can also buy a T-shirt from the merch section on any artist website, or you can visit levis.com.au, General Pants, Sound Merch, Warner Music Australia, 24Hundred and Space Mirror, all of whom are donating a percentage of proceeds from T-shirt sales over the next few weeks.
We can’t wait to see you all repping your favourite Australian T-shirt on Friday 15 November – and don’t forget to post your photos to social media with the tags; #ausmusictshirtday, @supportact, @triplej and @aria_official.