Controversial Label Melba Told Its Government Funding Will Be Cut

20 April 2012 | 12:26 pm | Scott Fitzsimons

The labels calls the rest of Australia a "dumb blonde" and their critics 'jealous'.

Classical music label Melba has been informed by the Australia Council that its funding will be abruptly cut at the end of June after critics - which Melba have described as jealous - raised concerns earlier this month.

Melba were granted funding totaling $7.2 million since 2004 from the federal government without having to apply through the Australia Council, the body responsible for administering art funds.

Especially concerning for critics was the reality that last year Melba released three albums but received $750,000 in government funds during the year. Their CD sales (including back catalogue) for the year amounted to $18,000 revenue.

Stakeholders in contemporary music called for a review of the funding, although some sectors stressed that it wasn't healthy to reduce the discussion into an 'us vs them' battle between the contemporary and classical sectors.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Yesterday the Australia Council's director Paul Mason emailed Melba's managing director Maria Vandamme that their funding would cease after 30 June and there was no guarantee that they would receive anything beyond that.

Vandamme told Fairfax today that, "There's enormous jealousy and I can understand that but I make no apology for wanting to do something that no-one has done before."

She added, "What we have done is great value for Australia, because there's always the perception that Australia is a dumb blonde, a hole in the ground, but now we are telling the world of the quality of our musicianship."

One of Melba's greatest achievements is generally considered to be their recording of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle, which was performed by the South Australia's State Opera.

Vandamme refused to reveal how many copies of albums the company had sold during its period of funding, though.

In his email, Australia Council's Mason said that if federal funding for music was available after June 30, "its allocation should be informed by industry need, determined following a sector-wide consultation."