He didn’t utter the words “content” and “quotas,” but Tony Burke’s message to the Australian music industry was clear. Intellectual copyright matters, and legislators need to keep tabs on the streaming services and what they serve up to the Australian public.

Burke, the Labor frontbencher and Member for Watson, put his hand up as the music industry’s champion during a 10-minute speech Thursday morning as APRA hosted its traditional Bigsound breakfast.

An avowed music fan, Burke was spotted mingling with fans at Paul Kelly’s secret Bigsound show Wednesday night at the Zoo, and catching CXLOE’s showcase at the Family.

Speaking without prepared notes, Burke told APRA’s guests the live sector has had “a big hit,” and he talked of the shift from physical formats to streaming services and the new challenges of copyright theft. The worldwide web “can’t be a place for theft. We need to have the simplicity of, when you make a thing that is physical and can be held, everyone accepts that you own it. When the work is creative and it touches people’s hearts, that doesn’t take away your right to own it. We will end up not just losing on the new platforms but losing on the old ones, unless we get our copyright principles correct.”

APRA AMCOS
APRA AMCOS

And with that, Burke entered the debate on content quotas for streaming services. “I am convinced that however well we negotiate, and APRA and others are negotiating, we are going to have to have some formalisation of copyright principles on streaming services that are sold to Australians. Because otherwise, we lose that soundtrack that I think we need to hold dear.”

Invitees who braved an early start and the threat of rain were also treated to an update from APRA AMCOS chief executive Dean Ormston on the society’s soon-be-published financial results, which will report full-year group revenue of around $420 million, about 8.7% up on last year.

Dean Ormston Bigsound 2018
Dean Ormston at Bigsound 2018

Also, public performance broadcasts of Australian and New Zealand works internationally are on a tear, which will be reflected in record high foreign revenue of $43.7 million for the reporting period. “It is fair to say we are a very strong growing, healthy music industry,” he added.

Ormston walked through the PRO’s busy agenda for the year ahead, a period that will see the rollout of the OneMusic Australia one-stop-shop licensing project in July 2019 and expanded multi-territory licensing in Asia.

A year has passed since the indie community met behind a secret closed-door session at Bigsound 2017 to study broadcast data and discuss content quotas. The industry took action earlier this year with APRA, ARIA and CRA agreed to jointly look at the issue of content quotas on commercial radio, in particularly compliance around the current code. Those organizations have been meeting monthly to look at those airplay results and “what’s very pleasing is across the board we can see that there has been an increase in local content on those radio formats. Radio has been listening and responding,” Ormston told guests at X-Cargo. There remains a need to review the code itself, he explained, and the issue will be raised with government.

With a federal parliamentary inquiry coming up, Ormston called for the industry to present a united front. “It’s an opportunity for us as an industry to set our sights high and to come together collegiately and collaboratively and look at what are the key elements that we see as taking our industry forward. If we’re going to get government excited about working with us, it’s important that we’re on-message and we know what’s important, whether that’s export, live music or education. One of the key messages we want to take to government is, we’re not a one portfolio horse, we cross all government portfolios. There’s a relevance to our industry for all portfolios. The conversation amongst all of us over the next couple of weeks will be really important in terms of bringing our various views and opinions together and articulating clear strategy to government.”

Also, Ormston gave a shout out to New Zealand’s “visionary” Prime Minister’s Jacinda Ardern and paraphrased her address last week to delegates at the Going Global summit in Auckland. “She made the point that we want our songs to become our ambassadors to the world, and that they can travel with us or without us. I thought that was a great message and something that we could take from.”

Earlier, APRA Head of Member Services Jana Gibson announced the organization had reached its 100,000th member milestone, with Natsuko Yonezawa, a student at the ANU School of Music who took part in the organisation’s SongMakers program, bringing up the magical number.