Federal Labor’s arts policy announcement came just in a nick of time and, just maybe, at precisely the right time.

With a week to go before Australia heads to the polls, Labor’s arts policy has been warmly received by the music and entertainment industries, with Live Performance Australia, APRA, AIR and the Australia Council among its big supporters.

Unveiled on Saturday in south Melbourne, the new strategy includes a raft of funding commitments across the cultural sector and a suite of measures to support live music, notes Live Performance Australia, which says the policy statement represents a “welcome step” towards restoring certainty and confidence and raises the “ambition” for the nation’s cultural industries.

“After years of disruptions to funding and a disjointed policy approach to the cultural sector,” enthuses LPA CEO Evelyn Richardson, “it is heartening to see one of our major parties spelling out a strong commitment to supporting and growing our cultural sector through a comprehensive and funded policy approach.”

The Bloody Beetroots at Up Down Festival
Live music will get a boost from Labor, LPA says.

The strategy builds off the original “Creative Australia” policy approach, launched under the Gillard government in 2013, and includes commitments to restore funding for the Australia Council to the tune of $112 million over four years, invest in First Nations theatre and dance companies, and set aside additional funding for the ABC and SBS.

Labor’s announcement “recognises the significance of our artists and creators in our national cultural life, and the scope to achieve so much more at home and internationally,” Richardson adds.

The development was “great news for the Australian music industry,” remarks AIR in a social media post.

AIR supports Labor
AIR applauds Labor’s arts policy announcement

Appropriately hosted in the Gershwin Room, the longtime home to Rockwiz in St Kilda’s historic (and recently refurbished) Hotel Esplanade, Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke said his party’s new policy would “help Australia’s arts and cultural sectors thrive and grow.”

Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) and Performing Arts Connections Australia (PAC) immediately welcomed the report, with PAC Australia president Helen O’Neil remarking that Labor’s “well-targeted new investment in live performing arts” now placed artists “at the centre of Labor’s national cultural policy.”

As previously reported, APRA AMCOS got behind Labor’s arts commitments, with the rights society’s CEO Dean Ormston describing the announcement as an “important framework for our industry.”

Referencing a a 2017 Goldman Sachs report which estimated the global recorded music market would hit US$41 billion by 2030, a sum that could balloon to $100 billion when publishing revenue and live music is factored in, APRA claims Australia might generate a not-insignificant piece of that headline figure.

Tony Burke Bigsound 2018
Tony Burke Bigsound 2018

“Placing live music at the heart of this policy is key to the development and presentation of musical talent,” explains Ormston. “We already know that as well as providing the platform for our emerging and established artists, live music in our cities, regional centres and towns provides them with a competitive advantage, driving jobs, tourism and supporting the night-time economy.”

With government and industry partnership, Australia has the capacity to earn up to 5% of that projected market, APRA suggests. With targeted investment in music education, export, indigenous creators and live music venues, Australia “now has the policy potentially to place us front and centre of the global music ecosystem,” adds Ormston.

Among the proposals, $20 million is earmarked for the Australian Music Live Music Fund to support venues where live music is played.

Some $10 million would go to Sounds Australia and Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) would benefit to the tune of $2.1 million.

Labor will also set aside $5 million over five years for Support Act, to facilitate a comprehensive mental health initiative for music biz professionals.

Music is “big on the agenda,” notes ArtsHub. “It must be a good moment for the campaigners.”

On the flipside, a Liberal Party webpage listing its election policies doesn’t even make reference to an arts policy. the SMH notes.

Of course, everything is based on the outcome of this Saturday’s federal election. According to a Newspoll conducted for the right-leaning The Australian, Labor has pulled ahead by a wafer-thin margin. Whether Labor’s announcement can help swing the election in its favour, time will tell.

Read Renewing Creative Australia here.