Following on from this morning’s news that Arts Minister Simon Crean would be handing money to MPs to hold their own ‘talent quests’ as part of an $8.1 million grants scheme called Creative Young Stars, Minister Crean has now unveiled the details of the long-awaited National Cultural Policy, which has faced criticism from the opposition over the long overdue announcement of its revisions.

Unveiled at the National Press Club in Canberra today, the new National Cultural Policy is named Creative Australia and calls on reinvigorating the importance of music and the arts in contributing to a vibrant, innovative and healthy nation.

Creative Australia includes a large number of revisions, including additional funding for young artists and indigenous languages, aims to increase the competitiveness for the local film industry, but specifically to the music industry, the biggest move is the $75.3 million dedicated to a dramatic overhaul of the Australia Council, to cut red tape and modernise its infrastructure.

The Government’s wording in the need to ‘cut the red tape’ echoes that of National Live Music Coordinator Dr Ianto Ware, who recently spoke about how legislative concerns over noise complaints and planning issues were harming the live music scene.

Creative Australia also sees Arts Minister Crean pledging a 30% increase in funding to $20.8 million for not-for-profit training organisations, including the Australian Youth Orchestra and National Academy of Music, along with the Australian Ballet School, National Institute of Dramatic Arts, National Institute of Circus Arts, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Skills Development Association.“Artists no longer want just a grant, they want a platform to pitch their ideas and attract contributions…” – Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean

The new funding ventures are aimed at giving a boost to social and economic factors, such as boosting jobs and economic growth on an Australia-wide level. Minister Crean tells The Age that the new National Cultural Policy provides a “vision that says that we have to invest in the artist.”

“We have to see the centrality of the artist but it isn’t just about the arts for art’s sake. It’s about economic development, and competitiveness,” he added. “We’re just about to embark next year on the arts as one of the key competencies in the curriculum. And respect for indigenous culture… in all its art forms, will help us to bridge the gap.”

One such bridge includes the National Cultural Policy granting $8.5 million in extra funding for the recently reformed Creative Partnerships Australia body, to help advance provide expert advice and financial support to musicians and artists through innovative new schemes. Including, as The Australian reports – crowdfunding.

“Artists no longer want just a grant, they want a platform to pitch their ideas and attract contributions – big or small – from large groups of people and organisations,” said Mr Crean, reflecting that getting artists to ask fans for backing and generate revenue was a strong step forward.

There’s already been major success stories in the crowdfunding boom, Perth’s Eskimo Joe used Pozible to fund their latest album, and smashed their crowdfunding target of $40,000, raising a total of $60,763, marking their project as the highest crowdfunding project in Australia.

Meanwhile the likes of Jen Cloher, live music guardians SLAM, and of course the controversial Amanda Palmer have all brought crowdfunding into the media spotlight through using it interesting new ways, while Sydney indie label Inertia have worked crowdsourcing platform Pledge Music into their roster’s record deals.

“Creative Partnerships will help arts organisations and artists, including musicians, understand how to make their projects work with crowdfunding,” says Minister Crean, who added that in some circumstances the Government might offer matched funding for projects that reach 50% of their budget from crowdfunding.

Rupert Myer AM, Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts, following on from his comments that the body wants to eradicate the cliche of the ‘starving artist’, applauded the new Creative Australia initiatives.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra today, he said: ‘This is an opportunity to ensure artists and Australian creativity are recognised, valued and celebrated for the immense contribution they make to our nation and society.”“We have to see the centrality of the artist but it isn’t just about the arts for art’s sake. It’s about economic development, and competitiveness.” – Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean

“It is an historic juncture to be seized – where digital technology and the global creative community and market place are expanding artistic horizons beyond anything we have seen in the past,” he says. “The Australia Council is delighted that Creative Australia positions our organisation as a pivotal driver of the nation’s cultural future.”

The $75.3 million restructuring of the Australia Council is described by the Policy as making it “a more nimble and responsive funding body with a clear mandate to support and promote a vibrant and distinctively Australian creative arts practice.” $60 million of that figure will go to ‘critical funding’ for artists and organisations, $5 million for the major performing arts ‘excellence pool’ with states and territories providing the final $4 million towards a data collection program.

The Australia Council reforms will look at restructuring the grants model that is so crucial to musicians, making it more responsive to ’emerging forms of art’. Minister Crean described the overhaul as “not to do away with what the arts boards do,” emphasising that peer group assessment and the body’s independence from Government would remain; instead the changes were “to recognise that the arts board structure in its current form has not been addressing well the fusion of the arts – modern music fusing with orchestral music, or Bangarra [Dance Company] with with the Australian Ballet.”

“It’s this creative fusion that is producing some of our best performances,” said the MP. The Australia Council reforms will also encourage collaboration with other arts agencies and, following on from Minister Crean’s visit to the Indian Mumbai Connects Conference last year, more research and greater focus on Asia.

The greater details and impacts of what the new National Cultural Policy will do for the Australian Music Industry, and the input of National Live Music Coordinator Dr Ianto Ware, will come to light as the funding begins to filter through the creative organisations, but with the emphasis on boosting investment into the broader arts sector, not just music, there will be certainly be more fat to chew in the coming days.

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