Following on from Arts Victoria spotlighting its Contemporary and Live Music Development Program in the hopes to ‘find the next Gotye’ following his Grammys smashing win, the Commonwealth’s arts funding body has made clear their commitment to support Australian talent in the hopes of dispelling the ‘starving artist’ stereotype.

As the Canberra Times reports, Australia Council for the Arts chairman Rupert Myer says that it’s time for artists to be paid properly for their work.

“It would be great to see more artists being able to live off their art and to be recognised for the quality of their work and have their art marketed internationally,” said Mr Myer. The Australia Council for the Arts is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary and issues grants value at more than $170 million a year to artists, musicians, writers, dancers, actors, and organisations in states and territories all around the country.

Mr Myer’s comments came during the funding body’s anniversary celebrations held at the Nation Gallery of Australia on Monday night, noting that seeing artists being able to live off their work was “one of the key messages of our 40th anniversary.”

“There is a huge element of volunteering across the arts,” said Mr Myer. “Artists are extremely generous with their time and talent but what the world wants is content, content, content across all art forms and it’s not reasonable to think that artists should remain unremunerated for the expertise that they bring to different projects.”

In the music world, that seems more pertinent that ever, with young bands often posting their music online or hosting gigs for free in an effort to gain exposure. Where getting heard and seen is considered a valuable commodity long before money ever enters the picture.

“It would be great to see more artists being able to live off their art and to be recognised for the quality of their work.” – Rupert Myer, Australia Council for the Arts

“I think in every sector volunteering is a characteristic, so it’s not to wish away the culture of volunteering,” says Mr Myer, “but nevertheless it would be good to see artists be able to live on their work.”

The Council chairman says that the best way to ensure artists are being paid properly for their work, is to “raise the profile of the artist in the community.” Adding that “while it’s not a government role to provide that (better income) it is a government role to enable and facilitate policy where creativity can occur and those sort of outcomes can be achieved.”

Australia Council for the Arts has helped raised the profile of one Wally De Backer, aka Gotye, who stormed the American music industry’s night of nights, earning Grammy wins in for Best Alternative Music Album, while the notorious “Somebody That I Used To Know” won him the Record Of The Year and Pop Duo/Group Performance categories – and both the funding body and Arts Victoria have noted their support of Gotye in his early career.

“Many of the artists supported by the Council in the last 40 years have gone on to become celebrated household names,” Mr Myer said. “Last year, more than 13 million people in Australia and beyond our shores enjoyed art created and presented with the support of the Australia Council.”

The issue of musicians in particular being able to make a living out of music tends to gravitate towards the elephant in the room that is music piracy and illegal downloading.

A study last year by stats tracker MusicMetrics revealed that Australians were the worst downloaders per capita of illegal music, and in a bizarre twist of patriotism, Aussie hip hop pioneers Hilltop Hoods was Australia’s illegal music target of choice. Especially worrying given that the Adelaide trio annually support the arts with their own grant, designed to give Aussie hip hop acts a leg up in the industry.

“Artists are extremely generous with their time and talent but what the world wants is content, content, content across all art forms.” – Rupert Myer

Australian musicians however are finding other sources of revenue, with the royalties group PPCA recently claiming a major court victory over Commercial Radio Australia in overturning a previous ruling that means they can now seek additional licensing fees from internet radio and web-based simulcasts; a ruling that follows on from the PPCA’s report of a record breaking 2012, distributing $29 million to registered Australian artists and record labels marking a 13% increase on the $25.6M that was distributed in December 2011.

Fellow royalty collection organisation APRA | AMCOS also released positive financial results for the 2011/12 financial year, with a 14% increase in royalties to its member, which Chief Executive Brett Cottle called an “exceptional” increase. “Total royalty distributions grew by $28.9 million across the two societies, to $236.9 million – an increase of 13.9% on the preceding year.”

The Federal Government has also helped ease the burden of financial costs of touring and recording for Australian artists, handing out $200K to the Australian music scene to help support local musicians on tour, first announced by Federal Arts Minister Simon Creane last November.

While Greens leader Christine Milne announced three new funding initiatives, worth approx. $10 million, to support the arts earlier this year, in a push for the government to make room in the federal budget to help develop young musicians attempting to make a living from their artistic endeavours.

“I think that in Australia it’s the usual story where so many artists struggle to make a living and they’re trying to work two or three jobs in order to be able to keep a roof over their heads, while they pursue the love that they have for their art,” said Senator Milne.

It seems that politicians are once again taking some initiative to support the arts, whether its due to good social policy, creating political platforms, or simply a case of personal passions, as long as musicians and the live music scene benefit – it can be considered a positive turn in fortunes.

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