Governance and funding
Within ten days of assuming the Executive Producer position in the newly formed Sounds Australia in 2009, Millgate was at MIDEM, providing a good opportunity to assess different national models. The UK’s setup was a potential template to follow, although its foundations in trade-related funding and ambitions did not fully accord with Australian operations. It is interesting that Sounds Australia does not regard itself as an “export office” (with accompanying direct funding of overseas activities, selection of artists and oversight of various domestic grant funding) as it is understood in countries such as Sweden, but as a “branding exercise”:
It was set up as an overarching umbrella that everyone could come in under. Maybe that’s partly why the model evolved that way. It was about, it’s there for everyone to access. Even to the point where I think there were a couple of artists who put Sounds Australia on their CDs and on their flyers just because they were going to be part of the umbrella. The language is around creating a logo and an identity that would have this national org [sic] feel. But no-one ever used the words “export office”; no-one used “export body”.
(Interview 16, 2018)
The relative lack of funding (compared to similar UK, Canadian or Scandinavian organisations) in its early years provided the organisation with decisions about how to allocate scarce resources. After a year with only one employee, in late 2010, an Export Music Coordinator position was established. In the first ten years, “It feels like it’s been hand-to-hand combat” (Interview 21,2018) with the organisation covering the central showcase events with few staff and related resources. It also forced them to make hard choices about what is feasible, particularly in making annual judgements about whether key global showcase events have retained their prominence and use to Australian artists. In relation, this also meant judgements about which territories—and genres—in which to concentrate resources.
This could include the ability undertake more reconnaissance trips to emerging events and markets, and to significantly widen the scope of activity in genres (see discussion below):
It’s great, we’re doing bits of jazz and classical. But if it had significant resources, it could actually sit down with the classical sector and spend the time to say, “what is the opportunity for Australian contemporary art music internationally?”
(Interview 21, 2018)
In 2013, an Export Music Producer position was funded, and a Digital Export Producer role was created in 2018 by re-allocating existing funds. The staff expansion to four positions remains low in relation to international export offices, but it did enable the team to consider training staff expertise upon other markets such as Asia and South America. This was acknowledged in the Sounds Australia submission to the 2018 Australian Parliament Inquiry> into the Australian Music Industry’, where it was argued that further resourcing would allow it:
to develop a boutique in-bound buyers program specifically targeted to sup- pox! Australia’s folk, jazz, contemporary classical, blues, roots and world music genres ... to host hand-picked international programmers and festival bookers as part of a curated VIP offering ... with a combination of existing local music festivals, regional performing venues, tourism associations and attractions, State governments and local councils across Australia.
(Sounds Australia, 2018a, p. 19)
The Sounds Australia team have made understandable choices about “core” and “secondary” markets based on available resources, the primary markets for Australian exports and the dominant locations of the showcase model. The above proposed strategy aligns with countries such as Brazil, who have in the past invested in in-bound programmes to promote artists and labels who may not directly align with existing international showcase circuits.
Longer debates also form part of decisions about how best to support artists and the suitability of grant funding to address long-term industry needs. Further resourcing of managers, both to assist their experiences in bringing acts to market, and in growing the number of experienced managers, was regarded as a problem across the Australian industiy. One industiy veteran argued that “There is a dearth of managers in Australia - it’s the hardest job outside of crew” (Morrison, 2018). Local resources are available to Australian managers for learning their craft (e.g. AAM/APRA AMCOS mentorship programmes; State programmes such as the Fast Track Fellowship and Music Passport grants through Creative Victoria). Fox- one interviewee:
It’s about this obsession with resourcing bands to go, rather than resourcing the maxxagers to have the business done. Another challenge for that is being able to be in the market longer than just coming thr ough on a tour or whatever, and actually immersing yourself wherever it is to build deep relationships and networks.
(Interview 18, 2018)
Another music manager interviewed believed that managers should be consulted more on the prioritisation of market choices. Greater emphasis upon both training and supporting managers for international engagement would reflect concurrent shifts in the funding structures of other nations. For example, the UK Music Managers Forum partners with Arts Council England in the Accelerator Programme for Music Managers, allowing managers to apply for up to £15,000 that includes training and mentoring components. This need was acknowledged in the Sounds Australia submission to the 2018 Australian Parliament Inquiry into the Australian Music Industry:
the addition of subsidised targeted trade missions for managers, with a concentration on relationship building, market education and demonstrations of the latest technology and service platforms, undertaken explicitly without artists involved, would allow managers to advance their own international networks and increase skill capacity.
(Sounds Australia, 2018a, p. 18)
A subsequent recommendation of the Inquiry was to “invest in initiatives aimed at training and supporting artists and industiy professionals to grow and develop their businesses”, which included the need to reinstate funding for the Australian Music Industiy Network's CONTROL2 programme for managers; and the Australia Council’s International Music Makers and Music Managers fund (Coimnonwealth of Australia, 2019, p. ix).