Here's How Arts Funding Cuts Will Hurt Australia's Cultural Export Opportunities

In this guest post by Brisbane-based musician and DJ Sampology, he explains how the world will miss out and Australia will miss out on the INXS or Crowded House.

Sampology

When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Last weekend I was inspired to see so many great musical acts at Splendour in the Grass, and just as inspired to realise how many of them were Australian.

The music industry in Australia is constantly changing and right now we are in a terrific place with a huge amount of talent rising up in a really healthy way with everyone supporting each other. Coming back from Splendour gave me a nudge to write down some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head since I learnt about the Australia Council’s huge budget cuts.

I remember at a family dinner at my parents house recently, I did my usual steal-a-few-cans-of-tuna thing that had become a bit of a regular in-joke between my parents and I. (Plus it saves me money!) My sister commented to me “You’re travelling the world playing gigs, you don’t need to steal tuna, you’ve got plenty of money.”

It made me realise that she thought that my overseas gigs meant that I had a healthy disposable income. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a 100% independent artist, every single cost for me to do what I do as an artist is paid for by me/my business. That’s the studio gear and software I need to make music and create my AV content and shows; studio hire when I’m working in cities outside of my home town of Brisbane or when I want to work in a studio that has certain hardware I don’t have in my home studio; the mastering costs for all of the music I release; the artwork for both my releases and my shows; my website design and ongoing costs; merchandise costs; productions costs for my physical (vinyl) releases; photography costs; videography costs; editing costs; then finally the costs to let people know what I’m up to – that includes the cost of a publicist, advertising and digital marketing.

For each show, each tour, each release, the costs really do stack up. I’m by no means complaining, I love being my own boss and organising my affairs together with my manager and the great teams around me supporting my plans – my booking agents and publicity people. This is what I want to do with my life, so I’m very grateful to be able to survive as an artist.

But the reality is that once all of these costs are factored into everything that I do, there’s very little left to keep pushing what I’m doing on an international level, given the nature of being a 100% independent artist.

I’ve been fortunate enough to previously have received funding support by the way of grants from Australia Council, which has enabled me to enact some of my plans to take what I do to international markets.

I know I’m not the only Australian artist who has received support like this, and I’m sure that any other contemporary Australian artist who’s received similar funding would be equally as thankful for this support. There’s simply no way I could have funded my own development on my home shores as well as starting to work hard to develop markets internationally without this support.

When you’re starting to work professionally in international markets there are huge costs associated with not only touring but also with marketing and promotion, and there’s simply no feasible way I could have funded this on my own.

It saddens me to see the recent funding cuts the government intend to make to Australia Council budgets. Seeing tens of millions of dollars cut from this cultural sector is sure to have a huge affect on artists like me, who simply would not be able to attempt to properly develop new international markets.

I fear that in future many artists who have real opportunities internationally may have to decline them due to lack of funding to take advantage of special opportunities.

I want to say thank you to Australia Council for their support of me. I work incredibly hard to keep driving my craft and to keep taking what I do to new audiences to give them something in music and a live show that they haven’t experienced before, and Australian Council has made this possible on an international level. They’ve helped me travel to the US on multiple occasions for showcases and then actual touring.

I really feel for the next crop of Australian artists who deserve to showcase what they are doing overseas. With the massive amount of funding gone from Australia Council’s budget many of these artist won’t have the chance to continue their growth outside Australia.

More than ever right now it’s super important that if you like an local artist you support them in any way possible. Buy tickets to their show, if you like their merch, buy it, fund their kickstarter campaign, share their music to your friends.

Trust me, the more support you give an artist the more they will give back as most artists I know reinvest most of their income back into their art.

Sampology

Now have a listen to Samplogy’s music.

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