One of Australia’s leading music bodies just had its funding cut, here’s why it matters

Photo by Katie Fairservice

The Australian music industry has been sent into somewhat of a tailspin with the announcement that Sounds Australia has failed to secure funding from the government as part of its Catalyst program beyond its current funding through to the end of 2016. But what does that actually mean for you, the music fan?

What is Sounds Australia?

Geographically, Australia is at the arse end of the world. Even with an internet-led musical landscape, it’s still pretty bloody tough for artists to get noticed on the international radar. And let’s get it out of the way now: it is important for Australian acts to get noticed internationally. We’re a small pond, relatively speaking, and opportunities are limited.

As described on the official site Sounds Australia is a joint initiative of the Australia Council and APRA AMCOS. Its aim is to provide “a cohesive and strategic platform to assist the Australian music industry access international business opportunities”, which basically means they help Aussie bands to promote their music overseas.

Sounds Australia runs a stack of events that promote local music on the worldstage including the famed include Aussie BBQ at SXSW and showcases at CMJ in New York and the The Great Escape in England. Acts that have recently played on these showcase lineups include City Calm Down, Gold Class, DZ Deathrays, Methyl Ethel, DMA’S, and Slum Sociable.

What is Catalyst funding?

Catalyst is the Australian Government’s funding program for the arts. It is budgeted to invest $12 million each year in projects and initiatives from arts and cultural organisations between 2016-2020. To date Catalyst has spent $23 million, or roughly half of its four-year budget, in just six months.

The major recipients of funding in the pre-election announcements were the Australian Ballet and the Hans Heysen Foundation in South Australia, which both received grants of $1 million.

Millie Millgate, Sounds Australia’s executive producer, has told triple j that they were shocked to miss out on the Catalyst funding. “To be honest… I certainly thought we’d demonstrated there’s a need and a value,” she says. “With the comparatively small amount of money that’s been invested in the initiative, I think the results and what’s been able to be achieved has been enormous, so yeah I did think we had a really good shot.”

So what now?

The decision not to fund Sounds Australia has been widely criticised with Courtney Barnett and bands including Boy and Bear, The Jezabels, The Temper Trap, and The Amity Affliction all calling on the government to . Several acts have also endorsed a petition that’s already amassed over 4000 signatures.

Head here to sign the petition and show your support for Australian music.