Music Industry

17 September 2014


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:25 ): I move:

That this council—

1.Affirms the importance of the music industry to South Australia;

2.Commends the establishment of the Music Development Office and the Music Industry Council;

3.Notes the cuts to the VET music programs previously offered at Noarlunga TAFE and currently offered at the University of Adelaide; and

4.Urges timely action to ensure a breadth and depth of entry level professional development vocational opportunities are secured from 2015 and into the future.

I am happy to move this motion standing in my name affirming the importance of the music industry to our state and, indeed, commending the government on its actions to not only establish the Music Development Office but also the Music Industry Council and to be willing to work with that council. Certainly, it is a good week for South Australian music and the music industry.

Yesterday, we saw at Adelaide University Paul Kelly receive an honorary doctorate. We should be justly proud of his achievements and claim them as our own. Even though perhaps his song Adelaide is not necessarily the best reflection on our fair capital city, I am sure that it speaks to many of us in many ways. It is also a wonderful time where we are seeing the likes of Sia Furler leading the world and being an outstanding success. In these past weeks, we have seen the fruits start to come from the work of the live music Thinker in Residence.

I am very pleased that the Hon. John Gazzola is in the chamber; he has been a great supporter of not only live music but also music in general. A former staff member of mine referring to John Gazzola as the Ayatollah of rock’n’roll is possibly not parliamentary, but it is certainly meant to be complimentary.

This has been a great time for celebration. I attended the Sounds X South Australia launch on the weekend, where the Premier spoke and, indeed, we had the live music Thinker in Residence return to our state to see some of his work. I do thank him also for his kind words to me personally in his recognising that it was indeed a Greens amendment to the gaming fund that has substantially injected funds into the music industry. I hope that in no small part they have gone to some of the great things that we are seeing come out in this state at the moment.

We saw on Saturday night a showcase of the Stigwood Fellows, those artists who have received awards. Indeed, one of the members of the band Echo and the Empress received a Stigwood Fellowship. I had heard a rumour on the grapevine that that band, having gone to Glastonbury and having started to climb that festival circuit, was indeed thinking of folding and going their separate ways. But she said to me, ‘No, the Stigwood Fellowship means that I think that we’re going to go on and we’re going to keep trying as a band.’

That is a band that we should be justly proud of and, indeed, we should be supporting, and this is an industry we should be supporting. It is an industry of entrepreneurs. It is an industry that is a creative industry. It is the way of South Australia’s future. We cannot continue to think that the manufacturing sector, in the ways of the past, will be our future and that, indeed, the creative industries must be invested in, which is why I draw the attention of this council to the music course cuts in VET education.

Last year, Noarlunga TAFE students received an email; in fact, they all received exactly the same email addressed to somebody called Simon. Nobody is quite sure who the student Simon is. Certainly Emily Retsas received an email addressed to Simon, as did her fellow students, informing that their courses in music at Noarlunga TAFE were to be cut and also advising those students that they could go elsewhere.

The options that were given to them included Salisbury, which as many people will be aware is not geographically close to Noarlunga. They were also told that they could go to Adelaide University. Currently there is a cert III and a cert IV at Adelaide University, and a diploma, which is often seen as a bridging course or a bridging pathway into the Con, the Elder Conservatorium there.

What Emily has now found, to her dismay, is that not only was it too late to apply to study at either Salisbury or Adelaide Uni, but next year, should she wish to continue her studies at Adelaide University, the cert III, the cert IV and the diploma are no longer going to be offered. I understand that the Skills for All funding that the state government provides to Adelaide University will not continue to be offered. I do not understand the politics of it.

Certainly, I have heard many versions and many stories. What I do know is that those students in South Australia will not have an option of those certificate and diploma courses in music at Adelaide University from 2015. In fact, it looks like Salisbury TAFE will continue to be the only option at that level. There are Music SA courses; they are at a lesser level, if you like; and there are university courses; they are at a higher level.

Particularly for working class students, country students or students who have gone to schools where they have not had the opportunity to study music, that means that the pathways have been cut off. That is why I held a public meeting at the Jade Monkey, an iconic live music institution in this town, particularly as it was threatened with being closed down forever and indeed was the subject of a very long battle to be re-established.

That public meeting at the Jade Monkey was an eye-opener. I invited minister Gago to that public meeting, and I also cc’d that invitation to the Minister for the Arts, Jack Snelling. I understand that neither was able to attend. I know that people cannot be in all places at all times, but I certainly thought I would come and share, not only with those ministers but with members of this council, some of the goings-on at that meeting.

I asked local councillor for the Norwood, Payneham and St Peters council, Sophia MacRae, to play a little bit of saxophone to open the meeting. I thought it would be a nice touch. Zac, who is the manager of the Jade Monkey, came up and said, ‘Oh, Tammy, you didn’t tell me you were going to have somebody play a live instrument in the band room. That means I have to close all of the glass doors. Now, if she wants to play out in the courtyard in the street, we don’t have to close a single door, but if she’s going to play here on the stage without enormous amplification, we have to shut all of the glass doors.’

That is an indication that, yet again, liquor licensing is impacting on live music in this state in a way that it should not. However, Sophia, Zac and I plodded on. Sophia not only played some music to start the meeting, but she then went on to say a few words. She said:

Music is not an easy career, it is not an easy business, but it is so important because we are humans, we’re not just rational creatures needing facts and figures, we are emotional creatures, we need music, and a city without music is not a place where I want to be, or where any of us want to be.

If we lose these training opportunities, we are going to lose the opportunity for people to be musicians in our town and to contribute to it.

She was followed by Jim Glasser, who is currently an Adelaide University student at the Elder Conservatorium. Jim has actually rallied his fellow students and been petitioning the university to keep these courses going. Jim spoke about why he as a student enrolled in the cert IV at Noarlunga. He said:

Having only decided to pursue music half way through yr 12 I didn’t have the grounding in theoretical music that most people have when they go through yr 12 music so I enrolled in the Noarlunga cert 4.

He is now at Adelaide University, and he is now in several bands, one of which is now at the Coffee Pot on a Thursday night, where they have a residency, he was not ashamed to tell us. He is working his way through that course and is a working musician. Without that cert IV, he would not be in that situation.

He is concerned because the Elder Conservatorium has previously been a prestigious music school and should continue to be, but many who were there on that day noted that if we lose these courses from the Elder Conservatorium we are losing around a third of what is currently on offer there. The critical mass that you have and the connections that you make in that context may indeed be more valuable than simply these courses as stand-alone ones.

Emily Retsas, who I mentioned before (who is not Simon, as I also mentioned before), said that she had applied to attend Noarlunga and do the certificate IV because every musician she met who was touring internationally, playing with bands, working full-time, where music was their full-time job, had actually said to her, ‘You need to go to Noarlunga. The lecturers there are amazing; they will get you the skills you need to be a working musician so you can get the type of opportunities that we currently have.’ She went on to say that she is looking to apply not just interstate, but overseas.

She has told me that she has spent many years saying, ‘No, no, stay in Adelaide,’ to her peers, ‘Let’s make Adelaide work.’ But she now advises them, ‘I am looking overseas for my opportunities. Perhaps you should look interstate or overseas,’ because, indeed, the opportunities aren’t going to be in Adelaide in the future. She says that she is looking to a great music school in Los Angeles where in fact John Butler went and got in. She says that if you want to be involved in the contemporary music scene there are not the options there for you at the moment. She has gone back to her day job this year and next year she will seriously be reconsidering whether or not she stays in our state.

Further speakers went on to talk about how they would never have been able to get into the Elder Conservatorium had there not been bridging paths through the TAFE and through those other pathways. In particular, they pointed out that they came from working class backgrounds and so they did not have the privilege of private music lessons and they had not been to the schools where music was a focus. There are a few public schools in this state where there is a music focus, but they are few and far between.

I certainly say to not only members of this council but members of this government, when I commend you for this investment in this industry—and it is a multi-billion dollar industry, let’s make no mistake—yes, it is fun, yes, it is enjoyable, but there is big money here to be made, and this creates entrepreneurs. When we do not have jobs, perhaps we should be looking at creating entrepreneurs, and music is certainly a great way to do it. I say to this government: if you are going to see the loss of those courses from 2015 at Adelaide University—the certificate III, certificate IV and the diploma—and last year you presided over the cuts to those music offerings at Noarlunga, then how can you get up with a straight face and launch something like Sounds x South Australia and say that you are investing in this industry.

I commend the work, and the Music Development Office is a great step forward. Treating music as an industry and taking it out of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and putting it in the state development jurisdiction is another step forward. The investment and support for Musitec is a great, fantastic new initiative with a global focus and another great step forward. The St Paul’s Creative Centre is an iconic, brilliant stroke in the city of churches, to take an old church and turn it into a music creative hub. It is fantastic work, but where are the people going to come from in the future to fill these positions and to create these opportunities and to be the Sia Furlers of the future to the Paul Kellys of the future to the Hilltop Hoods of the future? Where are they going to be coming from if we cut this very industry off at the knees?

I urge those members of parliament who have the power to revisit this issue where we have seen the Adelaide University withdraw these courses. Perhaps there is no way that we can restore them at Adelaide University. I am certainly open to whatever options we can put on the table to solve this problem before it becomes even bigger. In 2015, these opportunities will be severely diminished, and I believe that we will see the results in coming decades in the diminution of this industry.

With those few words, I look forward to working with all members of this parliament on this issue and I hope that this has raised this and put it on the radar. I was certainly told by some staffers in the past weeks when I have been trying to have conversations with them about this issue that it was just not on the radar, that it just was not creating a noise. Well, as we know, musicians certainly create a noise, and I am hoping that that sound will be a beautiful one, not a discordant one.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S. Lee.

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