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Global Streaming versus the Local Music Economy.

Addressing the major social, cultural and environmental challenges of our time will require a global shift in thinking. Music can, and does, play a pivotal role in this.

As a songwriter I know first-hand how powerful music is as a means of connecting people. It bridges linguistic and cultural divides and is a vehicle for identity and expression. I also know how powerful it is as a political, economic and cultural opportunity.

The bottom line truly is about the bottom line — when healthy, the music ecosystem generates rich social, cultural and economic benefits. When allowed to sink into malaise, as I would argue our current industry has, we miss out on vital opportunities to place ourselves centrally on the global stage as a creative powerhouse, and on the arts tourism and local economic benefits that come from that status.

A recent report, The Mastering of a Music City, by the global music industry body, IFPI, and its affiliate Music Canada, investigates the value of music to cities as both a cultural and economic product. Its overall conclusions find that a vibrant music economy drives value for cities in several important ways.

“It fuels job creation, economic growth, tourism development and artistic growth, and strengthens a city’s brand. A strong music community also attracts highly skilled young workers in all sectors for whom quality of life is a priority. This in turn attracts business investment and innovation.”

There is no dearth of research and reports quantifying the value of music to local economies. The Nashville Music Industry Report noted that the music industry helped create and sustain more than 56,000 local jobs and contributed USD 5.5 billion to the local economy. In Melbourne, the 2012 census found that the live music sector alone generated over AUD 1 billion in spending and supported the equivalent of 116,000 annual full-time jobs. UK Music estimated that in 2013 music directly contributed GBP 3.8 billion to the UK economy and directly employed 111,000 people. Music Cities trade on the marketing value their cultural economies — and so they should.

What we do know, is that urban renewal for liveability is not just about the provision of connected infrastructure and technology — it is about creating cities for people — vibrant cities that attract and retain thought leaders, cultural innovators, artists and visionaries. To do this, cities must create an enabling environment for these minds and drive their attraction and retention with real, viable revenue generation opportunities.

The plain truth — artists who cannot earn a living in a place will not make that place their home.

A recurring criticism of Perth by local artists is that they have to leave Western Australia in order to grow their music career. This applies across genres — from classical and jazz, to contemporary music. The phrase ‘artistic exodus’ might best describe this phenomenon.

Artists seeking a financially feasible and creatively fulfilling career simply don’t consider Perth a viable option, and look to larger, more innovative, liveable cities, like Melbourne, to foster their growth.

As 20–30-year veterans of the music industry in Perth, The Pack’s Founders have seen this phenomenon denude our creative capital with colleagues and artists moving interstate or overseas. We have also observed average minimum performance fees for live music stagnate, if not decline over that time.

Earning a living as an artist has never been easy, but it shouldn’t be getting more difficult as technology evolves. As Robert Levine, past executive editor of Billboard, noted on the impact of streaming on revenue generation for artists:

“It has never been easier to distribute a creative work. At the same time, it’s never been harder to get paid for it.”

This being true, ignorance of these impacts is not an approach that the industry can afford to take at this time.

There is a lack of transparent, strategic measurement and monitoring of Australian cities’ cultural and social data to activate impactful investment in the arts, and particularly in the music industry. There is also a lack of understanding around the impact of global streaming services on local music economies. These two things need to be acknowledged, and addressed, in concert.

Confronting these challenges will enable our cities to better position themselves to engage with local arts in meaningful ways, in the places and spaces where they are best received, and to build a cultural legacy that Australia can not only enjoy, but financially and socially value through location based arts tourism as a vital part of a post mining-boom, knowledge-based economy.

If you’d like to know more about how The Pack Australia is working towards addressing the impacts of global streaming on local music communities, download our White Paper here.

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Without continuing investment, the social capital earned by the music industry begins to appear a valueless commodity. The insipid creep of music streaming platforms has already devalued the nature of music content from the consumer‘s perspective, an outcome which is surely reflected in the reduction of sales and net revenue and net profit generated from the industry.

My record & CD collection offers me 10% of the music I have saved on my digital device, yet cost me 100 times more to purchase. I see value in the physical commodity, but it competes with the convenience and cost savings of digital products. Too many consumers have grown up with the lived experience of music being cheap, or free and now…

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