SCENE PLAYERS: Music Grants, and Developing a Sustainable Music Scene

This is the first article of a new project called SCENE PLAYERS, a series of opinion and feature articles that Radar has commissioned from local music identities and advocates. We hope this series will act as a forum to broadcast important opinions and thoughts, and stimulate debate and thought about where Wollongong stands as a music community, what we’re doing well and what/how/where we can improve. 

If you’re interested in contributing an article, email radar.illawarra@gmail.com. All submissions welcome!

WORDS BY Rob Carr

The GFC has made times pretty tight in Wollongong. The rate at which local jobs are getting cut by the day is almost unprecedented. The music scene will feel the impact of this, if it has not begun to already. People are now spending less time enjoying live music and buying CDs. Venues are struggling financially, but its not just the reality of less and less playing opportunities that may impact bands. When times are tight, recording companies, promoters and bands themselves are less likely to spend money on quality recordings, promotion for shows and touring expenses. Even in the D.I.Y. cheap-and-digital age, we still need decent musical equipment, software for recordings, and a decent artist to design a CD cover. We still need quality production and promotion to pull crowds in.

Maybe if musicians had more control over some of these things their chances of success would increase. Maybe there is a way for bands to make more of an income from recording and performing music. What if we could, say, stop a venue from shutting down, or make sure a venue can expand or renovate when it needs to? What if there was a way of increasing the quality of recording without extra costs for musicians or the studio owners? What if there was a way to pay a decent web designer to create and maintain your band’s website? What if there was a way to subsidise promotional and touring costs?

Funding is available for most of these things – to prop up venues when they are struggling, to fund better recordings, to subsidise tours, to subsidise promoters that will allow cheaper ticket prices and get more punters through the door, and so on. The only thing standing in the way is filling out the paper work. Bodies like Music NSW, APRA, Wollongong Council, Prime Minister’s touring program and companies in the private sector all offer funding opportunities.

In the past many Wollongong musicians recognised the need to make the music scene more sustainable and took the initiative to do the leg work, fill out the paperwork and get on with supporting the scene. With a broad community ethos, scene advocates sought to gain funding to assist the scene as a whole. Advocates promoted equity and long-term strategies; they promoted the scene as a whole rather than pockets within. The scene has thrived from the involvement of countless team players over the years, as well as the involvement of youth workers keen to drive live music culture further. Many Gong musos today got their first gig at an event funded by the Wollongong Music Round Table, at one of our local skate parks, youth centres or in a band comps.

Advocacy for the music scene has tended to have long-term goals in mind. Think about the different cogs in a clock or pieces of a watch, and apply this to the Wollongong music scene: venues, scene media, graphic artists, music suppliers/stores, recording studios, promoters, event organisers and P.A. suppliers. We could even add affiliated aspects such as transport for audiences, local government (DAs, noise restrictions etc.), police (who work with venue owners) and the like.

All of these things need to be working together for the clock to function properly, but a community perspective is vital. If venues falter, then bands have less playing opportunities. If a recording studio closes down or is struggling to keep costs low for bands, then bands will have to travel farther away and spend more of their own money. If venues close or have heavy restrictions placed on them, then touring bands will stop coming to Wollongong and local bands miss out on networks and playing opportunities.

Each part of the scene has a function to play; each musician, scene media, venue, music promoter, funding body and local music store has an important place. If funding is able to reach each of these aspects of the music scene, then the scene will be better equipped to sustain itself.

If you are interested in getting some grants to prop up your music project, generally there are usually three types of schemes: private business, government and public philanthropic. In some cases you can apply as an individual or as a small business, but at other times you need to be part of an NGO which is Incorporated. Private companies such as the IMB and Bluescope have community funding schemes so be sure to do some Googling on whatever business grants you’d like to check out.

The most common grant schemes are funded by government or government appointed bodies. If you keen on grants for touring, events and music business activities more generally, check out some of these links.

APRA: http://www.apra-amcos.com.au/musiccreators/grantscompetitions.aspx

Music NSW: http://www.musicnsw.com/2012/02/aca-grant-opportunities/.

For all ages and youth events, apply to Indent: http://www.indent.net.au/grants/.

Regional Arts NSW: http://www.regionalartsnsw.com.au/grants/grants.html.

Wollongong Council’s Cultural Services Grants will re-open later in 2012, having just closed: http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/services/funding/pages/default.aspx.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Regional Touring Grants closes on 1st June 2012: http://www.arts.gov.au/topics/regional-touring-arts/playing-australia.

A new Wollongong-based philanthropic initiative called Culture Bank, which aims to be up and running by mid-later 2012, will announce application process soon so stay tuned for that as well. The scheme seems to have a “no strings” element too which will be highly beneficial to local musos.

Wollongong has no shortage of passionate businesses keen to support the scene. We see these pop up every time a band comp is organised – notable examples include Haworths, Music Farmers and Main Street. Partnerships are vital, but we also need partnerships to expand – from local music business and venues to funding bodies like Music NSW, APRA, Music Council of Australia, Music in Communities Network and of course Wollongong Council.

Advocacy is about the future; its about building our scene in a way that is sustainable. It’s about passing on Wollongong’s music culture to the next generation. It is about the next generation of musos taking the stage for years to come.

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