Background fronts Senate Inquiry

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More Australian artists are being heard and discovered in pubs, clubs, gyms, shopping complexes and even bowling centres, than they are on radio.

That’s according to evidence presented today to the Senate Inquiry examining the economic and cultural impact of Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services.

It also heard the method of revenue distribution needs to be updated to ensure Australian artists are paid when their music is played.

Nightlife Music, Australia’s largest music-tech company providing music services for business, told the inquiry with the record store all but disappeared, the public performance sector was the new shop front for music discovery in the digital age.

Nightlife CEO David O’Rourke told the inquiry the public performance space was integral to quotas, distributions and the broader infringement management discussion.

“Licensed background music companies play the music in every venue that Australians frequent,” he said.

“We are where Australians hear great, new home-grown music for the first time and in many cases, we are the ones that drive consumer choices when they go home.”

Highlighting the reach of the public performance sector, Mr O’Rourke said Nightlife alone played ten times more music than radio over a three-month period from June to August and featured almost four times as many Australian artists.

“Radio uses far less content than the public performance sector,” he said.

The inquiry heard a large portion of public performance revenue is returned to Australian artists based on radio play data.

But concerns were raised that of the estimated $100 million annually collected in public performance, which is double the revenue generated from radio broadcasts, payments to artists may not be accurate.

“Relying on radio plays as the basis for public performance distributions cannot give a clear view on Australian quotas nor help emerging Australian artists generate sustainable careers,” he said.

“The only way to ensure transparency is to reform the methods for distribution to use the data that is available right now from licensed providers, to ensure the right artist is paid when their music is played.

Mr O’Rourke urged Government policies needed updating to ensure transparency, prevent infringement and provide for accurate distribution of royalties.

The Inquiry was told the use of unlicensed music has become rampant in all sectors and needed redress to achieve local content quotas, with public performance also under threat, a key voice in the conversation.

“Consumer streaming services are fantastic for personal use, but they are not suited, licensed nor targeted for business use, and there is no one party responsible for policing infringement,” Mr O’Rourke said.

“The Australian music industry has a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to re-define the status quo.”

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