MUSIC NEWS. Few women in jazz. Connecting Australians: The National Arts Participation Survey. Screen industry is doing OK. Expand regional cities, get a $378b return.


Few women in jazz

Cat Hope has an article in The Conversation – ‘Why is there so little space for women in jazz music?’ – noting the low representation of women in jazz here and in the USA. It’s one of those pervasive problems that perpetuate because, for instance, there are only a small number of female role models to break the stereotype. Read more detail c

What can be done? Suggestions from Cat Hope: ‘But we can all support women by going to their concerts, buying their albums, and acknowledging the issues they face. Tertiary institutions could update the canon they teach to ensure more women are represented. Educators in primary and secondary school could be mindful of the perceptions that may exist around jazz as “men’s music”.

Exception: Sandy Evans rules

‘Women can be featured playing instruments in promotional materials for jazz events. All musicians can encourage women to participate, rather than wait for them to ask. And, when programming events, a little extra time looking for women musicians may result in exciting finds.

‘Some new research into this issue, such as that done on the gender mix in the Australian screen industry, could help shape future funding policy. Challenging unconscious bias is the first step for everyone involved in jazz. Australian music culture will be the richer for it.’

Comment. Firstly, there are exceptions. Secondly, well, it’s not just jazz. Women instrumentalists are scarce throughout contemporary music genres. The only genre in which women are well represented is classical music performance, except for conductors. In classical music it has been possible to watch a steady advance of women through the upper strings and woodwinds and then into brass and the larger instruments and now, into conducting. Why is this? One can speculate but the introduction of blind auditions (the auditionee plays from behind a screen and cannot be seen by the audition panel) was a factor.

Connecting Australians: The National Arts Participation Survey

The Australia Council for the Arts has released the findings from the third National Arts Participation Survey. The findings confirm the significant and increasing personal value Australians place on the impact of the arts, and the ways in which they make our communities stronger and more cohesive.

The evidence demonstrates the impact of the arts across nearly every facet of society, making it a valuable resource to inform policy, programs and investment well beyond the arts sector.

Key Research Findings:

  • 98% of Australians engage with the arts and since the 2013 survey there is significantly increased recognition of their positive impact on our wellbeing and ability to develop new ideas.
  • More Australians now believe the arts reflect Australia’s cultural diversity and that they shape and express Australian identity.
  • 3 in 4 Australians believe the arts are an important way to get a different perspective on a topic or issue.
  • 7 million Australians experienced First Nations arts last year, double the number since the first survey in 2009. 4 in 5 believe they are an important part of Australia’s culture.
  • Three quarters of us think the arts are an important part of the education of every Australian and are proud when Australian artists do well overseas.
  • Younger Australians (15-24 years) create and experience the arts at the highest rates, especially online; they are big festival and First Nations arts attenders; and over half engage with the arts as part of their cultural background.
  • Online and live arts experiences both remain important to Australians, creating greater access and new experiences rather than one replacing the other.
  • 8 in 10 people engage with the arts online, increasing from 7 in 10 in 2013, and 5 in 10 in 2009 – with music streaming the largest contributor to this growth. Online activity is creating new opportunities to collaborate and share, and connecting artists and audiences directly.
  • 9 million Australians attended an arts festival in 2016. Arts festivals are diverse and accessible, bringing local communities together in immersive experiences and encouraging regional and international tourism.
  • This survey saw a substantial increase in the number of Australians attending theatre or dance from 2013 (42% to 53%), as well as increases for visual arts and craft, and new data which shows 1 in 5 Australians attend literary events such as book clubs, talks and festivals.
  • The downward trend in the proportion of Australia who donate money generally is not reflected in arts giving. 1 in 4 Australians give time or money to the arts reflecting their value in our lives.

For more information and to explore interactive dashboards visit the Australia Council website.

Comment: Some Australia Council officials respond to statistics showing that there are those who are not enthusiastic about the arts by saying (again) that we must demystify the arts. People think that the arts are just the ballet and orchestras and opera. That’s why they don’t support the arts.

Well yes, the arts include much more than that. But how far does this inclusion go?

It’s good for the politics if it can be claimed that practically everyone is an arts enthusiast, so there is some temptation to broaden the definition.

But do we count as music listeners everyone who has been in a supermarket or an elevator or passed a busker? Is all music art? If not, which music isn’t?

If every possible instance of public music is art, is not the government funding body responsible for giving them financial support or at least inviting them to apply for it?

For the Australia Council, what is in and what is out?

Screen industry is doing OK

The ABS has released a statistical survey of the financial value of Australian film, television and digital games activity for 2015-16.

It shows that the screen sector is stable at $12.1billion; employment in the screen sector increased a little to 31,000.

The value of free to air commercial TV dropped significantly from $4.6b to $3.9b. TV drama fell from 632 hours to 497 hours, and TV documentaries fell from 566 to444 hours.

Production of online content increased dramatically from the year of the previous survey, 2011-12 – by 17 times to $94m.

Comment. Given these data, what would be the appropriate priorities for government regulation and support? The revenue of free-to-air television stations is in decline and while commercial stations must meet Australian content quotas, their financial ability to do so is decreased and they must compete with online alternatives that do not have to meet such requirements. Should the FTA stations receive support for production or should attention shift to production for online services which, though relatively small, are growing rapidly?

There is talk of requiring providers of video on demand – including foreign services – to give a minimum amount of ‘shelf space’ to Australian productions. But this was a proposition that was rejected by the Howard government; would it be considered by the Turnbull government?

Bust the regional city myths and look beyond the ‘big 5’ for a $378b return

Leonie Pearson writes in The Conversation: ‘Investing in regional cities’ economic performance makes good sense. Contrary to popular opinion, new research out today shows regional cities generate national economic growth and jobs at the same rate as big metropolitan cities. They are worthy of economic investment in their own right – not just on social and equity grounds.


‘However, for regional cities to capture their potential A$378 billion output to 2031, immediate action is needed. Success will see regional cities in 2031 produce twice as much as all the new economy industries produce in today’s metropolitan cities.

‘Drawing on lessons from the UK, the collaborative work by the Regional Australia Institute and the UK Centre for Cities spotlights criteria and data all Australian cities can use to help get themselves investment-ready.’

Comment. Why is this issue relevant in a music magazine?

Well, musicians whose livelihood depends upon live performance need a large population base from which to draw a sufficient audience. One can speculate that adding a million people to the Melbourne or Sydney population would do less to offer opportunities for musicians than adding a million people to Townsville or Newcastle or Canberra or Geelong. With such an expansion, any one of them could sustain many more, and more diverse, small venues, some resident live theatre companies, an orchestra or even an opera company. After all, it is not so long since Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane were of that size and they all did so. Larger regional cities also would increase the viability of performing arts touring by reducing the distances between host cities.

Current planning (perhaps ‘planning’ overstates it) seems to envisage populations of 10 million for Sydney and Melbourne. Why is that in any way a good idea?

Cut back on immigration.

Or redistribute those 10 million extra people and produce ten or twenty new sizeable cities!


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