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Anonymous Coalition Of Bands Say BIGSOUND Has Failed Brisbane Artists

Written by Greg Moskovitch on July 19, 2014

An anonymous coalition purportedly made up of Brisbane-based musicians have issued an open letter criticising a lack of Queensland bands on this year’s BIGSOUND conference lineup. The open letter is addressed to Queensland’s Minister For The Arts Ian Walker and was sent to the media.

As The Music reports, the group, dubbing themselves Brisbane Musicians United and keeping their identities secret “out of concern regarding any negative impact from this communication,” ask that the Minister investigate the issue ahead of BIGSOUND’s launch this September. They also claim that booker Nick O’Byrne and former producer Graham Ashton have a bias against QLD bands.

According to the group’s figures, 27 Queensland acts have been booked for BIGSOUND 2014, while Victoria have 40, New South Wales 31, Western Australia 11, and South Australia nine, with one each for Tasmania, the ACT, and the Northern Territory. There are also four New Zealand acts.

“What we want to know is why Qld State Government funds are supporting Big Sound when the amount of Qld music artists involved for this next series is approx 21%,” the group write. “We are left wondering is Big Sound all about QMusic’s interest in staging their own music ‘festival’ event and thus the lack of Qld inclusions? If so then surely this should be treated in that regard,” they continue.

“If not then a minimum quota of Qld contributions imposed nearing at least the 50% mark or even 40% needs to be applied.” BIGSOUND is run by Queensland’s peak music industry body, QMusic, who receive funding from Arts Queensland and other, national bodies, including funds specifically designated for BIGSOUND, which is billed as a national event presented to global industry figures.

According to APRA figures quoted by The Music, just 12 percent of Australia-New Zealand musicians reside in Queensland, with 24.1 percent coming from NSW and 22.3 percent from Victoria. However, there is a slightly higher percentage of artists from Queensland registered on Triple J Unearthed, a hub for the sort of emerging acts BIGSOUND promotes, at 18 percent.

Read Brisbane Musicians United’s full open letter below.

Gallery: BIGSOUND 2013, Day 1 (Part 1) – Brisbane 11/09/13

Photos by Barry Schipplock

Brisbane Musicians United Open Letter To Ian Walker

It is with the utmost sincerity we wish to bring the matter of Big Sound to your urgent attention.

Our Brisbane based bands recently received notifications of the failure of our Big Sound applications via the same form letter we have each received over the past few years we have put in showcase submissions. We understand that there are a vast amount of applications involved but to experience this over and over, seeing the same names regularly involved led some of us to take a serious look at the showcase lineup revealing some alarming statistics as detailed below.

For the current year just announced on the 2014 Big Sound, out of the 128 artists involved there are 27 QLD artists versus 94 interstate and 7 international artists (including 4 from NZ). For the 2013 Big Sound lineup, out of 121 artists involved there were 31 QLD artists versus 81 interstate artists and 9 internationals (including 2 from NZ). This seems rather negligent in the face of things and we feel needs urgent evaluation as to what is going on with this Qld funded conference.

What we want to know is why Qld State Government funds are supporting Big Sound when the amount of Qld music artists involved for this next series is approx 21%. Surely the idea of the financial support for this is to assist in generating greater opportunities for Qld music artists? Why are so few local artists not considered for inclusion when so much money is possibly spent on securing international and national music industry personnel to attend the conference as prospective partners and then have mainly interstate music artists more available for their consideration than the strong music community that exists here? How is this “focused on promoting the artistic value, cultural worth and commercial potential of Queensland music” as it states clearly on the QMusic website?

This appears to suggest a mismanagement not only of the charter of Big Sound in driving “professional development for the Brisbane music industry” but also a failure on the part of the QMusic administration in overseering what is going on relative to these stated aims. Maybe even a lack of monitoring by Arts Qld as to the level of Qld bands involved?

We are left wondering is Big Sound all about QMusic’s interest in staging their own music ‘festival’ event and thus the lack of Qld inclusions? If so then surely this should be treated in that regard or if not then a minimum quota of Qld contributions imposed nearing at least the 50% mark or even 40% needs to be applied. There are similar music conferences held annually in NSW, VIC and WA and I can’t imagine they would allow such a gross inbalance of their local artist component surely?

Or is this situation due to the current Executive Programmer being from Victoria and thus not overly focused on lineup that is about being focused on QLD music artists. As the state by state breakdown attests below Victorian artists comprise the largest component of 40 in total. Possibly, but then last year was programmed by a Brisbane based programmer (as part of a collaborative handover) and the difference is minimal. There is a 25% QLD inclusion and again the predominance by a smaller margin being NSW based artists with VIC artists still slightly more with 33. Although it is worth noting that 3 of the QLD artists had actually relocated to VIC so if viewed in that regard shifts the figures to 28 QLD and 36 VIC artists. This appears to be a trend although possibly slightly disadvantaged this year by the presence of a Melbourne based programmer?

All of this has provoked us to look deeper and are now undertaking an analysis of 2012 – 2010 lineups involved. Without knowing details about specific relationships behind the scenes between artists and organisers, another noticeable aspect we are going to look into further is repeat inclusions from 2013. There are 9 repeat artists from last year announced on this years lineup. 4 of them from QLD of which on initial information available seem to be associated directly with either QMusic or the previous programmer raising questions regarding the impartiality of the selection process.

So we ask you the Honourable Qld Minister for the Arts… what can be done about this?

Why has this been allowed to operate in this manner with apparently no self-reflection or post-analysis in regard to what is being achieved both in relation to charter and content? Surely the basic statistics revealed in our minor search suggests this is a gross oversight and needs some urgent attention to correct this on behalf of all Queensland music artists.

The music industry has become a much more difficult situation for a band to get established what with all the changes over the past 10 years. Since the demise of the Brisbane Livid Festival spots on any other music festivals operating in the Brisbane vicinity are minimal and generally target towards those that already have direct relationships. Any opportunity, especially ones funded by our own State Government, to assist the development of local music artists is welcomed with open and excited arms. Why are so many then denied this opportunity? The inclusion of a substantial amount of them should be the priority here. We have numerous education facilities with significant contemporary music programs. We should be promoting our own artists and providing opportunities where suitable that generate experience and confidence as well increased chances of success.

We ask that you take immediate action to investigate this matter further before this 2014 event takes place. This can’t be allowed to continue in the manner it currently is especially if the majority of financial support maintaining it is sourced from Qld State Government funding.

Yours sincerely,

Brisbane Musicians United

(Out of concern regarding any negative impact from this communication and it not being a personal attack in any regard we have chosen to retain our identity through this collective representative entity).

2014 BIG SOUND SHOWCASE LIST

QLD – 27 (includes 4 repeat artists from 2013)
NSW – 31 (includes 1 repeat artist from 2013)
VIC – 40 (includes 1 repeat artist from 2013)
SA – 9 (includes 2 repeat artists from 2013)
TAS – 1
WA – 11
NT – 1 (repeat artist from 2013)
ACT – 1
NZ – 4
INTERNATIONAL – 3 (includes 1 ex Bris relocated to USA 5 years ago as noted on website)

2013 BIG SOUND SHOWCASE LIST

QLD – 31 (although 3 based in Melbourne)
VIC – 33
NSW – 35
SA – 3
TAS – 1
WA – 6
NT – 1 (same artist selected as this year)
ACT – 2
NZ – 2
INTERNATIONAL – 7 mainly from Canada.

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