A Lifestyle Choice

Recently our member for education, Simon Birmingham, stated that creative courses are provided to “boost enrolments” or to “provide lifestyle choices but don’t lead to work.”

This has enraged a number of creative outlets. It leaves me confused and stunned at the path of recklessness this minister and current government have taken upon themselves to engage.

Let me begin with the confusion. The current government seemed to think that musicians on average made a cool $300,065 per year, according to the release of their budget website in July 2015, showing musicians some tax breaks they could make on purchasing new equipment.

But now, being a creative is apparently a choice of lifestyle, inferred being a poor choice. If we all earned above $100k, I’d say that would be a good choice!

This government knows that musicians and other creatives struggle to survive on performance based income, it’s why it would be highlighted now as something that doesn’t lead to “work”. I’m assuming anything that earns less than $100k per year is not “work” to this government, but I can assure you, creatives alike are spending countless hours of their time every week for little to no pay, and they are working very hard.

The problem is not that our choice of career doesn’t lead to a steady income. Several Australians do find ways to earn quite a bit of money from performance based work. The problem is the community that allows creatives to be underpaid.

Let’s take a trip to America, where musicians bring in close to $43bn every year. Not even discussing the television and movie industry. There are countless ways in which creatives and musicians alike can earn a very decent living in performance. The jobs that creatives do are respected monetarily in ways that all jobs are. I have a close friend that studied the same degree as myself at the Sydney Conservatorium of music, and moved to LA to start his own business composing film music. He has a place to live, a small family, and he is working hard at something he loves to earn his income. His lifestyle choice is just as professional and daring as any entrepreneur, would you not agree?

In Australia we’re entrenched in this odd culture where a plumber (as an example) that trains as an apprentice for years can fix plumbing in a matter of minutes for $200-$300, but an hour worth of music from a musician that trained years un-paid, is sometimes worth less than this. Both of these professions have to travel, both have to bring equipment that sometimes costs thousands to purchase, maintain and repair. The discrepancy boggles my mind at times.

My greatest personal example of job inequality is being asked to perform for a charity event, for free. I’d consider myself philanthropic. It’s not a focus, but I’ll help out in ways I can. I assumed the venue was being paid for, so I put this question to the organiser. Are the bar staff being asked to donate their time? Are security being asked to donate their time? Is the sound engineer being asked to donate his time? Resoundingly the answer was no. (And the questions weren’t asked because they were considered rude). So why are musicians exempt from this pretence that work should be paid accordingly?

The problem Minister Birmingham, is your addition to the already existing attitude towards creative professionals. If you don’t afford them the decency of a fair wage, the lifestyle becomes one of low income, needing to chase secondary jobs to support the career that these people selected, primarily out of passion. Invest heavily in the creative sector and encourage private companies to do so too, like the Australian film industry, and we could have a booming monetary success within our own country and globally.