Music Victoria’s free membership drive is vitally important in the fight for government support

Music Victoria’s free membership drive is vitally important in the fight for government support

Ceres at The Corner
Words by Tom Parker and Kate Streader

Until June 30, you are eligible to a free 12-month Music Victoria membership.

The state’s peak body for contemporary music, Music Victoria (MV), has been under the pump in what has been an incredibly difficult period for the music industry.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we spoke to Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan about the systemic impact social restrictions would impose. When a gig can’t go ahead because punters aren’t allowed to be within four square metres of each other think of the ripple effect that creates.

Who depends on live music for work? Is it just the musicians up on stage? What about the bartenders who work at the venue, or the sound engineers who make the music happen? How about the PA hire companies, the agents and promoters, even the publishing companies or community radio?

In a 2017 Census conducted by Music Victoria, a live show in a small Melbourne venue observed by the body employed an estimated 3,696 musicians, 1,765 DJs, 1,059 production staff, 2,118 security personnel and 7,255 venue staff on the one night. That’s almost 16,000 employees.

Aside from the ‘accommodation and food services’ sector, between March 14 and May 2, 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that ‘arts and recreation services’ had been the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with the industry experiencing a 19 per cent drop in jobs.

So that’s the state of play – with the situation reaching a critical stage, MV is doing their best to help out those in need. In doing so, they recently announced that until June 30, they will be offering free 12-month memberships across the board.

MV offers 11 membership options within its supportive canon. These include memberships for music lovers (non-musicians who are supporters of music), musicians, a ‘Music Industry Professional’ membership that encompasses managers, booking agents, venue bookers, publicists, journalists, radio hosts and more, as well as memberships for small business and non-profit organisations. It is only the weightier platinum, council and patron memberships that are not included in the free membership drive.

For Music Victoria General Manager Dale Packard, it was important that the waiving of membership fees was inclusive and all-encompassing.

“It was really about realising that everyone is struggling financially at the moment and it’s been something we’ve been wanting to offer for some time,” Packard says. “It seemed to be a pretty clear cut situation where a large proportion of our members were struggling to pay their rent, let alone pay a membership fee to Music Victoria, so we wanted to make sure that no one missed out.

“We also wanted to make sure that we were engaging with and speaking to as large amount of people as possible so by making memberships free it allows a lot more people to participate in the events we run and provide their voice to the work we’re doing.”

You don’t even have to play an instrument, run a venue, operate a soundboard or manage a band to be eligible for a free 12-month membership, even those glued to the industry from a more passive but equally as important standpoint are eligible. These are the ‘music lovers’ of the industry who buy tickets to gigs, purchase merch and buy records from local artists.

“The ‘music lover’ category is there for people who want to support music and perhaps provide their voice so when we’re lobbying government and we can say we’ve got 5,000 members who we represent [for example], the greater the collective voice and the more power [we have] to influence some of those packages that are announced,” Packard continues.

The ability to influence advocacy efforts is a vitally important aspect of Music Victoria’s memberships. Sign up for an MV membership and you immediately become a constituent of the industry’s collective voice. Whenever Music Victoria proposes a support package to the government, you could be the difference in its success.

If you need any more encouragement think back to 2010 when the Save Live Australia’s Music (SLAM) Rally went down. Melbourne’s live music scene was at the brink of mass closure when the government imposed strict liquor licensing regulations which deemed late-night venues ‘high-risk’ and therefore requiring CCTV, security guards and increased insurance premiums.

For many small live music venues, these costs simply weren’t viable; among them, The Tote announced it would be closing its doors as a result of the legislation.

At the time, Victoria was the only Australian state or territory not represented by an independent not-for-profit contemporary music peak body.

But when 20,000 music lovers took to the streets to protest these policies, the winds changed. Since that fateful day in 2010, Music Victoria has been instituted while Creative Victoria’s Music Works program received $22.2 million in funding from the Victorian government in order to support musicians, music industry professionals and organisations through a series of grants, mentoring and development programs, and initiatives.

Outside of that, there was legislative change ensuring development protections for venues, the re-instating of all-ages gigs, and recognition of live music as a viable and vital economic industry.

Music Victoria needs your help to protect Victoria’s music industry. Sign up for one of their free 12-month memberships now via the Music Victoria website.

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