Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Australia’s Senior Managers Present ‘Michael’s Rule’ to Help Promote Local Music

By Michael May 3, 2024

Australia’s music community has reached a “crisis” point, as myriad factors contribute to the closure of grassroots venues and popular festivals, and a generation of homegrown artists are essentially overlooked and locked out of the sales charts.

Artist managers are proposing a solution.

Announced Friday (May 3), the Association of Artist Managers (AAM) unveils “Michael’s Rule,” a policy that would ensure at least one local artist would be among the support acts on every international tour of these parts.

The campaign bears the name of Michael McMartin, the late, great artist manager who guided the career of Hoodoo Gurus for more than 40 years, and is broken down into three main tenets: every international artist must include an Australian artist among their opening acts; the Australian artist must appear on the same stage at the international artist using reasonable sound and lighting; and the Australian artist must be announced at the same time as the tour so that they benefit from all the marketing and promotion.

The Rule came from a discussion amongst senior members of the artist management fraternity in the lead-in to the 2024 AAM Awards in Sydney, and is born out of the frustration at the limited options for the discoverability of artists in Australia.

These challenges have been recognized by governments across Australia in recent years, notes Maggie Collins, executive director of the AAM, the trade body that represents more than 300 artist managers.

“Promoters received significant public funding during the pandemic and they understandably continue to receive public support for some of their major events,” she explains in a statement. “We think it is only reasonable that, in return, they should ‘do their bit’ to help give Australian artists a leg up by the simple means of including at least one local act on every international tour.”

Collins used the platform of the 2024 AAM Awards to present “Michael’s Rule.”

“If there’s one overarching issue that managers have been flagging time and time again, it is this: we need more Australians loving more Australian music. We have a major discoverability problem and if we don’t solve this issue, which is both economical and cultural,” she explained to a full house at Sydney’s Crowbar.

Had “Michael’s Rule” existed for major international tours, such as Taylor Swift’s seven-date The Eras Tour, which visited Sydney and Melbourne in 2023, “how many more fans could we have introduced to a local artist and started creating our own megastar of the future.”

The support act rule had once been a widely accepted industry code after lobbying by artist managers in the early 2000s. With the launch of “Michael’s Rule,” a voluntary code, senior artist managers call for its reintroduction “at this time of crisis for Australian music,” reads a statement from AAM.

If promoters are not willing to agree, the trade body insists it make formal representations for federal government to step in and make it a condition of issuing visas that international artists touring Australia must comply.

Labels body ARIA welcomes “Michael’s Rule.” “Doing whatever we can to get our local artists in front of new audiences is the most important issue facing our local industry,” says ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd in a separate media release, “and as such the Michael’s Rule is a fantastic initiative, which we are confident can be implemented in a way that doesn’t impact the viability of international touring.”

ARIA’s latest year-end charts spelled out the problem. Just four Australian albums cracked the top 100 last year, led by INXS hits collection The Very Best (at No. 58), and only three Australian-made singles impacted the top 100, none of which were released in 2023. The best-placed Australian track was The Kid Laroi’s 2021 collaboration with Justin Bieber, “Stay.”

Other initiatives, including “looking to broaden venues like sports stadiums to multi-use facilities in NSW is a really important step to increase the availability of entertainment for everyone outside of sport,” adds Herd, “and continue to increase opportunities to see local artists alongside global icons.”

The unveiling of the industry code closely follows the announcement that Brisbane’s The Zoo, one of the country’s longest-operating grassroots music venues, would close its doors due to crushing financial pressures, and a string of music festivals, including Splendour in the Grass, would skip this year – or close for good.

By Michael

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