No more taxes on our music industry!

by on 26 October, 2016

Satyajeet Marar argues that the music industry should not be hit with another burdensome tax.

Originally published on Grapeshot: Macquarie University Student Publication

The recent changes to the touring visa system for foreign performers are designed to cut red tape by moving the process online. In theory, this should foster the live music scene in Australia by cutting through the bureaucracy concert organisers face when bringing in acts from overseas. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case since the costs for the new system are being recouped by hiking up visa fees and scrapping the group touring discount previously relied upon by organisers of festivals and other events bringing in multiple performers.

This is a huge problem. The festival scene is the heartbeat of live music in Australia today. Festivals bring in a large number of acts and provide an economically feasible way to see many of the acts you love at a single event – with heightened visa fees, come heightened ticket prices. Festivals also provide a great way for new acts to be discovered and this is something we desperately need in Australia where local acts gain exposure by performing on the same stage as big international ones. Festivals also provide opportunity for individual acts to run ‘side-shows’, fostering the live music scene as a whole and allowing you to see bands who might otherwise not consider making the considerable jump across the pond.

But it isn’t just concert goers and musicians who will be hurt by the changes. The Australian performing Arts industry includes performers as well as backstage crews, security detail, lighting and sound guys, tech wizards.. the unsung heroes. When touring costs more, these are the battlers who lose work and with some of the developed world’s least friendly laws applying to live music in cities, it is a hit they don’t need.

On the plus side, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The changes actually benefit those bringing out smaller bands/individual acts to Australia for periods less than three months since a nomination fee previously paid by promoters will be scrapped. But when it comes to the harm caused by hurting the festival scene – a scene already suffering from heavy-handed, cost-imposing regulations about drug and security policy, this benefit doesn’t provide a lot of comfort.

In recent years, festivals including Soundwave and Stereosonic have folded as they are no longer economically viable. The Macq Liberal Club believes that the government’s priority should be reducing costs and red tape for organisers rather than increasing them.

The Turnbull government has rightly made technology and innovation one of its top priorities and this reform may be well intended. But as lovers of freedom, pragmatism, business efficacy and extremely dank bass drops, the Macq Liberal Club disagrees with the government’s decision. Changes to technology and processes are meant to make it easier, not harder for local and international industry to operate in Australia and for our consumers to enjoy the finer things in life such as heavy riffs and guitar solos. In this regard, the visa fee hike for touring acts falls flat.

Satyajeet Marar is a Macquarie University Law student currently interning for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.

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