In about 3-4 weeks, the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (AMRAP) will be forced to shut-up shop and close down it’s services to distribute the music of Australian recording artists to community radio stations across the country. The closure of such an important service comes, not because of any identified failings of the project, or lack of success in meetings its goals and aims – but an oversight that moved AMRAP out of one ministerial portfolio into another, which then dropped it’s funding. AMRAP originally belonged to Senator Stephen Conroy’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) and through reasons unknown to AMRAP, at the time of the budget, it was hand-balled into the Arts portfolio, and again, without AMRAP being informed- had its funding axed.
Since 2008, AMRAP has helped to create and foster a unique environment of support for Australian music. It has helped community radio stations around the nation increase their Australian content from 25% to 37% – in the meantime, distributing 90,000+ song files and 70,000 CDs to stations around the country. Additionally, it has trained over 900 presenters (mostly volunteers) to promote and support Australian music through AMRAP, and hosted over 150 workshops at community radio stations to encourage Australian music airplay.
To say that AMRAP is a valuable service for musicians, and broadcasters across the country would be a bold understatement. Even Senator Conroy, while flip-flopping on announcing any actual funding restoration to the project, can admit that AMRAP is a hugely important and valued tool. During a Senate meeting in October, Greens Senator Ludlum pushed Senator Conroy on what the funding cuts meant, and if Conroy in principle, supported Australian music and community radio. Senator Conroy replied, “We are conscious that it is a very worthy program… As you well know- you have long been a supporter, as have I- we do believe it is a very important forum, particularly in the new digital world. We are working through the challenges at the moment. If we are able to make an announcement we will make it as early as we can.”
3 months later, AMRAP is still waiting on that announcement, and in the meantime, are now faced with the inevitability that the program will not return in the New Year.
If the funding to AMRAP is not restored, it becomes incredibly difficult for artists, their managers and publicists to distribute their music to stations around the country in a financially viable manner. They also lose the ability to target their music to specific presenters and niche genre shows, without doing huge amounts of leg-work to create these databases for themselves. The radio stations also lose too – instead of having a centralised point of contact to receive new music; it becomes all too-easy for presenters (who are largely volunteers with limited time and particularly in regional and rural Australia, limited access to find new content) to revert to playing international pop-artists, classic hits and established Australian artists. We will certainly see a decline in the percentage of local content being played across Australia, and most likely, a decrease in the diversity and quality of local music. And given that commercial radio is currently lobbying to have their local content quotas reduced and also eradicated for digital stations – we should all care about the whittling away of our own cultural output.
Australians have been creating and performing excellent, world-class and highly accessible music for years. It is time we stood up for that, and acknowledged that we do not suffer from the kind of cultural self-loathing that would see us destroy our own ability to create and play music from our own backyard.
To help save AMRAP, you can do any of the following:
ASK Senator Conroy to restore the funding to cuts to AMRAP, by giving his office a call on 03 9650 1188 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
TWEET your support using the phrase “Senator Conroy & @DBCDEgov must fix @AMRAPsairit funding! Community Radio deserves access to #AusMusic”
ADD a comment to the AMRAP Facebook page about how AMRAP has supported you, and the effects it will have if the program closes. www.facebook.com/amrapsairit
Drum Column December
by Kirsty Brown