It’s a new year for Australian musicians, but there’s still a need for change. - MusicNSW

Drum Column (January 14th-19th) written by MusicNSW’s Emily Blackburn. 

There have been murmurs circulating around the Labor camps that they are looking to increase the current Newstart allowance and this could have major implications within the Australian music industry.

According to the Music Victoria ‘Barriers to Career Progression’ study from 2011, around 13% of musicians are currently regarded as unemployed – 7.7% higher than the national average. Even more strikingly – musicians within an emerging band are 43% more likely to be receiving Centrelink payments over any other group!

But it isn’t just the Newstart increase that could make an impression. Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has voiced the opinion that the unemployed should be assessed on a more individual basis.

“We treat all unemployed people the same regardless of their ability or disability, regardless of their educational background, or even regardless of their geographical location,” Mr. Fitzgibbon told ABC News.

Being a musician is currently not treated as a career path, if receiving Centrelink benefits. Yet, the ‘Barriers to Career Progression’ study also cites that active musicians spend 34.38 hours per week on career related tasks. If Mr. Fitzgibbon is to find his approach taken up, there may be the opportunity for the recognition of this work to finally surface.

According to a study commissioned by APRA|AMCOS entitled ‘The economic contribution of the venue-based live music industry in Australia’, the estimated annual earnings of a live musician are $12,241. An amount that is even smaller than the $246 weekly amount that can be received on Newstart.

There is a great disparity between attitudes towards traditional career paths and those within the music industry, and with these suggestions for change hitting the headlines, now is the time for us to reflect on how these modifications can really assist those who require it the most.

While the discussion is happening, let your local MP’s know that being a musician is a career path too. Send through examples of the hours you work compared to your income, your experiences with Centrelink or any other way you have been impacted by these regulations.

To send a letter to Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, send an email to or get in touch with your local MP (