Musicians Australia


Musicians Australia is a member-led initiative to build a better, fairer and more sustainable music industry.

As the new union for working musicians, Musicians Australia will define the sensible floor of professional standards and behavior; set a guide to fair, reliable fees; and partner with industry to rebuild confidence in our live music industry.

  • Music is everywhere and part of everyone’s life. It’s an essential part of family and community life, but it’s also a multi-million dollar industry.

    Music generates activity across the economy: in entertainment performances, productions, broadcasts and streaming; in music services and products; and in education, caring, health and other personal and community services.

    However, while the music industry is hugely productive – contributing $6 billion to the economy each year, and supporting 65,000 Australian jobs, including about 6000 full-time musicians – the majority of musicians do not make a living from it.

    The recording industry is now essentially broken as an income source for most musicians and the live performance sector is chronically unreliable, with declining numbers of venues, low fees and uncertain contracting arrangements.

    Our lives are filled with music and it is a very profitable business but the music industry doesn’t function to support and reward musicians.

    Musicians Australia aims to make the business of music the business of working musicians.

    As the union of working musicians, Musicians Australia will define the sensible floor of professional standards and behaviour; set a guide to fair, reliable fees; and partner with industry to rebuild confidence in our live music industry.

  • Most musicians struggle to make a living from making music.

    Average incomes for musicians are below the national average wage with most musicians needing to work two or more jobs to make ends meet. After preparation time and related expenses, musicians receive a fraction of the minimum hourly rate when they perform. To make matters worse, gigs are often not paid at all, cancelled with little notice, and performance contracts broken, without consequences.

    The need to have a second or third job to survive means that musicians’ careers are broken and interrupted. Having spent decades honing their craft, often including years of expensive post-secondary education, the reality of an uncertain and under-regulated industry marginalises musicians from the economic mainstream.

    In the middle of 2018, MEAA undertook research to get a clear, fact-based picture of the state of the music industry.

    The research paints a picture of musicians’ jobs as insecure and extremely low paid.

    Respondents to our survey reported that about a quarter of their gigs are unpaid, with 35% saying that they have been paid less than the agreed fee at least 10% of the time.

    While APRA AMCOS report an increase in licence fee collection from streaming services between 2016 and 2018 of a touch under 200%, with collections of $81.9 million in 2018, returns to musicians from broadcasting, streaming, publishing and sales account for only 12% of their income.

    The average annual income of respondents – from all income sources, not just music – is $55,000, significantly lower than the workforce average. More than a third – 37% – earn $30,000 or less.

    Respondents receive on average 50% of their income from music, excluding teaching.

    The majority of respondents were highly experienced, with an average of 25 years in the industry, with more than three-quarters having post-secondary school qualifications.

    They are expert, experienced and highly skilled people, playing music because they love it – but more often than living well below average living standards.

    These are just some of the key indicators of an industry in crisis.

  • The problems with the industry are too complex and entrenched for simple ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions.

    Fixing musicians’ income means fixing the way contracts work and making sure performance agreements are reliable and can be enforced.

    It means getting the settings right so that we can grow opportunities for musicians and encourage the best venues to keep investing, and this means making sure they can operate where the audiences and musicians live. To do this we’ll need better planning and licensing regulation, from all levels of government.

    Getting any of this done requires stability and a set of stable standards defining the rules musicians will stand by and require of each other, business and the community. Musicians need to know they can count on fair fees when they play and that they won’t end up being undercut, having gigs cancelled at short notice or money not paid at all.

    We need an industry that respects the time it takes to prepare, set up and travel to gigs. We need the best venues and promoters to be recognised for how they treat musicians and we need rogue operators taken out of the industry.

    Fair standards for live performance will encourage more musicians to keep up with their craft. It will promote diversity and music that truly reflects the richness of modern Australia.

    Fair standards for live performance will bring people together, marginalise anti-social behaviour and boost our entertainment and night time economies.

    An industry code of conduct will set fair fees for performances and ensure that musicians will not undercut one another.

    Fair fees will allow venues to prosper and provide a reliable base for musicians, with specific guidelines for “open mic nights”, first-timers and charity fundraising.

    Under the code, performance fees will account for load in and load out, set up, and sound checks, and fair payments will extend to all support acts and festival performances.

    It will establish a standard, enforceable, performance fee agreement, in plain English that doesn’t require legal expertise to understand.

    Importantly, disputes will be dealt with in a no-cost jurisdiction, where lawyers are not required, such as an industrial or consumer tribunal.

    And of course our code will contain principles and guidelines for preventing and dealing with harassment, discrimination, bullying and anti-social behaviour.

  • As the voice for Australia’s working musicians, with a plan to make our industry fair and sustainable, we need to be loud and organised.

    That’s why we have developed a new, cost-effective membership, including a range of benefits for working musicians.

    Membership of Musicians Australia costs just $181.50 a year, or $3.49 a week. And for that amount, you also get public liability and professional liability insurance. Join online here.

    Connect with Musicians Australia on Facebook here.