Music and Local Government: Framework

by Alex Masso, November 2012

The recommendations were primarily based around working to support advocacy for music in Local Government. We recognise that this differs from advocacy to other levels of government, where the focus might be on a single department, inquiry, consultation process or Minister.

We know that community groups, artists, local council staff, councillors, and other stakeholders all advocate at some point to Local Government. I have spoken to a Mayor and Councillors who need to ‘win over’ the rest of their Council, I have met council bureaucrats who needs to convince their councillors and colleagues, I have met artists who need to make their case to council staff and councillors, and I have certainly met arts advocates who would love nothing more than councils across Australia to support arts & culture in their community.

Also, advocating to Councils need not just be about allocating more money for the arts; they themselves may need more financial support (eg. from Federal or State Government), or they may need to leverage their resources through partnerships with their community or other organisations. It seems that advocacy in this space is multi-layered and multi-directional and that we need to support those who want to support music in their community, whether they be Councillors, council staff, Councils as a whole, or members of the community.

Where do we start?

The following areas give us a framework for Music and Local Government.

1) Consultation & Policy

Council policies affect music and musicians in a range of ways – from noise & environmental regulations, DA approvals, use of public space, to parking. Some work is being done in this area, including by John Wardle, it is particularly relevant for venue-based live music. The word ‘consultation’ has been chosen because this is often the best path towards good policy. It may mean an open, formal community consultation process, it may mean Planning officials consulting with their Cultural Services colleagues, it may mean a dialogue among key live music stakeholders and Council.

For more detail, read John Wardle's article "Local Government and Live Music: Friend or Foe?"

2) Festivals

Festivals are a major part of musical activity in communities, they take many forms, and they have various types of council involvement.   Important issues here are how Councils support festivals and how they balance tourism benefits and grassroots community involvement, large ‘flagship’ events and smaller, community-run events, and indeed how they balance bringing artists to their community and supporting those already in their community.

3) Partnering & Leveraging

Council resources can be used in a range of ways and certainly there are many approaches to this across the hundreds of Local Government Areas in Australia.  Our discussion has led us not only to consider grants provided by Councils to their communities but the various ways in which Council financial, human and physical resources can support musical life in the community.

4) Participation

This goes to the heart of the Music in Communities Network's purpose and relates to Council activities which support active participation in music.

The discussion here focused on grants although this isn't the only issue. Community groups seek support from Councils and anecdotally we know they are often frustrated with the process, Councils on the other hand need to be equitable, see that they are maximising public money, and that Council receives some recognition for its arts funding.

Local Government is absolutely the level of government most inclined, and relied upon, to support community participatory arts practise. In the music sector we have Federal and State Government policies and funding to support professional practise, professional organisations, to some extent music education, and other activities. There are thousands of community music groups across Australia including orchestras, brass and concert bands, choirs, pipe bands, drumming groups, ukulele groups, and more, and a wide range of ways in which councils support these groups.

This certainly includes Community Cultural Development (CCD) practise, a major part of the arts in local communities, but we need to take a broader view of participatory music making which includes a wide range of community-based music activities.

5) Infrastructure*

This is a key concern for Local Government: the physical spaces which it builds and manages - including those facilities that support cultural activities – performing arts centres, libraries, town halls, community centres, parks and other public spaces, and more. These spaces are often used by community music groups for rehearsals, workshops and performances.

The issues vary from council to council. Some are planning to build a new facility and need to ensure that it is appropriate for the needs of the community (including, we think, for the musical community). Some have facilities already and the community would benefit from access to it, affordable fees, suitable equipment, and organisational support from council. Others are proposing to build or renovate new facilities and may need the support of the arts community to advocate for capital funding.   There are a whole range of ways in which public infrastructure can support music making and probably just as many ways in which this can present a challenge.

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*This was not discussed specifically at the Assembly but has been included as it is such a major part of Local Government support for music.