Music inquiry and classical music

AMPAG’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the Australian music industry, summarised here, recommends a number of steps to secure the growth and sustainability of the classic music sector.

Music inquiry and classical music


It has been said that orchestras constitute the driving force behind a nation’s classical music landscape[1]. In Australia, the MPAs play a vital role in the national music ecology, particularly in relation to classical, chamber, symphonic and opera music, nurturing musical talent in here as well as collaborating with leading artists, conductors and composers nationally and internationally. They bring to life great works in the canon as well as perform and commission contemporary work, but their capacity to do so depends on their financial stability.

Of AMPAG’s 28 MPA members, 14 are music-based organisations consisting of six state symphony orchestras, three national chamber music organisations, four state and national opera companies, and Orchestra Victoria. Associate member, the Victorian Opera, will become a full member in 2019.  The remaining 14 MPA companies are theatre and dance organisations, but music is a core part of any dance performance, and opportunities for musicians, songwriters and composers also arise in theatre companies. The MPA framework provides a vital level of stability that is then leveraged to support not only the mainstage work but valuable artist development and audience access programs.

In 2017, the 14 music MPAs employed over 2,053 FTE, had a combined turnover of $318.6 million, reached 1, 677,153 through live performances and 444,734 through school performances/programs. Their workshops and master classes reached a combined total of 26,482 people; they reached over 22 million people through digital engagement, and distributed nearly 9000 DVDs and CDs.

The MPAs work tirelessly to maximise their impact and develop vibrant sustainable organisations. They play a significant role in building Australia’s national capacity to teach music in schools, in providing professional advancement through fellowships, mentorships and special training programs, as well as commissioning composers and brokering collaborations and partnerships nationally and internationally, advancing Australia’s creative output and recognition. Sustainability and growth are intrinsically linked to artists’ excellence and vibrancy.

Interconnections and collaboration between music styles and other parts of the arts ecology can generate artistic vibrancy and opportunities to reach new audiences.  For example:

  • West Australian Opera, for example, collaborated with the Victorian Opera and New Zealand Opera on a new opera by former Split Enz front man Tim Finn.
  • Kate Miller-Heidke, a successful pop singer and recording artist, is also a trained opera singer who has appeared in Opera Australia’s made-for-TV operaThe Divorce and co-wrote the award-winning musicalMuriel’s Wedding The Musicalcommissioned by Sydney Theatre Company.
  • Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu's final album, Djarimirri, presents traditional Yolngu songs and harmonised chants paired with orchestral arrangements by the ACO and SSO.
  • State symphony orchestras’ performances range from traditional greats to story time concerts for children and live performances of the blockbuster movie soundtracks as well as live collaborations between orchestras and iconic bands and performers, including Eskimo Joe, James Morrison, Beatboxer Tom Thum, Kate Noonan and Kate Ceberano.

MPA artist music development programs include:

  •  ACO Collective — the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s critically acclaimed regional touring and mentoring ensemble
  •  Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellowship Program
  •  Musica Viva’s Future Makers Initiative and the Hildegard Project
  • Opera Australia’s Young Artists program
  • educational partnership between Melbourne Conservatorium of Music  and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s  in the delivery of the Master Of Music (Orchestral Performance) degree
  • educational partnership between the University of Western Australia
  • West Australian Symphony Orchestra in the delivery of UWA’s Masters in Orchestral Performance

Touring contributes to growth of the music industry, but in-state, national regional and international touring are all limited by funding availability. International exchanges and collaborations contribute positively to the artistic vibrancy of the arts organisations and artists involved and build international ties and the international reputation of the Australian organisations and their artists. This in turn can grow audiences and performance opportunities. National and international collaboration also enables the creation of major works or performances that would be beyond the capacity of organisations to tackle alone.

The ABC is critical for both the recording and broadcasting of classical music and plays a key role in classic music access for regional Australia.

Educating the next generation of ‘elite’ artists and developing career pathways post tertiary education are important for classical music in Australia. It starts in schools where the MPAs provide performances and education workshops to inspire students and support arts learning. The majority of the MPAs’ education programs are not funded by government, with philanthropic support and sponsorship often determining the extent to which these programs can be delivered.

The MPAs rely on the stability of the MPA Framework, philanthropy, sponsorship and box office to present ambitious programs and to commission new major works, develop artists and to grow international reach.  

Key factors impacting the MPA's sustainability and growth of Australia’s Classic Music Sector:

  • MPA Framework
  • Philanthropy and Sponsorship support and red tape compliance
  • Box office earnings
  • Collaboration and development of new work
  • Development of the artist
  • Ability to attract elite talent
  • Touring and engagement in both metropolitan and regional communities and internationally.

AMPAG’s key recommendations to advance stability and growth are:

  • Strengthen the MPA Framework and the music MPAs within it to support sustainability
  • Increase the impact of philanthropy and sponsorship to major music organisations through a matched fund
  • Reduce red tape impacting the charity sector in line with recommendations set out in AMPAG’s submission to the Senate Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century
  • Amend the medium to long-term skills shortage skilled list (MLTSSL) by moving two job codes to the MLTSSL; Arts Administrator (139911) and Music Director (211212)
  • Stimulate artistic vibrancy and ambition through the development of original IP through a $20 million over four years seed fund for new innovative performing arts works of scale
  • Increase the music organisations’ capacity to tour and engage intra- and interstate with an increase in the Playing Australia program of $8 million shared across four years from 2019–20 to 2022–23
  • Monitor and ensure the current number of ABC classic music live recordings and proportion of Australian performances broadcast on Classical FM annually are at least maintained
  • Increase funding available within DFAT and at the Australia Council through an additional $5 million over four years to increase the capacity for significant and multiyear international performing arts touring and engagement.

The Committee Secretariat is in the process of uploading all the submission. Gohere to view

[1] Rudolph Tang, Symphony Services E-news 2015



Parliamentary Inquiries, Submissions