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SA musicians condemn “exploitative” new tourism campaign

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The SA Tourism Commission has taken advantage of “vulnerable” emerging artists by paying them just $150 to have their music featured in the new “Rewards Wonder” tourism campaign, local musicians say.

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Max McHenry – leader of Adelaide band False Idols – says he turned down an offer from Music SA and the SATC to feature his music in the commission’s five-day live stream campaign because the pay was too low.

The SATC launched its new Rewards Wonder campaign yesterday after awarding a $4.95 million contract to Melbourne-based advertising firm TBWA in April.

The campaign features a 60-second commercial featuring high-profile Adelaide musicians Rachel Leahcar and the Germein Sisters and a five-day “live stream activation” using 120 hours of continual footage set to 100 songs from local artists.

The SATC engaged state-funded music body Music SA to offer local musicians a tourism commission contract to have their music featured in the live stream component of the campaign.

In the contract – seen by InDaily – SATC outlined a $150 (plus GST) payment for a “non-exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide licence” to use and reproduce their music online and at public events.

An email sent by Music SA general manager Lisa Bishop on Wednesday to a group of South Australian musicians – also seen by InDaily – alleges advertising firm TBWA initially offered musicians no payment for their work.

“Music SA has worked extremely hard over the course of the last five days to get to a point where artists are being offered payment for their track as part of the Rewards Wonder campaign,” Bishop wrote.

“It started with an offer of zero payment from the advertising agency. So the commercial reality is that the market originally offered nothing.

“Music SA declined to facilitate any such offer and immediately spoke with the SA Tourism Commission. They agreed that they would like to pay artists.

“They put a stop to the advertising agency using tracks from over 15 artists who had donated their music to the campaign for free.”

In the email, Bishop said Music SA sought advice from music rights organisation APRA AMCOS to negotiate a payment deal.

She said she also sought feedback from people “at the highest level” on the offer.

“It (the payment) is certainly not perfect and we have been encouraging artists to seek further advice from the very helpful folk at APRA AMCOS,” she wrote.

But McHenry said Music SA should have gone further to negotiate a better deal for musicians.

He said the deal was “exploitative” to emerging musicians who struggled to maintain a steady income in the music industry. He also questioned Bishop’s claim that APRA AMCOS was consulted about the $150 payment.

In a statement to InDaily APRA AMCOS senior manager of national engagement Chris O’Neill confirmed that Bishop spoke to his organisation.

“Music SA does great work overall to champion South Australian songwriters and musicians,” he said. “However, in this case APRA AMCOS advised Music SA that we would not endorse this licence rate with our members.”

However, he emphasised that: “Ultimately our members have the right to decide if a specific licence deal provides value to their work and career.”

O’Neill also said there wasn’t an industry rate for sync licence deals.

McHenry said he was alarmed that Music SA – a government-funded body that he said targeted young musicians – was offering a payment as low as $150.

“It kind of says they don’t understand the landscape or what music is worth,” he said.

“The issue really is that musicians are generally quite economically vulnerable – they will be working doing manual labour, working behind bars, trying to finance their passion for music, because it’s so hard to come by a steady income in the industry.

“They don’t want to make a fuss, they don’t want to cause a scene or stir the pot because Adelaide is such a small town and the industry here is so small, and it just comes around in circles.

“You don’t want to be on someone’s wrong side as they could end up in the position of deciding your future in the music industry.”

McHenry said the $150 payment was “gallingly low” in comparison to a payment he received for an SA Tourism campaign in 2015, from which he earned $5000 per song as part of a 12-month contract.

He criticised the “in perpetuity” clause in SATC’s contract, saying it was “extremely rare” and “quite extraordinary” to have an artist’s music tied to a campaign or project for an unlimited time.

“Basically they have the rights to use the songs forever for just $150,” he said.

“I don’t think there is any malice on the part of anyone. I just think it’s … not understanding the appropriate way of what to pay musicians.”

But Bishop told InDaily today it was “quite standard” to have an in perpetuity clause in contracts.

“I have worked in the film industry and I have never seen a contract that has not included in perpetuity,” she said.

“I can say that I have spoken to other people high up in the industry over the past five days and they’ve said there is no red lights with this deal.”

Bishop could not confirm who those people were when questioned by InDaily.  

She said the $150 payment was negotiated between Music SA and SATC on the basis of “commercial reality”.

“It’s very rare that an emerging musician gets an opportunity like this to build their sound base and have the exposure through a campaign such as this.

“It’s not a perfect deal, but I think this is an enormous opportunity for emerging musicians.”

Bishop’s comments were supported by Music SA chair Anne Wiberg, who said Music SA had been working “very hard” to have South Australian musicians recognised in the SATC campaign.

“SATC have come through with an offer – obviously it’s nowhere near enough,” she said.

“We are just happy to have South Australian content in the campaign, which hasn’t occurred before.”

SA music industry leader Joe Hay told InDaily up to five musicians contacted by Music SA for the tourism campaign had yesterday contacted him to express their concern at the offered payment.

He said the musicians did not want to be named for fear of damaging their reputations in the SA music industry.

Hay said it was “ridiculous” that a large-scale campaign such as Rewards Wonder was offering musicians just $150.

“We are talking about 20-year-olds who are working so hard to get an audience base,” he said.

“Yes they would get exposure, but no one should have to sacrifice payment for that.

“This sets a precedent for other industries or companies to also offer such low payment.”

The SATC confirmed in a statement to InDaily that more than 50 local musicians would have their tracks played in the five-day live stream.

In response to the musicians’ concerns, a SATC spokesperson said musician involvement was “entirely voluntary.”

“Music SA put the offer out to artists to be a part of the project, and those who wanted to be featured signed up,” the spokesperson said.

“The objective is to promote the work of local talent to a wide consumer base.

“For further local exposure, a Spotify playlist called ‘State of Wonder’ will also be put out listing the artists and their tracks which is a great opportunity for exposure for local talent.”

The spokesperson said SATC was “very proud” of its role in giving emerging South Australian artists an opportunity to be heard by a broader audience.

“In fact, approximately 10 years ago it was an SATC track that helped get airplay for Germein when they were just starting out.”

InDaily attempted to contact advertising firm TBWA via email and repeated phone calls this morning, but we did not receive a response.

The SATC’s decision to award TBWA the advertising contract in April prompted criticism from both Tourism Minister David Ridgway and Premier Steven Marshall, who at the time questioned the choice of an interstate agency over a South Australian company.

But Ridgway yesterday deflected questions alluding to his previous dissatisfaction with the choice of TBWA, saying the end result from the SATC partnership would be “very encouraging” for South Australia.

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