Earlier this year the Abbott government released their latest budget, which diverted $104 million from the Australia Council (who oversee arts grants and initiatives) to the Arts Ministry (to establish a new ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’) and caused a wave of outrage across the arts sector.
However, it wasn’t as disastrously out of touch as their latest move – the launch of a new web site for small businesses in Australia.
On the one hand, the site is great as it explains the budget in simpler terms, and how it will affect small businesses.
On the other hand, as Triple J and SBS presenter Marc Fennell pointed out, the examples the site uses are hilariously out of touch.
If an individual selects ‘Arts and Recreation Services’ as their industry, and says they will purchase an asset (like a photographer buying a new camera, for example, or a musician buying a PA) it brings up the example of ‘Stephanie’:
Stephanie performs in a band that she runs as a small sole trader. Stephanie’s taxable income in 2015-16 is $300,065. In 2015-16, Stephanie will purchase an electric guitar costing $2,400. Stephanie will receive a tax cut of $1,000. Stephanie will be able to deduct the full $2,400 cost of the electric guitar leaving her $960 better off in the first year. In addition, any other assets that are purchased for a price below $20,000 will be eligible for immediate deductibility. Altogether, Stephanie will pay $1,960 less in tax in 2015-16.
… Is Stephanie’s real name Delta Goodrem?
According to musicianwages.com the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra pays it’s musicians $143,000 a year plus benefits so that’s getting kind of close to the mark, but a wedding band would earn around $52,000 a year (based on 26 weddings at $2,000 per event), a Broadway musician would be looking at a wage of around $62,395.20 a year (based on 36 weeks x 7 shows a week x $247.60 per show) and a cruise ship musician could expect around $18,200 a year (based on $65/day x 7 days a week x 40 weeks a year). Even converted to Australian dollars, we haven’t hit the $300,000 mark.
When you consider a 2013 report by News Limited claimed Aussie MPs were among the highest-paid in the world, with federal backbenchers earning three times the national average fulltime wage at $195,130. In fact, the only person earning the $300,000 pay packet was Tony Abbott – the Prime Minister himself – at $360,990.
So the government thinks the average Aussie muso earns almost as much as our PM?
Let’s look at the results of a recent survey by the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN) for a reality check, shall we?
According to AMIN, of the 125 members surveyed the majoring identified as 25-34 year old males living in metropolitan Victoria who identify as a songwriter or musician.
Of those who earned an income from performing, most earned $50-200 per month before tax, or $200-500 per month before tax. Most earned $1,000-5,000 per month before tax from other hobbies, or paid employment.
The majority surveyed were employed full time, with only 32 per cent accepting cash for performances citing reasons such as, “easier, no tax” and, “leaves no paper trail.”
As far as we can tell, unless Stephanie is a federal backbencher by day and playing a wedding every weekend of the year, the government has very little understanding of the current state of the artistic economy.
They’re not completely out of touch in every industry, though: ‘Gary’ the bakery owner will earn $35,460 taxable income for the 2015-16 financial year.
Time to start learning how to play bass, Gazza.