|Issue No 2||26 February 1999|
VSU To Stop The Music
By Peter Lewis
The Howard Government's push for Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) will decimate the local live music scene, key industry players have warned.
They are concerned that the attack on student unions, following fast on the changes to copyright laws which have exposed the industry to cheap foreign imports and pirates, will sound the death knell for many local acts.
That's because union-funded activity officers would be among the first positions to go if legislation, introduced into Parliament this week by Education Minister David Kemp, passes through the Senate.
This would mean no campus venues, no concerts and no band comps, leaving a massive hole in the local industry and putting a massive downer on university life.
Bands like The Whitlams, the Hoodoo Gurus, You Am I and Frenzl Rhomb would never had got a start if it weren't for a vibrant college circuit, Independent Managers Forum director Michael McMartin told Workers Online.
"The universities are a source of education and a culture -- the government taking away funding for activities, not just rock n' roll but all activities is a major blow for developing artists.
"To cut off their principle source of funding flies in the face of the national desire for a diverse and rich culture. It suggests that the members of government pursuing this course either had a very bad time at university or had such a good time they are suffering from collective memory loss." (ED: as if)
The change will also make it harder for emerging bands to develop a following, particularly as many off-campus venues are closing down or falling prey to the pokie machine.
"The band I managed (the Hoodoo Gurus) built their market on national campus tours," McMartin says.
"Universities, along with JJJ, define the alternative market. It looks like the government is going after both.
"At a time when the recording industry is under such attack by the federal government and we thought they couldn't do anything more to harm us, boy, have they found a way. This could well be the coup de-grace.
Whitlams manager Kim Thomas, agrees the college circuit is vital for young bands trying to establish a career.
"Over 50 per cent of the entire Whitlams shows prior to their breaking last year was on university campuses and over 70 per cent of their entire revenue was from the campuses,"
"Without the commitment of the university activity officers towards breaking new talent The Whitlams would still be playing the Sando -- except that's closed too."
Sydney University Union general manager Tom O'Sullivan said the government was acting at a time when many campuses were improving their facilities - a new space has recently opened at Macquarie, the Roundhouse is being developed at UNSW and Manning is about to rebuilt at Sydney.
O'Sullivan said the first thing to go would be these types of extensions, followed quickly by the activity officers who make things happen there.
"For universities, it is not a commercial proposition to put on events like the band comp -- which is free for students.
"We have been committed to these types of cultural activities, but VSU would change the rules: an economic rationalist would never put on a band comp.
O'Sullivan said the Australasian Campuses Union Managers Association, of which he is a member, is already lobbying against the changes and have met with Brian Harradine, the Democrats and the Greens.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005