Published in The Music Network
We chat to ARIA CEO Dan Rosen about local content quotas, the best ways to tackle piracy, and how he will approach this year’s ARIA ceremony.
It’s been a tough couple of months since you arrived in the job. The ARIA awards was a ratings flop, and we learned that the Australian CD business dropped savagely. What are the big challenges and how will you tackle them?
On the PPCA side, we want to ensure we can grow the distribution pool. Last year, it reached $20 million, so it’s grown to a sizable amount of money that we can give back. We’ve got a few continuing challenges. One is to eliminate the 1% cap that commercial radio stations pay for recording artists. We’ve got a High Court challenge coming [May 10-12]. And we’re claiming that it is unconstitutional. That is an unjustified rate and there’s no reason why the government should set an artificial rate. The industry has been fighting that for a number of decades.
The other, more-publicised fight we’ve been having is with the fitness industry. We’re currently appealing that decision [the Federal Court overturned the Copyright Tribunal decision to increase copyright fees]. On the ARIA side, people are loving music as much as ever. We don’t have any problem with demand. And we still have great Australian artists coming through. The challenge is how to stop people doing the wrong thing in illegal piracy of music, and how to get people to do the right thing. We also have to educate people on the value of music.
So what is the plan for tackling piracy?
The AFACT v iiNet ruling didn’t exactly back the creative industries. The iiNet decision didn’t settle the issue. There’s something in there for everybody. And certainly it did show the ISPs that they do have liability [the Federal Court ruled that iiNet had not authorised its customers to infringe copyright online; AFACT is appealing in the High Court]. We need to make sure there are commercial models available in the digital world. We’ve set up an Australian Content Industry Group (ACIG), which brings together not just the music industry but also the book industry, software industry and computer games industry.
Piracy is not just a music industry problem. As creative industries, we’re working hard to come up with a commercial resolution with the ISPs and lobbing Government to make sure they’re aware of the problem; they can help us put pressure on the ISPs to come up with the solution.
Is it possible to ever win this battle with piracy?
Absolutely. We have to work on a solution to it, because it’s not justified. It’s directly impacting the industry, it’s directly impacting artists’ ability to make a living. It’s directly impacting labels’ ability to invest in the next crop of artists coming through. It’s a difficult challenge, but we’re not prepared to just lay over on it.
There’s a considerable amount of concern about content quotas not extending to digital radio.
Yes, that was unfortunate. There was a moratorium of three years. We need to work hard to make sure local content quotas are maintained in the digital environment.
Is there not more the biz can do together to push commercial radio to play more Aussie music?
We have to work hard for it. I look forward to working with Chuggi and the other promoters on how we can really make a dent on this one.
Michael Gudinski was quoted earlier this year as saying “irrelevant people” should be removed from the ARIAs format. How will you approach this year’s ceremony?
It’s an incredibly important year for the ARIAs. It’s the 25th year. It’s a momentous occasion and it gives us a great opportunity to really celebrate the Australian music industry. We’ve spent a lot of time consulting with the industry, with guys like Michael and other promoters, artists, labels and managers to learn what we can do and how we can continue to improve and evolve the awards.
My mission is really to put on an event we can all be proud of. In tennis we have a Grand Slam. It would be great to have the ARIAs as one of the big award shows that people have to come to and watch. We shouldn’t shy away from getting international acts down here. We are part of an international community. We’re a player, not a bit player. We’re top 10.