Australian music industry shows support for ‘Michael’s Rule’ touring initiative

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Australia’s live music industry, including trade associations and major organisations, has backed an initiative that will require international touring artists to include a local support act. 

‘Michael’s Rule’ was unveiled by Australia’s Association of Artist Managers (AAM) last week during the 2024 AAM Awards and announced properly on Friday.

The policy is named after late artist manager Michael McMartin, who passed away recently, and encompasses three main pillars: every international artist must include an Australian artist among their opening acts; the Australian artist must appear on the same stage as the touring performer; and the Australian artist must be announced at the same time as the tour, to fully benefit from marketing and promotion.

AAM’s members, which represent major artists such as Tame Impala, Vance Joy, Courtney Barnett, Sampa The Great and more, called on Australian concert promoters to reinstate ‘Michael’s Rule’.

Those from the likes of The Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC), The Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA), The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and the newly formed Music Australia have all supported the initiative. Concert promoters Michael Chugg, Danny Rogers and Ben Turnbull have also expressed their support for ‘Michael’s Rule’.

“Everybody knows that there are fewer Australian songs on the charts right now than at any time since the early 1960s. Local artists and their managers are also facing other historic challenges including a slew of recent festival cancellations”, said Maggie Collins, executive director of the AAM.

“These challenges have been recognised by governments across Australia in recent years. Promoters received significant public funding during the pandemic and they understandably continue to receive public support for some of their major events. We think it is only reasonable that, in return, they should ‘do their bit’ to help give Australian artists a leg up by the simple means of including at least one local act on every international tour.”

The ruling used to be in effect across the industry following lobbying by artist managers during the early 2000s. The AAM is now calling for this voluntary code to be brought back and more widely implemented.

Should promoters be unwilling to adopt the code, the AAM said it would call on the federal government to step in and make it a condition of issuing visas that international artists touring Australia must agree to comply.

For example, the AAM highlighted recent major tours from the likes of Taylor Swift, SZA and Niall Horan which did not feature any local talent.

“Every time this happens it is a major missed opportunity to allow local audiences to discover local artists,” said Alastair Burns and Jess Keely, AAM co-chairs. “In memory of Michael McMartin OAM we are therefore making this public request today to every major promoter and we eagerly await their reply. If they are unwilling to reinstate ‘Michael’s Rule’ as a voluntary code then we will be making formal representations to government to use the visa system instead.”