As part of its new brand positioning and associated marketing and advertising activity, American Express is investing a total of A$1m into the music scene in Australia. Mohamed Dabo finds out more

In April, American Express unveiled Powerful Backing: Don’t Do Business / Don’t Live Life Without It, a new global brand platform and campaign that reflects how people live and work.

The campaign celebrates the new reality that life and business are increasingly interconnected, and the unique role American Express can have in supporting people.

New research commissioned by American Express has examined the impact of Covid-19 on the Australian music industry, and what the sector needs to survive. The insights have been used to support the launch of the A$1m ($0.73m) American Express Music Backers Fund, the latest evolution of the 2018-19 American Express Music Backers Programme.

Music in Australia 

Australia is a country rich in cultural and geographic diversity – a richness that is embodied in its music, which embraces all genres and styles.

Overwhelmingly, Australians (91%) believe the music industry is an important contributor to the national economy and a key part of Australian culture. However, fewer than a third (28%) are willing to spend more, or travel farther, to support the local industry through the pandemic.

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“American Express recognises the various challenges currently faced by music businesses and artists in their road to recovery, and has designed the Music Backers Fund with multiple initiatives to support them,” the company said in an August release.

With the promise of rolling out more over the coming months, American Express has launched the following:

Grants

Music businesses and artists can apply for grants between A$2,000 and A$50,000 in three categories: help to help a career or business get back on track, funding a new idea or income stream, and supporting growth and bigger innovation projects that have a positive impact on the community. Applications are open until 9 November.

Nominate a Mate

The public can nominate a friend who has been “doing something great” for music. If selected, the friend will receive A$1,500, and their nominator will go into a draw to win a $250 voucher. Applications are open until 13 September.

To coincide with applications opening, the first Nominate a Mate recipients have been announced. The initial four have been selected by American Express for their ongoing commitment to the sector, tirelessly giving back and innovating to help keep the industry alive. They are not alone – most of the industry (91%) have already adapted their offering in some way due to Covid-19.

Road to recovery

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, 46% of artists fear that their creativity will be impacted in the future, whereas venues and music businesses more commonly (29%) fear that customers will no longer want to visit or attend gigs, and almost a third (28%) fear the negative impact on their mental health.

“When the lockdown led to shutdowns and closures, those within the music industry were some of the first to feel the harsh impacts of the pandemic and are likely to be among the last to fully recover too, financially and mentally,” said music industry spokesperson and Support Act CEO Clive Miller.

“Seeing a 883% increase in music workers accessing crisis relief and a 52% increase in those accessing the Wellbeing Helpline since the outbreak really cements the fact that an ongoing range of support is needed for those working within the industry,” Miller added.

Damage to the sector 

The industry has been hit hard: compared with the same time last year, 84% of those in the music and supporting industries have seen decreases in their annual incomes.

However, despite the harsh challenges, five out of six (83%) are more determined than ever to succeed. American Express Music Backers Fund judge and Live Nation CEO Roger Field says: “The Australian music industry has never been in greater need of support. The way the sector has rallied together during these challenging times has been encouraging to see, with many changing the way they do business in order to service and entertain their communities.

“Programmes like the American Express Music Backers Fund are crucial to ensure we help the industry make it through recovery and out the other side.”

Naysla Edwards, VP of brand and experiences at American Express, adds: “We started Music Backers out of an awareness that the industry needed backing to survive. Today, that’s truer than ever.

“Following on from the A$1m we invested in year one, the new Music Backers Fund will support a variety of initiatives that contribute to the music sector to help keep the music playing across Australia.”