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Not Everyone is Pleased With A-List Artists

Tuesday 12 December 2006 @ 16:02 - GMT

Australia's Sunday Telegraph has accused foreign music acts of refusing to hire local bands to open their gigs in the area, thus denying them an opportunity of performing to tens of thousands of people.

The paper says that Elton, Billy Joel, Pearl Jam, U2 and Roger Waters are among the superstars who have ''spurned local talent, preferring to employ foreign bands to open concerts, or to have no opening act at all.''

Under current Federal legislation, before being granted working visas, foreign entertainers must show how their tour will provide a "net economic benefit" to the Australian economy.

By hiring local roadies, cleaners, drivers or staff at arenas, they are meeting their "net economic benefit" obligations.

"We're not happy with the arrangement,'' admitted Terry Noone, federal secretary of the Musicians' Union of Australia, which represents more than 2500 performers. "There used to be a 'one for one' arrangement between the union, the Immigration Department and music promoters, which meant that for every one foreign act at a concert there would be one local act."

According to industry body Live Performance Australia, which represents concert promoters and venue operators, the presence of an Australian opening act would drag some concerts out to an unacceptable length.

"Elton John, who had no support act, played for two hours and 45 minutes, which is quite a long concert," the LPA's Suzanne Daley Carr said.

"I don't think the audience wants to be sitting in a venue at midnight."

Promoter Michael Chugg said that, under previous arrangements, foreign acts would get around their obligations by "hiring a string quartet to play in the foyer" of a venue. He noted that Robbie Williams had hand-picked Australia's Sneaky Sound System to open his shows this weekend.

Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone said she was satisfied with the current legislation regarding foreign artists touring Australia.

Over in the UK, a four-year-old business has no complaints about Elton's gigs.

In fact, a marketing executive tells EJW her company is using one of his quotes, from July 2003, when the entertainer played Hull's Kingston Communications.

''It's great to be here; what a fantastic stadium, wow!'' appears in Hull Citybuild's new recruitement packs, according to Karen Narey.

Called Hello From Hull and costing 7.50 pounds, their aim is to assist local employers in recruiting new staff as well as to promote the region.