Creative Nation confirmed the shift by federal governments to viewing popular music as part of the Australian cultural economy, where the `contemporary music? industries were expected to contribute to economic growth as much as providing a set of creative practices for musicians and audiences. In the 19 years between Creative Nation and Creative Australia, much has changed. This article examines relationships between the music industries, governments and audiences in three areas. First, it charts the funding of popular music within the broader cultural sector to illuminate the competing discourses and demands of the popular and classical music sectors in federal budgets. Second, it traces configurations of popular music and national identity as part of national policy. Third, the article explores how both national policy documents position Australian popular music amid global technological and regulatory shifts. As instruments of cultural nationalism, Creative Nation and Creative Australia are useful texts in assessing the opportunities and limits of nations in asserting coherent national strategies.