Prior to the health pandemic, Australia’s live sector made a lot of noise. Last week in the nation’s capital, the industry got the Prime Minister’s ear for a round of talks on fully reactivating the live space.
Australia was home to a billion-dollar-plus live entertainment space, before COVID closed venues and shut borders everywhere. As the calendar turns to the cooler months, Australia would appear to be approaching a return to normal. Community transmissions around the country are at or close to zero, and venues are opening their doors, albeit with reduced capacities.
Looks can be deceiving.
With the so-called JobKeeper cliff fast approaching — that moment later this month when the government’s safety-net wage subsidies dry up — Australia’s live music industry isn’t in great health.
Reps from Live Performance Australia (president Richard Evans and CEO Evelyn Richardson), APRA AMCOS (president Jenny Morris and CEO Dean Ormston), live events (Live Nation president Asia Pacific/LEIF co-chair Roger Field) and leading artist managers (Catherine Haridy, John Watson) met with PM Scott Morrison, treasurer Josh Frydenberg and minister for the arts Paul Fletcher in Canberra to discuss the obstacles that are crushing the live industry.
The music and live entertainment industry has “a significant gap“ in Q2 and Q3 and is unable to reach critical mass due to COVID-19 restrictions, warns LPA in a message to members.
For as long as social-distancing protocols and tough venue capacities remain in place, the live industry doesn’t stand a chance.
The solution could be as simple as unwinding those year-long barriers, and welcoming back full-houses, live professionals say.
Following those meetings in Canberra, LPA called on all states and territories to develop a timeframe which would allow all live entertainment venues to operate at 100 percent capacity. And with the vaccine rollout now underway, a guarantee that borders would remain open.
“The challenges of eight different frameworks with anomalies in indoor and outdoor settings plus lack of consistency across industry sectors is severely impeding business recovery,” comments Richardson. “We are concerned that sport and cultural events are being treated differently, despite the venue settings being broadly the same.”
Last Monday marked the first day in 12 months that all domestic borders were open. “We need to keep them open,” says Richardson. “For our live music promoters we also need certainty we can kick start our summer touring season in October with full capacity in all our venues, indoor and outdoor, large and small.”
National advocacy body the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC) echoed the LPA’s calls to ease restrictions, as its latest members survey illustrates an industry in crisis. Almost 70% of live music businesses have seen their revenue drop by 75-100% since the lockdowns began in 2020, the report found. And live industry professionals have had little to no income at all.
In a message to members, LPA says it “eagerly awaits the outcome of our other requests” and will continue working with federal, state and territory governments to implement a Business Interruption Fund.