Live music venues launch ‘Save Our Scene’ campaign in desperate plea to government

Live music venues launch ‘Save Our Scene’ campaign in desperate plea to government

Photo by Ian Laidlaw
words by tom parker

Live music venues need action, fast!

Many live music venues from Melbourne and beyond are at the brink. When we spoke to Guy Palermo in April the severity of the situation became clear – a Melbourne without live music venues is not a Melbourne at all.

But if there is no action this could be a very clear reality. It’s not just the venues at stake, it’s everyone in the live music canon, whether it be the musicians, sound engineers, bartenders, PA hire companies, community radio, agents, promoters, publishing companies – you name it.

Live music venues stand at the top of a tree whose branches permeate many other professions and aspects of society. It’s critical that they stay alive and the government has to realise that.

As a result, live music venues from Melbourne and its surrounds have teamed up to launch ‘SOS – Save Our Scene’, a public campaign that stands as an open letter to the government.

170 Russell booker and SOS spokesperson Ben Thompson told Beat Magazine that the situation is deteriorating and if there is no action then live music venues will shut.

“I’ve been sitting in on Music Victoria [Melbourne’s peak body for contemporary music] and venue video conference calls weekly since the day restrictions on gatherings started and those calls have included around 30 venue operators each week,” Thompson says.

“The conversations were becoming increasingly depressing because in the last couple of weeks we’ve been hearing of venue owners who are facing imminent closure and we still don’t have any definitive or specific funding announced by the Victorian government to help our sector. So our venues thought we needed to band together and make our collective voice heard which has resulted in this campaign.”

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🚨 SOS 🚨 AN OPEN LETTER FROM VICTORIAN VENUES TO THE STATE GOVERNMENT (2/3) Why does it matter? Music is who we are. It is a cornerstone of Victoria’s identity as the “creative state”, it is something that we are known for around the world, and it is a huge economic driver. Melbourne has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. The 700 music venues across Victoria host approximately 100,000 gigs a year, with an estimated economic impact of $1.42 billion generated from live music, clubs and festivals. Melbourne’s live music venues have an audience of 112,000 every Saturday night — more than an AFL grand final. The industry generates tens of thousands of jobs, from musicians and DJs to bookers, promoters, publicists, venue operators, hospitality and bar staff, technicians, security staff and a vast network of ancillary suppliers and contractors. 📸 Duncographic

A post shared by SAVE OUR SCENE | SOS (@saveourscene.vic) on

The united petition has come together in just the last few weeks and Thompson told Beat that MP Fiona Patten’s Reason Party will sponsor the campaign and table it in parliament.

One of the most crucial messages from Melbourne’s live music venues is the limitation that comes with physical distancing.

“The most important thing to get venues back to business is no physical distancing within venues because while physical distancing is still in place, nobody can operate viably and the clock’s ticking on how long a lot of these venues can continue to survive,” Thompson says.

Physical distancing restricts punters from being within four square metres of each other, something which rules out the possibility of putting on gigs at all. While the State Government announced that from June 22, “… concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums [are] to open with up to 50 seated patrons per space”, that in itself is not viable.

“It doesn’t make sense – 50 people but with four square metres so, you know, say 170 Russell, a venue I book with around one thousand capacity, we’re talking less than a hundred people so it’s just not possible to run viably with that distancing,” Thompson says.

The live music venues to have already signed the petition include The Corner, Cherry Bar, John Curtin Hotel, 170 Russell, Howler, Northcote Social Club, Bendigo Hotel and more, as well as regional venues such as Major Tom’s, Volta (fka Karova Lounge), Theatre Royal Castlemaine, Torquay Hotel and others.

The announcement comes after Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced her own petition for a targeted stimulus package to prevent permanent damage to the arts and entertainment sectors.

Sign the petition here and help Melbourne’s live music scene survive.

It would also be helpful to follow ‘Save Our Scene’ on Facebook and Instagram and share it among your friends – the more numbers the more effective the campaign will be.