The race to protect Australian music venues during and after coronavirus

The race to protect Australian music venues during and after coronavirus

Photo by John Torcasio via Wikimedia Commons
Words by Christie Eliezer

Australian venue operators are a hardy lot.

Flooding, noise complaints, blackouts, police crackdowns, meddling councils, mainstream media sensationalism, infections like SARS … they’ve, for the most part, survived these.

“But coronavirus … this is something quite different, we’ve never had to face something like this,” one venue operator told us.

Music industry leaders have called for short and long term help for the live sector, which is part of the $2.5 billion live performance industry.

Live Performance Australia contacted the Prime Minister about an economic stimulus package.

“We’re already seeing cancellation of events and touring programs across the country. We expect this to get worse with industry losing hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs,” wrote said its chief executive Evelyn Richardson.

If the live sector is shut down, there should be short term relief packages to keep businesses operating, and their staff offered a Farm Relief-type program with immediate access to social security payments.

LPA added, “Consideration should also be given to extending the wage subsidy of 50% for apprentices and trainees to artists, performers, creatives and technical crew who are employed by companies.” In the long run, it also asks for financial aid when the sector starts to rebuild.

A coalition of music and hospitality associations also called on urgent support. It was made up of APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Australian Hotels Association, PPCA, Live Performance Australia, Australian Music Industry Network, Australian Festivals Association, AIR, Australian Artist Managers and the Live Music Office.

It pointed out that each of Australia’s 4000 live music venues employs thousands of workers and provide jobs for musicians. Each year, APRA AMCOS distributes $10 million to local artists for the performance of their songs at live music events.

“The potential loss of this income will represent a huge blow if live events are further disrupted.”  Australian hotels host over 300,000 nights of live entertainment annually. In 2017, 23 million went to live events and generated $1.88 billion through ticket sales.

In the short term, live events and the hospitality sector should be part of any stimulus or grants package. In the longer term, the government needs to consider a broad-based approach, such as a tax offset, to ensure the live music and performance sector can revive and recover. It also wanted venues and live events in bushfire-affected regions to get special help.

State census figures have Victoria with 73,605 registered gigs in a 12 month period, which drew 17.5 million patrons with a $1.42 billion spend. South Australia had, in a month, 1,623 gigs in 309 licensed venues, 315 gigs across 211 venues in Adelaide alone.

There are no figures as to the damage so far to venues. But for comparison, the UK’s Music Venue Trust reports a 27% downturn in crowd numbers. A sobering indication that Australian music venues are going to need as much financial aid and public support as we can give.

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