Australia’s music industry ‘cannot take much more’ as government ramps up Omicron restrictions
It’s a New Year, which on a typical calendar brings fresh energy and optimism.
Thanks to the Omicron variant and some strong-handed tactics from elected officials, 2022 looks and feels a lot like 2021.
New South Wales residents woke on Saturday to a type of Groundhog Day, with Premier Dominic Perrottet activating new restrictions including a ban on singing and dancing in most indoor venues until Jan. 27.
Singing and dancing is prohibited in hospitality venues (including pubs, clubs, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants), entertainment facilities, and major recreation facilities until 27 January.— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 9, 2022
It’s no joke for the live music industry, which, once again feels like it’s being unnecessarily targeted, notes Stephen Wade, Sydney-based chair of the ALMBC and CEO of Select Music.
“As an industry, live music moved forward on the promise that if we reached high vaccination rates across the board we would be able to trade,” he tells TIO.
“We supported the vax messaging heavily in the hope of reaching those goals. Whilst we understand the goal posts have now changed with the Omicron strain putting pressure on the health system our major concern is that if you make decisions that change trade for one industry you should make them for all.”
Otherwise, he says, “it feels like a decision like ‘no singing or dancing’ here in NSW is singling out the live music industry.”
NSW COVID-19 update – Friday 7 January 2022— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 6, 2022
In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:
– 95.1% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
– 93.6% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/1numkPfLYu
The harsh new rules activated across NSW follow the reporting last Friday of 38,625 new cases, a record for the state since the start of the pandemic, with active hospitalisation numbers hitting 1,738.
That’s despite the state boasting a national-best double vax rate of 93% among its eligible population.
As the state government announced its temporary rules on venues, the fourth Ashes Test was playing out to impressive crowds at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“We feel that the live music industry is being continually an easy target for Government to draw attention to, and to appease the public that something is being done,” adds Wade, “however we don’t understand how this decision would make even the smallest of dents on the current rampant numbers of Covid cases we are seeing.”
Wade pleads for consistency, across all states and territories. “If there are to be any further changes then we would implore the respective Governments to implement broad industry consultation given we have a number of well informed and skilled industry bodies so that we are not continually drawn backwards each time we attempt to re-build,” he explains.
“Remembering that our industry has had over 700 consecutive days of hardship and cannot take much more.”
LPA’s 2019 and 2020 Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report is proof of that.
In it, the peak body reports that its “Contemporary Music” category, which captures data from rock, pop and hip-hop concerts, posted revenue last year of $309 million, down 63% compared with 2019; and attendance of nearly 3 million, down by 65% year-on-year.
The health crisis is said to have “obliterated” the live entertainment industry, by draining $1.4 billion in revenue and reducing the sector by 70%.
In these tough times, community health must be the key priority of the federal, state and territory governments. Though officials’ “let’s wait and see approach” is “not going to cut it for the thousands of Australians who rely on work in the music and entertainment sector,” notes APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston.
As a “culturally, socially and economically vibrant nation we need to start proactively and strategically planning through COVID…not just when it flares up,” he tells TIO.
Ormston reiterated calls for a business interruption scheme covering music industry professionals across the country, similar to those that have already rolled out in Europe, the U.K. and New Zealand, and which is available to film and TV productions in Australia.
“Collectively our industry has been calling on the federal, state and territory governments to support ‘business interruption insurance’. It’s great the Victorian govt has launched an event interruption insurance scheme, but where are the other states, and territories?,” adds Ormston.
The priorities right now, he adds, are to ensure ongoing emergency funding for the work of Support Act, and business and event interruption insurance that’s available nationally.
“This is a national issue – state and federal,” notes Ormston.
“We’re a national $16 billion-plus industry. We need and want to work with governments in supporting community health, and ensuring we have a future live music and entertainment industry. We need more than hope, we need good policy, planning and targeted funding based on the fact we’ll be living with COVID in some shape and form for a while.”
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.