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News September 24, 2020

Australian live sector could lose 18,000 jobs, 400 businesses

Senior Journalist, B2B
Australian live sector could lose 18,000 jobs, 400 businesses

An estimated 18,000 jobs and 400 businesses in the Australian live sector could vanish in the next six months, according to a new report.

This poses a serious question on the time and speed over which recovery from the pandemic will occur.

The figures were released by the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC) from a survey of its 600 members.

The association was set up in July with the aim of representing the entire ecosystem of the sector.

These include promoters, venue operators, engineers, production companies and crews. 

According to the ALMBC, its members’ businesses directly contribute over $300 million to the Australian economy, produce over 30,000 jobs and play a significant role in aligned industries like tourism, hospitality and sport.

The survey is the first time that figures from the entire sector have been collated.

“With such a broad spectrum of figures, and bigger issues for businesses, I expected the news to be sobering… but I’m surprised at its severity,” Stephen Wade,  interim chair of ALMBC and head of Select Music agency, admitted to TMN.

“That’s 70% of our businesses surveyed who don’t expect to last past six months.

“Imagine how losing them could impact on an industry which is totally distraught, every part of the supply chain has been smashed.”

Association members based their forecasts on cash-flow projections and current government support measures.

Other results from the survey included:

  • 73​% reported a ​revenue downturn of 75-100%​ in the past six months, with many reporting a 100% loss of income since March with no recovery in sight.
  • 30% don’t think they’ll make it to Christmas.
  • 69% of those with rental commitments have not received any form of rent relief.
  • 76% of businesses carrying commercial debt facilities have had no form of loan deferral.
  • 88.6% of members​ feel that the ​economic uncertainty impacted their mental health.
  • 32.9% began accessing professional mental health support.
  • Only ​17% ​expect to benefit from the Federal Government’s RISE package, with a large proportion falling outside the eligibility criteria. 
  • Only ​4.4% ​expect to take up a Show Starter loan. 

The ALMBC’s report on the plight of the sector comes at a pivotal time for the industry. 

When the sector was stopped in its tracks in March, many said they could last until September.

Now there are stories of workers unable to pay rent, having to put their houses on the market, moving in with family members, or handing back the keys to their businesses.

The ALMBC has been in constant talks with all levels of government over the issue.

Wade estimated he’s been involved in between 15 to 25 meetings, from the Prime Minister and Federal Treasurer down.

There are regular fortnightly meetings with federal ministers.

“These have been very beneficial to us in explaining exactly what our plight is and the impact of the restrictions of trade on our sector,” he said. 

The problem, Wade said, is the lack of awareness that exists around how the biz operates.

Politicians and bureaucrats are surprised by how interlocked it is, and the vast difference between the small venues where acts get their start and the big end of town inhabited by major arena tours and large-scale festivals.

He also emphasised how the industry is a national one.

“They were interested to know that an Australian artist plays 80% of their shows in other states than their own.

“So that they’re playing only one of five shows a year in their home state explains the importance of lifting border restrictions.

“It also explains the e-commerce that goes around a show, including the travel, the accommodation, of patrons having a drink at a bar or having dinner at a restaurant before the show.”

When asked what would help their businesses recover, top requests from ALMBC members were a ​clear roadmap for easing venue restrictions and re-opening borders​, an ​extension of the JobKeeper program​ at the current rates, ​and a survival package that provides additional cash flow support​ to help carry these businesses through to play a vital role in the nation’s economic and mental health recovery.

Discussing the necessity of a roadmap, Wade explained how it’s impossible for businesses to plan ahead without knowing how much money is needed for operational costs, when they can actually start trading, and how hard it is to address rental, utilities and mortgage issues when you can’t give definite answers.

“There have been sporadic concerts in a number of states.

“As of now, there has not been one contracted transmission of coronavirus at a live music performance anywhere in Australia.

“There have been in gyms, restaurants and on public transport.

“But they have not been restricted to trade.”


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