Federal government unveils ‘critical lifeline’ for music industry
Australia’s music industry has secured a multi-million-dollar lifeline, just days before the abrupt end of JobKeeper.
Today, the federal government announces $135 million in support, including $125 million in new RISE funding, available until Dec. 31, 2021, with the remainder distributed to the Support Act charity.
The development is something of a last-minute reprieve for an industry that’s been in turmoil since COVID closed venues and borders around the country in March 2020.
“We are delighted the Australian Government has listened to our plea to help support Australia’s live music entertainment industry through the uncertainty of the next six months,” says Dean Ormston, CEO APRA AMCOS, in a statement issued Thursday unveiling the funding.
The financial support “recognises the unique place of live music and entertainment industry artists, workers and businesses as the sector struggles to restart under the weight of government restrictions and sudden border closures,” he continues.
The package, described by APRA as a “critical lifeline,” doesn’t simply drop in a vacuum. It’s the result of a year-long lobbying effort from executives and advocates across the music industry.
In recent days, a delegation including reps from Live Performance Australia, APRA AMCOS, LEIF, managers and more met with the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister of the Arts, for a discussion which almost certainly got this package over the line.
The work isn’t done. With the announcement, the industry will need to constantly nudge the government to ensure the cash goes out the door.
“We urge the Australian Government to expedite the application process so these funds can be distributed to the industry urgently,” adds Ormston. “The livelihoods of thousands will rely on this new package to ensure the sustainability of our sector.”
Thousands stand to benefit, including micro businesses.
Under the proposed expansion of the RISE guidelines, the threshold for grant applications are reduced to $25,000 from $75,000, a situation that “will also hopefully provide more direct support to emerging artist tours and events,” says Ormston.
The federal government insists its funding will support around 230 projects and up to 90,000 jobs, including entertainers, managers, promoters and booking agents for contemporary music tours, festivals and events.
It’s an extra hit on top of an original commitment of $75 million, which is provided to arts businesses and organisations as project grants towards the cost of putting on activities such as festivals, concerts, tours, productions and events.
“We are grateful to the government for this significant support of live music, particularly via the expanded scope of the RISE guidelines,” said AAM patron and Support Act board member John Watson. “We look forward to further consultation with government in regard to these guidelines to help ensure that these badly needed funds make it to the coalface of our industry as soon as possible”.
In a statement, Geoff Jones, LEIF Co-Chair and CEO of TEG, welcomed the RISE funding for its “important role in enabling industry to get back to business.”
LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson welcomed the government’s response, but warned industry recovery is “uneven.”
With JobKeeper ending this month, the live industry has “a significant gap in Q2 and Q3 as it is unable to fully reactivate due to COVID-19 restrictions, notably venue capacity limits, border uncertainties and barriers to international acts entering Australia,” Richardson explains.
As vaccines roll out and venues open-up, Australia’s live music industry is preparing to deliver events in Q4 onwards.
“This investment by government will help us keep companies alive, projects moving and people in jobs,” concludes Richardson.
The support comes as Australia’s music industry reaches its darkest hour.
According to a recent membership survey, the ALMBC found almost 70% of live music businesses reported a drop in revenue by 75-100% since lockdowns began.
Almost half of respondents face closure within three months.
An open-letter issued a year ago by APRA AMCOS placed the crisis on the national agenda, and following pressure, dialogue and the publication of several reports, the power brokers in the nation’s capital finally acted.
“Our focus has turned to stimulating activity so the work opportunities can flow,” Arts Minister Paul Fletcher
said in a statement out of Canberra.
“This new funding comes at an important stage in the resurgence of Australia’s arts and entertainment
sector. The purpose of the RISE program is to get shows put on, bringing employment to performers,
crews and front-of-house staff.”
Ormston and his fellow industry advocates welcome the relief and turn their focus to states and territories.
“If Australian music has any hope of recovering from the pandemic we need to limit the impact of a massive skills shortage for our sector. An industry specific package was the only way this can happen,” he adds.
“Our attention now turns to the states and territories to provide additional support to our industry, harmonise the regulations surround live music events and to work towards the safe and timely opening of both national and international borders.”
On cue, the NSW government made a pledge of $24 million to save live venues.
BREAKING! NSW Govt has just announced a $24M live music venues support package! This desperately-needed lifeline comes in the nick of time, and will set the industry on the path to recovery. Incredible work from #SaveOurStagesNSW. Truly cause for celebration! More to come.— MusicNSW (@MusicNSW) March 25, 2021
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.