Australia’s live industry meets with PM, venues warn of dark months ahead
The live industry has met with officials in Canberra as calls mount to let venues operate without “damaging” capacity restrictions.
On Monday, the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC) urged the states and territories to ease limitations on performance spaces and to collaborate on a national “essential worker” permit system to revive the touring landscape.
The ALMBC, established last year at the height of the pandemic, warns that, in the absence of an immediate national response the crisis, hundreds of businesses will close and thousands of jobs will be lost in the months ahead.
The council has the numbers to back it up.
A recent study brought into focus the dire situation its members are now facing.
Almost 70% of live music businesses reported a drop in revenue by 75-100% since lockdowns began in March 2020, the ALMBC reports.
In the year since, many have had little to no income at all.
Also, more than three-quarters of businesses are said to be teetering on the brink and will fold in the next six months unless trading conditions improve.
Almost half of respondents face closure within three months.
“Restrictions on venue capacities present the greatest barrier to profitability for the live industry as it recovers,” reads a statement issued 22nd March from the advocacy organisation, “closely followed by the loss of wage support, interstate border closures and a lack of certainty and confidence across the industry.”
In another unwelcome outcome of the health crisis, almost 93% of live music business owners and workers reported a strain on their mental health.
With the JobKeeper cliff fast approaching, it’s essential that the live industry is supported on its road back to business, the ALMBC insists.
“The perception that live music is back disguises the devastating reality facing our industry,” says ALMBC Executive General Manager Craig Spann.
“Those shows that are being presented are hampered by restrictions and crowd limits making them unprofitable and unsustainable, with many venues running at well under half their usual capacity for the indefinite future.”
APRA recently reported that, in the past year, not a single national tour has been completed.
Snap lockdowns and wildly varied quarantine conditions have robbed the industry of confidence, and compounded the financial misery.
“Our hands are tied with Government policy preventing us from getting back to work supporting our employees and the thousands of small businesses around the country that are integral to the industry,” Spann continues.
The ALMBC and Live Performance Australia are on the same page. Today’s urgent plea follows the publication last week of an open-letter from LPA, which called for leaders to give the green-light for nationwide performances without caps, and for assurances that borders will remain open.
Currently, the ALMBC provides advocacy for more than 600 small businesses and sole traders that support Australian music in public performance.
With JobKeeper due to dry up at on 28th March and with Australia’s live industry entering its traditional off-cycle period, reps from LPA, APRA AMCOS, LEIF and artist managers met the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister for the Arts to discuss a roadmap for the six months ahead.
LPA, with our @APRAAMCOS, LEIF and Artist Manager colleagues, meeting with @ScottMorrisonMP, @JoshFrydenberg and @PaulFletcherMP this week to discuss how we can retain jobs and get industry through the next six months so we can fully reactivate in Q4 with summer music tours. pic.twitter.com/lycOZio6KX— Live Performance Aus (@LivePerfAust) March 19, 2021
The industry has a “significant gap” in Q2 and Q3 as it is unable to fully reactivate due to COVID-19 restrictions, reads an LPA members update.
The key challenge is “funding the gap with a temporary and targeted measure” to ensure business continuity in Q4 and into 2022.
The discussions focused on “the major barriers we face in returning to full business,” reads a statement, with both sides talking on venue capacities; local and international borders; business interruption and “the inability to insure to mitigate risk,” and more.
Live Nation’s Roger Field (co-chair LEIF), LPA’s Evelyn Richardson, APRA’s Jenny Morris and Dean Ormston, and artist management veterans John Watson and Catherine Haridy were part of the delegation that met with officials in Canberra last Monday (15th March).
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.