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News March 6, 2020

Australia’s live entertainment biz urged to ‘keep the doors open and lights on’ as Coronavirus spreads

Senior Journalist, B2B
Australia’s live entertainment biz urged to ‘keep the doors open and lights on’ as Coronavirus spreads

As the Coronavirus spreads, and a raft of events fold or face dwindling numbers, Australia’s live entertainment sector has been urged to carry on, and play smart.

The COVID-19 virus is spreading just as the northern hemisphere enters the warmer months, the “busy” time for live entertainment.

In recent days, Ultra Music festivals in Miami and Abu Dhabi have been scrapped, as has Tomorrowland in France, and SXSW has taken a hit with a growing number of big names taking leave from the 2020 event in Austin, Texas, including performers Trent Reznor, Ozzy Osbourne and the Beastie Boys, and exhibitors TikTok, Vevo, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.

“We are watching the situation very closely, which is rapidly evolving,” says the Live Performance Association, in a statement seen by TIO.

“We are very much being guided by the advice from the state and federal health authorities, which at this stage continues to be a ‘business as usual’ approach for events and public gatherings, as reinforced by the Chief Medical Officer.”

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The crowds gather

So far in Australia, health authorities “appear to be doing a very good job in identifying cases of coronavirus and taking steps to contain it,” the LPA notes.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a $1 billion health fund to be set up to help states with the their response to the disease, which has infected more than 60 Australians and taken the lives of at least two.

“Our industry is very mindful that the spread of Coronavirus through the wider community could lead to new restrictions being put in place,” the LPA continues.

“With this in mind, we have asked the federal and state governments to ensure there is early consultation with our industry on any measures to be introduced that may impact our operations.

“It’s essential we keep the doors open and lights on for live performance as much as we can given our economic and social contribution, including in regional communities which are trying to recover from recent bushfires.”

LPA has also issued guides on face masks and cancellations.

On face masks

The advice from the Chief Medical Officer is that people don’t need to be wearing face masks unless they have symptoms or exposure to the virus.

As such, we wouldn’t be encouraging anyone in these circumstances to be performing or attending an event. They should be in self-isolation.

For people attending events, you’d expect that if they are unwell or coughing or sneezing, they would also stay away.

On Cancellations

At this stage, live performance events are continuing as planned and the industry is operating ‘business as usual’, unless the government advice changes or there is a government directive. If any events are cancelled or postponed, ticketholders will be provided with a refund or offered the opportunity to attend the rescheduled date.“

As the disease moves across Europe and North America, experts are warning that promoters will need to make tough calls in the months ahead: Cancel or don’t cancel, and face the risk of illness and financial ruin.

“You are going to see a fairly steep drop-off, would be my guess, in the number of concert attendees,” Nicholas Evans, a University of Massachusetts-Lowell bioethicist, tells Billboard.

Evans is an expert on the impact of the Ebola virus, the Avian flu and HIV. “Any festival that’s drawing an international crowd is going to have to deal with people and their desire to get on a plane,” he says. “This is going to be a major challenge.”

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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