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News June 10, 2020

Music industry unites in SOS to federal government: ‘Thousands of jobs will be lost within months’

Senior Journalist, B2B
Music industry unites in SOS to federal government: ‘Thousands of jobs will be lost within months’

The Australian music industry is sending out an SOS to government.

More than 1,000 artists, businesses and personnel from across the music community have signed an open letter, pleading with the Australian government to provide immediate — and meaningful — financial support during these dark days of the lockdown.

The signatories reads like the greatest homegrown festival bill of all-time.

Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, Thelma Plum, Icehouse, Kate Miller-Heidke, Jessica Mauboy, Gotye, Alex Lahey, Jack River and Savage Garden are just a small sample of the artists who’ve made their voices heard.

The captains of industry are all signed up, including Mushroom Group chairman Michael Gudinski, reps for Universal Music, Warner Chappell, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, APRA, ARIA and more.

“The Australian music sector fell off a cliff on 13 March when Government made the correct and prudent decision to shut the nation down,” the letter reads.

“Without the ability for artists to play and venues to open around the country, the industry lost billions of dollars in revenue. It is estimated the box-office loss in relation to live music alone will be half a billion dollars over six months.”

empty festival music crowd event

Empty is the new norm.

According to I Lost My Gig, concert cancellations and postponements across Australia and NZ have already cost more than $340 million, a figure that will keep growing as the lockdown continues.

The message to Canberra contains five key requests. Among them, is the expansion of JobSeeker to artists and individuals who’ve been excluded, and a longer timeframe to access payments.

Also, the music community asks for direct business grants to shore-up the network of venues and small businesses, and there’s an appeal for Australia Council funding and tax offsets and a wind-back of red tape.

Australia’s music industry has presented a substantial bailout package to government on several occasions. But to date, the country’s leaders haven’t made any commitments.

To add insult to injury, the federal government recently approved a fourth economic HomeBuilder stimulus package worth $688 million, which is meant to ignite a “tradie-led recovery.”

Again, the music industry was left out.

Just last week, Live Performance Australia unveiled a $345 million “Rebuild & Recovery Package,” designed to keep artists, music professionals and businesses afloat during the crisis, and post-pandemic.

Scott Morrison’s government has yet give the green light, though a recovery package is said to be in the works.

The open letter, published in full below, also calls on Canberra to establish a specific $40 million Australian Music Recovery Fund in partnership with state and territory governments, and as part of the previously-pitched $345 million package.

This week, Australia’s live music and sports industries revealed the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), an historic working group that will tackle the unique challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

To add your name to the open letter, email [email protected]

Read the letter in full below.

We the undersigned represent the cross section of the Australian contemporary music industry and implore the Australian government to provide sector support to ensure our survival.

Australian music is a proud national asset that entertains, comforts, and uplifts our communities. It helps to define who we are as a nation, is a central pillar of our health and well-being and is a key driver of learning in schools. Our artists and industry are always there to come to the aid of our nation during a crisis. Now it is time for the nation to come to our aid.

The Australian music sector fell off a cliff on 13 March when Government made the correct and prudent decision to shut the nation down. Without the ability for artists to play and venues to open around the country, the industry lost billions of dollars in revenue. It is estimated the box-office loss in relation to live music alone will be half a billion dollars over six months.

Since then much has been said about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people who work and pay taxes as musicians, songwriters, screen composers, crews, managers, promoters, production houses, ticketing companies, agents, background music suppliers and those who work in venues and the entire infrastructure needed to publish, record, promote and present Australian music.

From the smallest music venues and festivals in cities, suburbs and towns to the major concerts and events, the Australian music industry is an intricate and complex breeding ground for some of the most acclaimed live talent at home and around the world. Our corner of the global music market has produced a generation of industry operators and professionals that are taking Australian music to the world in a way that is both unique and enviable.

While much of the economy starts to re-open, the ongoing restrictions on large gatherings means our industry will continue to be held back from returning to work.

Without immediate government intervention, the Australian music sector will be hit twice as hard as the rest of the economy and thousands of jobs will be lost within months. The long-term cost to Treasury, the economy and the damage to our cultural infrastructure will be immense and long-lasting. We commend the NZ Government for recognising these factors and their announcement of a significant package to save their arts and music industry.

We are a highly skilled workforce with thousands of businesses that continuously adapt to technological change. We contribute $16 billion to the economy and we are an asset that is a lynchpin for the tourism and hospitality sectors and a powerful driver of metropolitan and regional economies and export to the world.

The four thousand plus venues that present live music across Australia are now closed with no certainty as to when a restart is likely or viable. Every $1 spent on live music circulates $3 into the broader community. There is no clear plan to ensure our sector’s workers are going to be supported through this enforced hibernation.

Our industry is resilient, innovative and creative. We fight to stand on our own two feet and in normal circumstances we are self-sufficient. Yet these are not normal times, and we need the support of the Australian Government to help us get to the other side of this crisis. We acknowledge the critical importance of the Australian

Government’s economy-wide packages JobKeeper and JobSeeker to deal with the crisis as well as the dedicated funding for Support Act, Australia’s only charity delivering crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers.

With Australia flattening the curve, there is a huge opportunity for the local music sector to be a boon for a recovering economy. There is the golden opportunity for federal, state and territory governments to incentivise a greater creation and presentation of music. From songwriting in schools, to rebates on recording local content and tax offsets to present live music, we could also be one of the first global destinations for major touring acts.

We understand that the Australian Government is working on an assistance package to the entertainment industry. As part of any assistance, we implore the Australian Government to:
1. Extend JobKeeper for the music and broader entertainment sector beyond September to ensure the skilled workers, businesses and venues remain viable until trade is realistic
2. Expand JobKeeper to those artists and workers in our industry who work gig-to-gig and contract to contract
3. Establish a specific $40million Australian Music Recovery Fund in partnership with state and territory governments, and as part of a broader $345m live performance industry recovery package, to catalyse Australian music nationally and ensure the sustainability of music businesses, service providers and venues over the next twelve months
4. Boost Australia Council funding with $70 million across all artforms to ensure individual artists including musicians and songwriters can access grants as part of the cultural recovery
5. Commit to reducing red-tape and incentivising the sector with a rebatable tax offset for live music to support long term rebuild and sustainability for venues and touring, provide an immediate rebate on existing alcohol excise and wine equalisation tax to support the recovery of venues and introduce rebates for the recording of Australian music

The opportunity of COVID 19 is to reimagine federal, state, territory and local government support for the Australian music industry. And the time to do that is now.






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

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