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News April 19, 2021

Music Victoria questions capacity announcement & calls for Government action

Music Victoria questions capacity announcement & calls for Government action

Music Victoria is disputing the announcement that Victoria’s music venues are back trading at 100% capacity.

On Friday, April 9 the State Government announced it was lifting restrictions and would allow 100% seated indoor and outdoor capacity for entertainment, cultural and sporting venues up to a maximum of 1,000 patrons per space.

The media release quoted Victorian health minister Martin Foley as saying: “Designated empty chairs at these venues can now be filled … and that’s a big moment for operators, who will be able to run at 100% seated capacity, with up to 1,000 patrons per space, for the first time in almost a year.”

However new Music Victoria CEO Simone Schinkel pointed out the new guidelines “have had little to no positive impact on our industry”.

“While the first line of the announcement may read that we are back to 100% of total capacity – the devil is in the detail,” she said.

The one person per 2 square metre rule still applies to most live music venues which are non-seated, which equates to them operating at about 30% capacity and a 75% drop in income.

Events or venues with over 1,000 patrons have to go through a separate approval process with the Public Events Framework, a complex and, for many operators, confusing process.

“We have communicated our industry’s grave concerns around these restrictions to the Department of Health, and disappointingly, they have not yet introduced any changes to remedy the situation,” Schinkel said.

“We are continuing to have these discussions with them, in order to bring about the changes our live industry needs to be operating at optimum levels.”

It is negotiating with the Government to give live music the same benefits enjoyed by seated theatre, comedy and sports venues.

Aside from two meetings with the Department of Health, the association instigated meetings with ministers and advisors from creative industries, small business, employment, consumer affairs and gaming & liquor regulation.

It is also conducting ongoing talks with Creative Victoria, and exploring options under the Public Events Framework for all venues of all sizes and events – not just those with 1000-plus capacities.

Last Friday (April 16), Music Victoria also made a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and events sectors.

“We expect at least a 75% reduction in turnover equating to $1.27 billion in lost revenue plus all the associated job losses if the government does not act now,” it warned.

“The live music industry remains in relative lockdown and is in crisis.”

It made three recommendations.

One was the opportunity to work with the Department of Health and Creative Victoria “to find ways in which we can minimise the risk, achieve consistency, simplify the process and speed of approvals for the Public Events Framework, and enable the density quotient restrictions to be removed for General Admission (non seated indoor) venues”.

It called for the development of a Business Interruption Fund that underwrites the pandemic insurance risk as insurance providers cold-shoulder the live sector.

The third was “targeted support that is provided as a wage subsidy but addresses the limitation of JobKeeper, and previous Business Support Packages by using ANZSIC codes”.

An investigation by The Age on the impact of the loss of JobKeeper and protection of renters, saw venue operators in despair.

The Tote’s co-owner Jon Perring said small live music venues are on the “precipice of collapse” and venues were cutting back on shows to avoid the risk of non-sellouts.

The Corner and Northcote Social Club part owner Tim Northeast said his rooms were only at 40% capacity and non-profitable.

He found it “frustrating” for the industry other forms of entertainment had crowds of 75% or more.

“It’s really hard for the music industry to see what the difference is,” he said. “The industry just wants to be on the same competitive level.”

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