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News January 12, 2022

Music biz repeats calls for national insurance as Omicron wreaks havoc

Senior Journalist, B2B
Music biz repeats calls for national insurance as Omicron wreaks havoc
Unify Forever latest festival to reschedule

As much of the Australian music industry returns to work this week, the first order of business is expected to appeal again for a national insurance scheme for events.

It already made a call last month when restrictions began post-Omicron. That was after one cancellation –Newcastle’s December 18 Lunar Electric, when the city posted an outbreak of 200.

That figure has now risen to a dozen axing or postponements of national festivals.

“We were looking very positive,” Australian Festivals Association GM Julia Robinson said. “There was a lot booked in March and April. This has thrown everything into continued uncertainty.

“If we don’t get this insurance we won’t have a pipeline to deliver this year.

Without a safety net, Robinson expects not only events to collapse but those in the supply chain.

Over the past two years, the industry has been calling for business interruption compensation based on state-based outbreaks and border closures.

But the fast contagious nature of the new strain compared to earlier ones has created another dilemma that now also has to be addressed in any scheme put forward.

“The Omicron strain has really changed the way that staffing shortages are impacting festivals,” Robinson said. “If crew and production staff have to isolate, and the organiser can’t find experienced workers, they are left in a difficult position to legally and safely put on a show.

“We started talking about staff shortages in 2020 when we saw an exodus of workers looking for more stable work elsewhere. We were midway through encouraging those workers to return.”

Tony Moran of CrewCare agrees things are untenable for crews and promoters, saying many are coming off one show, “only to be told to isolate just as they’re going to the next”.

Road crews are getting scarce

Western Australia’s 12-day closure in December created a significant loss of $26 million, according to the WA Events Industry Association.

Almost 250 events were scrapped, losing 5,000 jobs and $7.5 million in wages.

Only 10% of organisers thought they could reschedule.

Capital Corp – which runs venues Magnet House, Amplifier, The Lookout, The Breakwater, Arcade and Metropolis Fremantle – estimated it lost over $1 million in turnover alone.

In South Australia where restrictions won’t be lifted until January 27, HomeBrewed (January 21—23 with Teenage Joans and Bad//Dreems) put its loss at $5 million.

$1.6 million was from 100 businesses and contractors, $60,000 of fees for 92 artists, $825,000 worth of lost hours of labour and $2.5 million worth of lost tourism.

SNACK Showgrounds in Perth scrapped its sold-out New Years’ Eve slot for January 15.

The West Australian reported that the new date had a reduced capacity of 12,000. As the NYE show sold 20,000 tickets, promoter Aedan Buckley is left with refunding $600,000.

The latest postponements came yesterday in Victoria and Tasmania.

Unify Forever in South Gippsland in Victoria pushed back to its backup weekend of March 10—13.

“Without the confirmation of adequate emergency services and other key event personnel we just can’t proceed safely in January,” organisers said.

A Festival Called Panama, 45 minutes out of  Launceston, announced that “with all the factors at play at the moment”, it wouldn’t stage in March but hopes to be back in 2023.

Pictured: Tex Perkins

Silverback Touring also announced Uncaged’s new dates in Melbourne (March 12), Sydney (April 23) and Brisbane (24) with additions You Am I, Tex Perkins, The Hard Ons and Shihad.

Among festivals cancelled in recent weeks were Nannup Music (WA) in March which had sold-out its 10,000 tickets in two hours.

Tracks in Warrnambool, Victoria had reached 70% capacity sales.

Hardware Group’s rave Hot Sauce in Rosebud on the Victorian surfside had to push from last weekend to an unspecified date when artists and festival management staff tested positive.

Infected artists including headliners Northlane moved the Brisbane leg to April 23.

Other no-shows were Tamworth Country Music Festival and Country On Keppel, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s NYE Timeland, Tasmania’s Cygnet Folk and the inaugural three-day King Street Carnival outdoor concert series in Sydney.

In its mid-December plea for a national insurance scheme, the industry told the PM, state premiers and territory chief ministers that the sector is at the mercy of policymakers.

“For an industry getting back on its feet, investing nationally and working hard to get shows back on stage and touring, the ongoing threat of future business disruption is very real.

“It takes months for the industry to manage, coordinate and deliver events that tour both regionally and nationally.

“Thousands of businesses, sole traders and artists are at the mercy of new strains and the ongoing threat of more government lockdowns and reimposition of restrictions.”

It was signed by the Association of Artist Managers, the Australian Festival Association, ALMBC, AMIN, APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA and Live Performance Australia.


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