NSW Event Saver an ‘important first step’ – but does it bring certainty to the live music sector?
The NSW Event Saver, announced yesterday, took nine months to come together.
It puts aside $43 million to support organisers of major events and festivals – scheduled for between December 15 2021, and December 31 2022 – that have been cancelled or “severely disrupted” by COVID-19 public health orders.
Under the plan, organisers receive “financial support to pay suppliers, staff and recover costs”.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said major events are an economic driver creating thousands of jobs.
“The Event Saver Fund will ensure that organisers aren’t left high and dry as we work through this latest phase of the pandemic and sends a strong signal that the government is here to support business,” Perrottet said.
However, a close look at the details shows the scheme falls short of its mark.
It’s conditional and partial, and doesn’t necessarily inspire promoters to put on more events.
It leaves them fearful of exposure to lawsuits from suppliers, contractors and artists. With payments capped at $10 million, an event closed down by the government 13 weeks out gets 15% or $2.7 million back.
From 13 to 8 weeks out, the compensation is 45% or $8.1 million. Anything closer to show time gets the full $10 million.
Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble told TMN that an insurance “safety net” is also needed.
“This is where the industry needs the events insurance policy that the NSW government is working on,” Noble said.
“An insurance safety net would allow us to cover any shortfall.”
A national insurance scheme is something that the Australian Festival Association (AFA) continues to call for – as part of a larger alliance of music associations – to provide certainty for the live music and entertainment sector.
But its managing director Julia Robinson hailed the Event Saver Fund as coming “just in time” for organisers impacted by recent restrictions due to the current Omicron wave in NSW.
“It will go a long way to providing improved confidence for major festivals and events scheduled for 2022 and help relieve the financial burdens associated with cancellations,” Robinson said.
“Since the pandemic struck in March 2020, we’ve seen countless festivals cancel or postpone, leaving promoters and suppliers out of pocket. This fund will ensure organisers can recover some of their costs in the event their show cannot proceed due to a Public Health Order in 2022,” she added.
APRA AMCOS chief executive Dean Ormston calls the new fund “an important first step” in ensuring that the live music industry in NSW can survive this latest wave.
But he urged the state government needs to do more.
This includes direct support to the artists, sole traders and small to medium-sized businesses through a wage subsidy program, crisis support through Support Act and micro-business grants.
With the live sector approaching its third year of devastation, Ormston revealed APRA AMCOS data showing that live music activity in December, the traditional peak season for the industry, was at 6% of the pre-COVID period.
“We also urge the NSW Government to establish better protocols around health orders that directly affect our industry and the thousands whose livelihoods rely on its economic activity,” Ormston said.
“Approaching the third year of the pandemic, we urgently need the NSW Department of Health to develop more sophisticated guidelines including vaccine mandates and mask-wearing instead of the blunt instrument of ‘no singing and no dancing’ restrictions.
“It is ridiculous that live music patrons can sing and dance at a pub or festival in Wodonga or Coolangatta, but can’t a few kilometres away in Albury or Tweed Heads.
“The music industry has always abided by the health orders across the seven jurisdictions of the country but without some consistency across the jurisdictions and a better understanding of our ecosystem, we are at risk of losing valuable cultural infrastructure and the thousands of jobs that are supported by live music across the hospitality and tourism industries.”
“Research shows that live music provides $16 billion worth of economic, cultural and social benefit to the nation, with every dollar spent on live music providing three dollars’ worth of benefits returned to the wider community.”
More information on the scheme and how to apply is now available here.