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News January 24, 2022

WA promoters face $13m loss after border flip, 46% of Victoria’s summer events could be axed

Senior Journalist, B2B
WA promoters face $13m loss after border flip, 46% of Victoria’s summer events could be axed
Kings Park Perth

The arrival of Omicron has cast a shadow on the live sector’s plan to high-key its fortunes over the summer, with new figures showing just how the Big O has affected the sector in WA and Victoria.

Last Friday the WA premier Mark McGowan unexpectedly extended its border closure indefinitely, leaving the music industry stunned.

On the other side of the country, Save Victorian Events indicated a high level of cancellations or postponements for the next four months.

WA promoters had already sold 100,000 tickets, worth $13 million, for events to the end of April.

The figure is higher when you factor in WA ticket sales of national tours by Midnight Oil and Crowded House by national promoters.

“Friday’s announcement took us by complete surprise,” promoter John Zaccaria told TMN.

“Now the sector is anxious and fearful.

“Without a plan [from the government], uncertainty is our biggest enemy.”

Live Entertainment WA (LEWA), founded by a number of promoters including Zaccaria, has called for meetings with the premier, police commissioner and chief health officer.

In a letter to the premier, LEWA asked about exceptions similar to what sporting codes enjoy.

It also called on a review of its Getting The Show Back On The Road shared risk program.

According to current rules, it covers 75% of box office up to $150,000 in the event of lockdowns or the government instructs them to close down.

LEWA executive officer Catie Jefferies asked for border closures to be added to the criteria, and that the $150,000 figure was inadequate as box offices for some concerts exceed $1 million.

Zaccaria’s business – Zaccaria Concerts & Touring – has national tours in March By The C and SummerSalt with lineups featuring Jimmy Barnes, Missy Higgins, Pnau and The Cat Empire.

His problem is not only getting East Coast names into WA but getting John Butler, Birds of Tokyo and The Waifs back into their home state.

This week the fully vaccinated acts head out to the East Coast to start their tour.

They’re going on one-way tickets and expect to be in two-week quarantine when they return.

Fringe World (February 5 to 13) lost 42 acts, some who lamented they would lose thousands of dollars paid upfront for travel, accommodation and marketing.

Perth Festival immediately scrapped King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard and Barkaa.

A day before the announcement, association WAM pushed back its March WA Music Week, which includes WAMFest, WAMCon and WAMAwards.

City Sessions, pic by Tiffany Garvie

In Victoria, new data from Save Victorian Events has shown three-quarters of the state’s events planned for January and February are being cancelled (46%) or postponed (28%) and many of the rest (16%) are at serious risk.

The outlook for March and April is 22% may cancel, 30% will postpone and 36% are at risk.

Save Victorian Events’ figures came from a survey of 410 respondents from a broad range of a sector that organises more than 120,000 events a year worth more than $12 billion in terms of direct spend, and employs 70,000.

The association’s Simon Thewlis told TMN that live music responses were included in the survey.

“But we didn’t try to separate different types of events as nowadays so many people will be (working) on a festival one day, a corporate gig the next, and something else again the following day,” Thewlis said.

Income earned by events companies fell by 81% between April 2020 and August 2021 when compared to a normal year pre-COVID, and by 66% between September and December 2021.

Respondents estimated income would decline by 68% between January and March 2022, and 58% between April and June this year.

One reported, “We have just had over $250k in bookings postponed for Feb-April 2022.”

Freelance and contributors found their income down 84% from April 2020 to August 2021, and a drop of 65% in the last three months of the year.

They forecast drops of 71% in the first three months of 2022, and 55% from April to June.

Thewlis said events are not viable as long as people are encouraged to work from home.

“So it’s only fair and reasonable governments do provide financial support to event people and businesses until events can be viable again and event people can be working again,” he said.

This month saw postponements of Unify Forever to mid-March and the Leonard Cohen tribute Songs For Suzanne to June, and cancellation of the Dahlia & Arts festival in Bendigo.

However inaugural and returning events continue to be added to the slate.

Last week came the return of the freestyle dance battle City Sessions at Myer Music Bowl on February 5; queer camping festival Gaytimes on February 18 to 20; independent accessibility consultancy Tibi Access’s Groove Tunes disability creative showcase at the Corner Hotel on March 19; and the inaugural Treaty Day Out in February 26 in regional Shepparton with Briggs, Archie Roach, Mo’Ju and Yothu Yindi.

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