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Opinion July 9, 2021

Where’s the roadmap? Government’s decision on live music events is literally costing people their livelihoods

Dean Ormston
Where’s the roadmap? Government’s decision on live music events is literally costing people their livelihoods

The decision in Queensland last weekend to cancel the live music entertainment for a 100% capacity crowd at a rugby league match at Suncorp Stadium due to ‘COVID restrictions’ shows that some officials in Australia are losing perspective. How much longer does the Australian music industry need to put up with illogical directives made by decision-makers absent of any consultation with the industry?

Australian music, a $16 billion industry, has wilfully abided by all health requirements since our industry was first shut down by COVID-19 in March last year. Our sector has cooperated fully which has been our part in keeping the wider community safe. APRA AMCOS data from earlier this year showed that live music was operating at just 4 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

However, somewhere along the road to Australia managing this crisis, some health assessments which should be based on epidemiological evidence have defied logic and seem straight from an episode of Utopia.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Some of these decisions are quite literally costing people their livelihoods and it’s beyond time for state, territory and local governments to stop the prejudice against live music and entertainment and work with us on a plan to get our industry back.

Last month 7,000 people were allowed to attend a football match in Geelong. If it had been a concert, it would have been shut down. In March the NSW Government closed down Bluesfest because of one case in the Byron region. Yet, the Royal Easter Show proceeded with mass crowds, with no restrictions on anyone from Byron Bay attending.

Each weekend football stadiums are full, but live music events are restricted to capacity as low as 30%. Similar scenarios have played out in every major town and city across the country. Our industry rightly looks on at this inconsistency with dismay.

I applaud health officials around the nation who have kept this pandemic at bay. Their work, commitment and expertise should be applauded as they protect our national interest.

However, it appears that in the minds of some over-zealous officials, the mere act of listening to live music escalates the possibility of COVID transmission. Meanwhile our colleagues in North America and Europe are re-opening, and fast. Concerts, festivals and events are being programmed for the northern summer and live music is happening again.

We need a clear roadmap and staged return to business that includes music and live events, and based on evidence and a clear vision for what we want Australia to look like in a world where we’re living with COVID.

Trials in Europe and North America are showing that holding entertainment events without masks and social distancing can be as safe as going to a restaurant or shopping centre. Research published in The Lancet last month also shows that under strict safety measures no participants in a staged concert were infected with COVID-19.

The sad fact however, is that music and live events seem likely to be shut down until Australia reaches 90% vaccination levels for both adults AND children.

Artists across this country and the thousands of workers who bring live events to stage stand willing and ready to help promote the vaccination program. Right now in New York, those who have been fully vaccinated are rewarded and able to buy tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway!

Australia’s music industry stands ready to work with all government departments, agencies and services to get this vaccination program done. It’s our only way out.

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


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