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Live Music Industry asks to be able to get back to business

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Unsustainable venue restrictions and continued uncertainty around border closures are having a devastating impact on the live music industry as it continues to struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

National industry body, the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC), is today calling on all State and Territory governments to work with the sector to ease damaging restrictions on venues while working together to implement a national essential worker permit system to resuscitate the national touring circuit.

The ALMBC fears that without an urgent national response to this national crisis, hundreds of businesses will close and thousands of jobs will be lost in a matter of months.

The call comes as the ALMBC reveals the perilous state of the industry through its latest member survey. Completed early this year, the survey captures an industry struggling to recover 12 months after lockdowns and border closures brought the live music scene to a halt.

Among the key findings were:

  • Almost 70% of live music businesses have seen their revenue drop by 75-100% since lockdowns began. Many have had little to no income at all.
  • 77% of businesses will only survive the next six months unless trading conditions improve.  45% report it may only be 3 months before they are forced to close.
  • Restrictions on venue capacities present the greatest barrier to profitability for the live industry as it recovers – closely followed by the loss of wage support, interstate border closures and a lack of certainty and confidence across the industry.
  • The uncertainty of the past year has negatively impacted the mental health of almost 93% of live music business owners and workers.

ALMBC Executive General Manager, Craig Spann, said that with JobKeeper destined to finish at the end of March, it was critical that the industry is supported in getting back to business.

He said that the recovery must be focussed on the thousands of venues across the country that not only provide platforms for artists to perform, but are the backbone of the national live music industry – employing staff and crew while supporting a diverse range of small to medium businesses.

“The perception that live music is back disguises the devastating reality facing our industry,” he says. “Those shows that are being presented are hampered by restrictions and crowd limits making them unprofitable and unsustainable, with many venues running at well under half their usual capacity for the indefinite future.

“Meanwhile, national tours have not been feasible since March last year. Snap lockdowns and wildly varied quarantine conditions have robbed the industry of confidence while also losing revenue and increasing costs – losses are significant and are putting our industry even further behind as we try to recover.

“Our hands are tied with Government policy preventing us from getting back to work supporting our employees and the thousands of small businesses around the country that are integral to the industry.”

The complexities facing the industry have been illustrated with the launch of a new online resource created by the ALMBC that captures the ever-changing patchwork of venue and border restrictions across the county.

Called the Gig Ready Dashboard, the new website has been developed by a team of volunteers around the country and will be updated daily.

“We have developed this resource as navigating the many and varied COVID restrictions around the country has become incredibly challenging for the industry, both for the day-to-day operation of venues and booking tours,” Spann added. “And these are restrictions that can change from day to day.”

The ALMBC is urging relevant authorities from around the country to engage with the local industry while also developing national frameworks that support the industry through institutions such as the National Cabinet.

ALMBC proposes the implementation of an ‘Essential Live Music Industry Worker Permit’ which would allow, in the case of a border closure or ‘hotspot’ designation for artists and crew to travel interstate. Permits will be subject to a national standard application process and in place indefinitely once approved.

If a border closure is triggered, artists will then need to liaise directly with relevant health authorities to notify of travel and adhere to clear guidelines – developed in partnership with health authorities – to eliminate contact with the broader community and audiences.

“With next to no community transmission, we are confident that we can work with authorities to protect the community in our venues while looking after the future of our industry,” Spann said. “All we ask is that Government at all levels work with us and listen to the deep concerns of our members.”

For further information and resources, go to almbc.org.au/

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