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Tales from Covid: Michael Chugg Q&A

In the first in a series of interviews with industry leaders, Chugg Entertainment's Michael Chugg talks about coping with the Covid-19/bushfire double whammy

By IQ on 31 Mar 2020

Veteran Australian promoter Michael Chugg

Michael Chugg

The impact that the coronavirus outbreak is having on the industry is plain to see, but the road to recovery still remains somewhat unpaved. As governments around the world crack down on the spread of the virus, the return to some kind of business as usual is looming. But just what will that look like and just how hard will the vestiges of the virus be for the industry to shake?

IQ is catching up with major industry players to determine how they are coping with the drastic changes to both professional and personal life, the path they will take to help business recover from the crisis and the long-term changes that we can expect to see.

Up first is veteran Australian promoter Michael Chugg, founder of Chugg Entertainment and co-founder of Frontier Touring, who reflects on the resilience of the Australian live community, the potential pushback on international touring in the country and his love for British crime dramas…


IQ: What lessons have you learned from the coronavirus outbreak?
I have learned that taking care of one’s health with attention to personal cleanliness and home environment is a priority and a major helper of immunity.

What do you expect recovery to look like, both for Chugg Entertainment and the wider industry?
The Australian and state governments are very much on the ball after a slow start. With the border closures and great campaign to the public on how to manage ourselves in mandatory quarantine, together with the community social distancing efforts, we are seeing a drop in new cases daily which hopefully will continue.

We are optimistic that Australian live music events and other public gatherings could be back as early as October or November, but it could be as late as January. However, I think international touring could be back here a lot later than that. If we manage to clean up Australia, the government may be reluctant to take the risk on international visitors bringing the virus back to us.

“We are optimistic that Australian live music events could be back as early as October or November, but it could be as late as January”

How do you think this will change the industry in the long term?
We are very worried about the long-term effect on the hundreds of companies involved in the production, presentation and running of tours, festivals and events, as well as the thousands and thousands of contractors, crews, security and other workers who lost all their income immediately when public gatherings were banned.

The doubt about when or if live entertainment can recommence is causing a lot of stress and depression worldwide, and I’m sure the industry will be a lot more cautious and careful about saturating the marketplace from now on.

First the bushfires and now Covid-19, the Australian live industry has had a tough few months – how has the industry coped as a whole?
It has been a tough six months and to cop corona on top of the bushfire season, which is right up there with the most disastrous fires ever, I think everyone is coping well. My partner and friend Michael Gudinski’s calmness and leadership has helped to keep the entire Frontier/Chugg family together and has been a great vibe for many people in the industry.

My partner and friend Michael Gudinski’s calmness and leadership has helped to keep the entire Frontier/Chugg family together

Organisations like Support Act, Sound Of Silence, I Lost My Gig, CrewCare and many others have done an amazing job dealing with many individuals and families in need.

This week, the federal government – who had already been offering tax breaks, freeze on loans and mortage payments, no evictions by landlords and other economic measures – came up with their JobKeeper Payment, which is a AU$130 billion (€72.4bn) fund basically covering the equivalent of 50% of all Australian salaries for the next six months. This is taking an incredible amount of pressure off everyone.

Finally, how are you keeping busy in self-isolation?
Being a lover of books, movies and music, there is plenty to keep one occupied. I am mad for British crime and mystery shows, so there is a ton of them. I am spending a lot of time on video calls through Zoom with the teams at Frontier/Chugg Entertainment and Chugg music, as well as with my family. I also loving cooking and now I’m able to do it every day.


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