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“A rescue umbrella”: New funding offers biz financial boost

As the coronavirus does its best to ensure venues remain shuttered for as long as possible, a range of organisations are stepping in to ease the financial pressures faced by live entertainment businesses worldwide.

In Europe’s largest live music market, Germany, the government has dedicated €50 billion to its creative and cultural industries. The financial aid consists of grants for small companies and the self-employed to cover overhead costs such as renting venues and studio space, and loans for business premises and leasing instalments.

A further €10bn will be provided to facilitate access to social security for self-employed workers for a six-month period, including unemployment insurance and expenses for housing.

Culture minister Monika Grütters calls the aid package a “rescue umbrella for the cultural, creative and media sector”. All cultural institutions in Germany remain closed until 19 April.

“The cultural sector, in particular, is characterised by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods,” says Grütters. “These multilevel protection measures show that the Federal government is determined to do everything possible to counter the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in the cultural and creative fields. We won’t let anyone down.”

The funding is part of a wider €750m aid package, approved by the German parliament on Friday, to protect the country’s economy from the effects of coronavirus.

“A high proportion of self-employed people now have problems with their livelihoods”

Other aid set to benefit the creative industries includes short-term work benefits, tax liquidity aids and €550 billion worth of loans, available from state business development bank KfW, with no upper limit set on credit offerings.

The government in Switzerland has also recently announced a targeted package for the cultural sector, totalling CHF280m (€264.6m). The funding has been welcomed by Swiss promoters’ association SMPA and the wider cultural and events sector.

The financial support comes after the Swiss government unveiled a CHF20bn (€18.8bn) emergency loan programme for companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak at the end of last week. After a quick initial uptake in loans, the government is already in talks to increase the available funds.

In the Netherlands, the government is working with industry representatives to potentially bring in legislation to allow event organisers to refund ticketholders with vouchers to spend on future events, rather than cash refunds.

Dutch promoters’ association VVEM recently sent a letter to the government estimating the damage done to the industry by Covid-19 could be as much as €1.5bn over the summer months, and asking for more concrete support with regards to finance and cooperation from local governments.

Rights societies have also been playing their part, with the German music licensing society (GEMA)’s €40m crisis fund for song writers and the UK’s PRS for Music offering grants of up to £1,000 to each of its members.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently”

Recent support for the sector in Australia has come from Apra Amcos (Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society), which is bringing forward its live performance royalty payout from November to May.

Members will receive a full year’s worth of royalties using data from last year’s reports.

“The Covid-19 crisis has hit every segment of Australia and New Zealand’s music sector,” comments Apra Amcos chief executive, Dean Ormston.

“From our songwriter, composer and publisher members to the venues, events and festivals and the managers, crew and SMEs of the industry, the impact of necessary government regulations has been immediate and devastating.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently.”

The news comes as Australia’s three biggest live companies, Live Nation Australasia, TEG and Frontier Touring/Chugg Entertainment, form a music promoters’ taskforce to call for government aid for small- and medium-sized businesses during the coronavirus shutdown.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry, so that we can continue to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy when we eventually emerge from this crisis,” reads a letter from the taskforce.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry”

Performing rights organisations in France have contributed to the National Centre for Music’s €11.5m emergency fund for the entertainment sector, with Sacem, Adami and Spedidam, each adding €500,000 to the centre’s initial €10m funding package.

Industry body Prodiss had previously deemed the government’s targeted funding for the music and performing arts sectors – which totals €15m – “completely divorced from reality”, although it welcomes the government’s wider €45bn aid package for businesses.

The French government has also dedicated €22 million to support the “intermittents du spectacle”, or freelancers working in the entertainment industry.

Funding for the UK’s cultural sectors has come from a range of places, including significant funding from Arts Council England, which has dedicated a £160 million package for cultural organisations, freelancers and individual artists, £5m from the Help Musicians’ coronavirus financial hardship fund, plus a £500,000 boost from the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain, and £1m from the Musicians’ Union’s coronavirus fund.

New Zealand music industry charity MusicHelps has launched MusicHelpsLive, an appeal to support those facing hardship due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The charity aims to raise NZ$2m (€1m) for workers in the live industry.

 


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Aussie live industry: new festival legislation ‘unworkable’

A group of Australian industry organisations has penned an open letter to New South Wales (NSW) premier Gladys Berejiklian over the re-introduction of controversial festival licensing laws which were scrapped just a few weeks ago.

The Australian Festival Association, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW and Live Music Office signed the letter, which accuses politicians of a “total lack of respect for the live music industry” and demands a roundtable meeting to discuss “regulation and safety at music festivals”.

Under the newly drafted Music Festivals Bill 2019, it is an offence for any festival deemed ‘high risk’ by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) to take place without drawing up a safety management plan for approval first. Failure to do so is punishable by a twelve-month prison sentence.

The proposed legislation was drawn up following the rejection of previous licensing laws by the NSW Legislative Council. At the time, the Australian Labor Party stated they would not support any legislation which included a listing of ‘extreme risk’ festivals.

“Labor, the Greens and the Shooters took away these regulations and left nothing in their place. This legislation will rectify that,” comments Berejiklian. “The situation is clear – music festivals identified as high risk under the former licensing system will continue to be high risk under this law.”

“Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it”

In response to Berejiklian’s decision, the collection of industry associations writes: “As you are aware, the live music industry has repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with your government on our shared commitment to safer music festivals.

“The draft bill tabled yesterday is unworkable. The industry was not consulted on the design of this draft legislation. In its current form, it appears to be based on the regulations disallowed by the NSW Upper House which were unworkable for all the reasons outlined by industry. Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it.

“Setting aside the total lack of respect for the live music industry which is the largest contributor by far to NSW live revenue and attendance,” continues the letter, “this draft bill also delivers huge uncertainty for all music festival operators and concert promoters in the lead up to the summer touring season.

“We believe it is imperative that you immediately convene an industry roundtable to develop a workable framework that supports our shared objectives.”

Berejiklian first implemented the regulations in February this year. The laws, which responded to several drug-related deaths at festivals in the region, have proved a point of contention between the live industry, opposition politicians and the government ever since.

On Wednesday (16 October), Berejiklian reiterated her opposition to pill testing at festivals, following a leaked report in which the deputy state coroner recommended the practice.

 


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NSW music festival regulations rejected

The New South Wales (NSW) Legislative Council has rejected regulations put forward by the NSW Government that imposed stricter licensing laws on music festivals.

The rejection means that festivals formerly placed in the government’s ‘higher risk’ category, and were most affected by the regulations, can revert back to their previous licensing laws.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian implemented the regulations, which placed more responsibility on festival organisers to ensure the safety of patrons and incurred many additional licensing and security costs, following a string of drug-related deaths at music festivals in the region.

The regulations were criticised by industry bodies including the Australian Music Festivals Association, Live Performance Australia, Apra Amcos and Music NSW, as well as leading industry figures such as Byron Bluesfest founder Peter Noble and Live Nation Australia chairman Michael Coppel.

“The government can now sit down with the industry for some constructive consultation on ways to improve patron safety at music festivals, including steps to reduce drug-related harm,” comments Evelyn Richardson, chief executive of Live Performance Australia.

“From the outset, we have repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with government on our shared commitment to safer festivals.

“Genuine collaboration with industry representatives who have decades of experience in running safe and successful festivals is the best way to promote the safety of festival patrons, while also ensuring NSW continues to enjoy the economic and cultural benefits from a dynamic and diverse music festival industry.”

“The government can now sit down with the industry for some constructive consultation on ways to improve patron safety at music festivals”

The government now has two months to propose a new set of regulations. Representatives from the Australian Labor party stated that they would support a regime that did not publish an ‘extreme risk’ list of festivals, that followed existing NSW Health guidelines for festival organisers and that ensured all medical providers at festivals are registered.

Politicians also urged the ‘immediate establishment’ of a regulatory roundtable, at which live music industry associations could consult with local councils.

“The opposition does not move to disallow these regulations lightly, but we simply believe that these regulations do not do the job as required to regulate music festivals and to keep kids safe across NSW,” stated shadow minister for roads, music and the night-time economy John Graham, speaking at the debate.

The minister also commented that no politicians met with the festivals at the time of implementing the regulations and that “no consultative body existed, or exists today”, adding that there is “no other industry that government would work with in that way.”

According to Labor minister Penny Sharpe, the “impact on venues and festivals” was not “accounted for” in the regulations. The minster urged the government to learn from its mistakes, referencing the recently scrapped Sydney lock-out laws.

As well as Byron Bay Bluesfest, other NSW festivals include Defqon.1, Days Like This, Transmission, Electric Gardens and Rolling Loud.

 


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Australian opposition party promises to prioritise live music

The Australian Labor party (ALP) has announced plans to invest millions of dollars into the Australian music industry in the run up to the federal elections on Saturday 18 May.

The Labor party launched its new arts policy, ‘Renewing Creative Australia’, in Melbourne. The policy builds on the original ‘Creative Australia’ plan launched under the Gillard Labor Government in 2013.

“Arts policy is not an add-on for a Labor government,” says Labor leader Bill Shorten. “If we get elected we will put the story of our arts at the centre of what we do as a nation. The arts deserve attention and support.”

The opposition party has promised AU$20 million to the Australian Live Music Fund to support live music venues, events and musicians. Additionally, $10 million will go to national music export development initiative Sounds Australia and $2.1 million to the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) to provide mentoring for female musicians.

The policy also focuses on promoting First Nations’ art and culture, dedicating $2.7 million to a new grants programme for Indigenous musicians. A Shorten Labor government would also provide $3 million to assist existing state-based First Nations’ theatre companies and $8 million to establish a new Indigenous Theatre Company as a performing arts institution.

“If we get elected we will put the story of our arts at the centre of what we do as a nation”

As health issues and artist wellbeing becomes an increasingly pertinent issue within the music industry, the policy also promises $5 million over a period of five years to Support Act, delivering a music industry-focused mental health programme and $1 million over five years to music therapy provider Nordoff Robbins.

The opposition party has also proposed legislation to tackle secondary ticketing, setting a ticket resale price cap of 10% above face value, banning automated ticket-buying software or ticket bots and electing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to act as watchdogs.

Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) is among industry organisations to show support for the policy.

“The support for Australian contemporary music in this arts policy will provide vital investment for artists at all stages of their career,” says APRA AMCOS chief executive Dean Ormston.

“With targeted investment in music education, export, indigenous creators and live music venues, Australia now has the policy potential to place us front and centre of the global music ecosystem.”

The policy follows the launch of the current Liberal party government’s Australian Music Industry Package, which dedicated $30.9 million to live music.

 


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APRA AMCOS CEO to step down

Brett Cottle, the long-serving CEO of APRA AMCOS, has announced his intention to step down after 27 years at the Australasian collection society.

Cottle, who joined APRA as its first in-house counsel in the late 1970s, oversaw the merger of APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) and AMCOS (Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society) in 1997 and has since increased royalty collections and distributions by seven-fold. (More than A$70 million, or US$52.2m, was paid out in public performance royalties in 2015–2016.)

In a letter to staff, Cottle (pictured) said 2017 financial results will again be at a record level.

Cottle will stay in the role for the next 12 months, after which, says APRA chair Jenny Morris, he is “keen to pursue other priorities in life”.

“The operational merger of APRA and AMCOS is today taken for granted, but when it was effected in 1997 Brett’s vision and leadership were critical to its success”

“The operational merger of APRA and AMCOS is today taken for granted, but when it was effected in 1997 Brett’s vision and leadership were critical to its success,” says AMCOS chair Ian James. “The positive and productive spirit in which the two boards have co-operated seamlessly ever since is testament to the culture created and fostered by Brett.

“Internationally the organisation commands enormous respect, reflected in the fact that Brett is the only Australian to have been elected chair of the International Confederation of Authors’ Societies, a role in which he served for two consecutive terms.”

Recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson will lead the search for a new CEO.

 


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Sounds Australia to keep funding after gov U-turn

Sounds Australia will no longer lose its public funding following a surprise about-face by the Australian government.

The music export office – which was controversially defunded in May’s federal budget, sparking a backlash from the Australian live industry – will receive A$1.16 million over the next four years, arts minister Mitch Fifield has announced.

The funding matches investment from the Australia Council for the Arts and PRO/collection society APRA AMCOS.

“The Australian music industry is full of talent, passion and innovation, and we’re ecstatic that we can continue sharing that with the world”

Millie Millgate, Sounds Australia’s executive producer, says:  “Today’s news that the Department of Communications and the Arts is supporting Sounds Australia for the next four years is exactly the result we’ve been hoping for. It’s testament to the value of the national export platform and subsequent success Australian artists are enjoying around the world.

“We can’t thank the local and international industry enough for the support they’ve shown over the past months as we’ve worked towards a funding solution. The Australian music industry is full of talent, passion and innovation, and we’re ecstatic that we can continue sharing that with the world.”

 


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Aus/NZ live royalties up—but govt support lacking

Collection society APRA AMCOS, which represents over 87,000 members in Australia and New Zealand, paid out more than A$70 million in public performance royalties in the 2015–2016 financial year.

A significant minority of the money – 6.8% more than in 2014–15 – was collected from the ~142,000 business licensed by the organisation to host live music, and well exceeds the global benchmark of growth of 3.8%, as illustrated in CISAC’s 2016 annual report. Media licensing (digital, recorded, broadcast and other licences), from television networks, video-on-demand services, streaming services, radio stations, etc., makes up 78.75% of the revenue pool and also showed marked growth.

“Our international revenue figures reflect the continuing extraordinary success of Australian and New Zealand music around the world,” comments APRA AMCOS (Australasian Performing Right Association/Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society) CEO Brett Cottle AM.

“It continues to aggravate, surprise and disappoint that governments on both sides of the Tasman fail to treat music as a commercial art form worthy of support”

“Over the past three years, export revenue has increased by 75% to more than $38m. This figure, of course, only represents the writer share of performing rights, and when publisher shares along with mechanical and synch rights are factored in, the value of songs to both countries’ export incomes is clearly significant and growing. During this time Australian and New Zealand songwriters have created some of the most performed music on the planet: Lorde, Gotye, Sia, Flume, Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Troye Sivan and a generation of writers who see their audience and market in global, rather than local, terms.

“And yet it continues to aggravate, surprise and disappoint that governments on both sides of the Tasman fail to treat music as a commercial art form worthy of support or investment at a level that is reasonable and proportionate to other creative art forms. Even the most modest programs – delivering obvious and major benefits – such as Sounds Australia [the export office which recently lost its public funding] and the Live Music Office, have come under short-sighted and ill-informed threat. It’s long past time that governments and their advisors woke up and listened to the music.”

 


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Aus promoter fined $500k for unpaid royaltiesaustral

John Denison, the promoter of Australia’s short-lived Soulfest, has been ordered by a Sydney court to pay almost half a million dollars in damages to Australian collection society APRA AMCOS.

Denison, whose now-defunct company Soulfest International Pty Ltd was behind the hip hop, funk and R&B festival, was deemed by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to have committed “flagrant infringement” of the Copyright Act 1968 and ordered to pay APRA AMCOS (the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society) A$437,000 – roughly US$335,957 – in compensatory and additional damages and $70,000 ($53,819) in legal costs.

The ruling brings to an end a protracted case against Denison by APRA AMCOS, which claimed the promoter failed to secure proper live performances licences for Soulfest, Supafest and “other tours and events”.

Richard Mallett, head of revenue at APRA AMCOS, comments: “Judge [Alexander] Street made a number of important comments about the importance of APRA AMCOS, and that the evidence demonstrated that APRA AMCOS was willing to deal with this promoter even with all the difficulties he posed.

“Venues, caterers and artists are able to withhold their services – but songwriters’ work cannot be withheld ‘after the fact'”

“He said that it is to APRA AMCOS’s credit that it made so many genuine attempts to license the events so that it could promote live music while still protecting its membership, and it was pleasing to note he also acknowledged APRA AMCOS’s essential role in promoting live music performances in Australia.”

“We maintain APRA AMCOS’s members are among the most vulnerable service providers when it comes to promoters like this. Venues, caterers and artists are able to withhold their services – but songwriters’ work cannot be withheld ‘after the fact’. Their only recourse is to trust in the courts, and their membership to APRA AMCOS, to protect their rights.”

Denison, who did not appear in court, now promotes tours with his new venture, iLive Entertainment.

Soulfest ran for one year, in 2014, with its planned 2015 event cancelled at the eleventh hour due to poor ticket sales. Urban music festival Supafest took place in 2010, 2011 and 2012, reportedly running up debts of $17m and dogged by allegations of non-payment of performers.

 


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Investment in music a vote-winner in Australia

A commitment to financial support for the music industry will affect how many Australians vote in the upcoming general election, a survey by collection society APRA AMCOS has revealed.

An overwhelming 98% of the 9,858 people who responded to APRA AMCOS (the Australasian Performing Right Association and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society)’s Support Australian Music survey said they believe the Australian government should invest in its music industry, with 72% going so far as to say that a commitment to a significant investment in Australian music would influence their vote in 2 July’s federal election.

Nearly a third of respondents live in marginal seats. The Australian reports that opposition leader Bill Shorten only needs to win over some 30,000 voters to snatch victory from Malcolm Turnbull’s governing Liberal/National coalition.

72% of respondents said that a commitment to a significant investment in Australian music would influence their vote in 2 July’s federal election

The last Australian federal budget, which defunded export office Sounds Australia, was heavily criticised by live music industry figures, with the concert and broader music/arts sector “completely missing from the government’s vision for the Australian economy”, said Live Performance Australia’s Evelyn Richardson.

APRA AMCOS has previously recommended giving some form of tax rebate to Australia’s live music venues.

According to Live Performance Australia, live music generates A$2 billion annually for Australia. The University of Tasmania estimates that every $1 spent on live music returns $3 to the wider Australian economy.

 


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