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Australian live industry calls for UK-style insurance

A coalition of Australian live music associations has called on the government to adopt an insurance scheme for live music similar to the £750m government-backed programme announced by the UK last week.

In a joint statement, Live Performance Australia (LPA), Live Entertainment Industry Forum, the Australian Festival Association (AFA) and more warned that it will be a “very sad and quiet” summer without a reinsurance scheme to protect the industry from disruptions and cancellations.

The Australian live music and entertainment sector has long campaigned for a government-backed insurance scheme, especially after the last-minute cancellation of Bluesfest – one of Australia’s biggest and best-known festivals.

However, only the film industry so far has received government reinsurance, through the federal government’s $50m Temporary Interruption Fund, announced in June 2020.

Nations including the UK, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Estonia have announced a financial buffer against future possible lockdowns for the live music and entertainment sectors.

“We’re not looking for a handout, promoters are willing to purchase an insurance product”

LPA’s chief executive, Evelyn Richardson, says: “The UK example shows there is a solution that can be developed in conjunction with industry on commercial terms. We’re not looking for a handout, promoters are willing to purchase an insurance product. A scheme underwritten by government just makes it viable for insurers to put policies in the market.”

AFA GM, Julia Robinson, says: “An insurance scheme will ensure that the $200m in Rise funding together with state and territory initiatives will deliver the maximum benefit for the country. Government don’t want to see these investments go to waste, and neither does the industry.”

In a comment for IQ magazine, Robinson explained warned that a lack of government-backed insurance could also impact business confidence.

Australia’s call for insurance comes after findings from the second I Lost My Gig survey – an initiative of the AFA and the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN) – revealed that at least 23,000 gigs and events were cancelled during July due to restrictions.

Of the $64m in lost revenue, the results showed that 99% of respondents had no income protection or event cancellation insurance.


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Bluesfest forced to cancel at the eleventh hour

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2021 has been cancelled by a public health order, a mere 24 hours before doors were due to open to the public.

The New South Wales (NSW) government announced on Wednesday (30 March) that Bluesfest would not be permitted to go ahead on its scheduled dates, Thursday 31 March to Monday 5 April, due to a new Covid case in Byron Bay.

Bluesfest confirmed the cancellation in a statement published late afternoon on 31 March. “We are heartbroken that Covid-19 has spread into our local community,” it read. “We are getting the message out as quickly as possible so that those traveling to the event can make alternate arrangements.”

Read the full Bluesfest statement via our website: www.bluesfest.com.au/bluesfest-is-cancelled-for-two-years-in-a-row

Posted by Bluesfest Byron Bay on Tuesday, March 30, 2021


In a statement, Minister Hazzard said: “While the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for music lovers and the local community, I hope that ticket holders would support Bluesfest and hold on to their tickets as I understand Bluesfest will be working on a new date as soon as possible.”

Under an NSW Health-approved Covid-19 safety plan, Bluesfest 2021 was set to operate at approximately 50% of normal capacity and production, hosting around 16,500 people on each of its five days, with an all-Australian line-up.

The cancellation marks the second time the festival has been called off due to the coronavirus.

The last-minute cancellation of Bluesfest has prompted fresh calls for a government insurance scheme that would help live events redeem their costs in the event of an eleventh-hour cancellation.

Live Performance Australia and the Australian Festival Association, which have been advocating for a business interruption fund for the last year, say it’s “now a matter of urgency”.

“Govt has a Covid insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently”

Bluesfest’s Peter Noble had called for such a fund at the beginning of the year. A business interruption fund, he wrote on Facebook, would “incentivise event presenters to put on events and be protected in not going to the wall, should an out break of Covid shut down their businesses at short notice and protect artists, crew and suppliers [to] get paid should that occur”.

“The federal government did it more than six months ago for the film industry to get them back to making movies. Why are we still waiting?” he wrote.

Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke has also called for a “Covid insurance system” for live music. “The music industry is full of viable profitable businesses unable to function because of public health,” he wrote on Twitter. “Govt has a Covid insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently.”

In the last year, insurance schemes have been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m), Norway (€34m) Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m).

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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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