Gudinski’s ‘Music From The Home Front’ returns
Frontier Touring has announced the second edition of Music from the Home Front, a special Anzac Day concert spearheaded by the late Australian industry icon, Michael Gudinski.
The second instalment will take place at Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on Saturday 24 April, the eve of the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.
The Kid Laroi, Jimmy Barnes, Dean Lewis, Amy Shark, Tina Arena, Vance Joy, Lime Cordiale, Tash Sultana and You Am I are slated to perform.
Music from the Home Front was conceived by Gudinski, the late Barnes and Frontier Touring/Mushroom Group founder, to pay tribute to both the service people who were involved in the Gallipoli campaign (1915–16) of the First World War, as well as those who were “fighting on the Covid-19 front line”.
The inaugural Music from the Home Front was watched by over 1.4 million viewers on Anzac Day 2020.
“Music From The Home Front is a project [Michael Gudinski] was immensely proud of in 2020”
Matt Gudinski, the son of Michael and the newly elected CEO of Mushroom Group, told Billboard: “It’s incredibly fitting that Music From The Home Front, a project he was immensely proud of in 2020, was one of the events he was working on right up until his last day.
“That we can bring to life a broadcast concert version from his hometown of Melbourne, supporting the industry he loved, in a city he long promoted as the leading music capital of Australia, resonates deeply with all of us at Mushroom.”
Michael Gudinski passed away suddenly on 2 March 2021 at the age of 68.
Similar to last year, the concert will be broadcast live on television on Nine/9Now and on YouTube at 7:30 pm AEST. This year’s event is presented in partnership with the Victorian government.
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“An extraordinary legacy”: Michael Gudinski passes aged 68
Frontier Touring founder Michael Gudinski, for five decades one of the best-known and most-loved figures in the concert business down under, has passed away. He was 68.
The sudden passing of Gudinski – who died in his sleep at his home in Melbourne last night (1 March) – sent a shockwave through the industry in Australia and beyond, with colleagues, artists, business rivals and parliamentarians sending their condolences and appreciation for a man Jimmy Barnes describes as “the heart of Australian music”.
Born Vale Michael Solomon Gudinski to Russian-Jewish parents in 1952, Gudinski founded record label and music publisher Mushroom Group at the age of 20 in 1972. Mushroom went on to become Australia’s largest homegrown entertainment company, adding booking agency, merchandise, film/TV production and concert promotion services.
Frontier Touring, founded in 1979, remains Australia’s largest tour promoter, having worked with artists including Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Paul McCartney and Foo Fighters. It merged with AEG Presents in 2019.
In addition to touring some of the world’s leading artists and releasing, via the Mushroom Group labels, some of Australia’s favourite albums, Gudinski – a long-time ILMC member and frequent contributor to IQ – recently won praise for his assistance to the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Mushroom Group says, “with the music industry severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael conceptualised and developed Music from the Home Front, The Sound and the State of Music, platforms designed to showcase and support contemporary Australian music in an incredibly difficult time. It speaks to the man he was that of his countless illustrious career achievements these projects, that supported the industry he loved, were ones he was particularly proud of.
“I’ve toured the world for the last 50 years and never met a better promoter”
Frontier is also part of the pan-industry Live Entertainment Industry Forum, which has worked with government to get Australia back to live music safely.
Frontier Touring co-founder Michael Chugg, whose on-and-off business relationship with Gudinski culminated in his rejoining Mushroom Group in 2019, describes the passing of his friend as “shattering”.
“I spoke to him at 9 o’clock last night – we were giving each other a hard time over making sure the [Chugg music artist] Sheppard album got to number one this week,” he tells Sydney radio station 2GB. “It’s just so shocking; I got the call early this morning. […] I first met him when he was a 16-year-old sitting at a desk at an agency in Melbourne, and we were friends, buddies and opponents ever since.
“It’s just one of the worst days of my life.”
Barnes, who performed at Music from the Home Front, is among the artists to pay tribute to Gudinski’s achievements. “He was there for everyone that needed him,” he says. “The music business turned, grew and moved forward in Australia because of Michael. He was a force of nature, a giant of a man. His boundless enthusiasm breathed life into our music scene.”
“My friend Michael Gudinski was first, last and always a music man,” wrote another, Bruce Springsteen, on social media. “I’ve toured the world for the last 50 years and never met a better promoter.
“The music business turned, grew and moved forward in Australia because of Michael”
“Michael always spoke with a deep rumbling voice, and the words would spill out so fast that half the time I needed an interpreter. But I could hear him clear as a bell when he would say, ‘Bruce, I’ve got you covered’. And he always did. He was loud, always in motion, intentionally (and unintentionally) hilarious and deeply soulful.
“He will be remembered by artists, including this one, from all over the world every time they step foot on Australian soil. My deepest condolences to his wife and partner Sue, and to the whole Gudinski family, of which he was so proud.”
Gudinski, added Minogue, was “one of a kind and forever family to me. My heart is broken and I can’t believe he’s gone. Irreplaceable and unforgettable, I’ll always love you, ‘the Big G’.”
Rival promoters also sent their condolences: TEG extended its “deepest sympathies to the Gudinski family at this very difficult time, as well as to everyone at Mushroom and Frontier Touring”. “Michael was a larger-than-life character whose legacy in Australian music is undeniable,” the Sydney-based company adds.
Live Nation Australia said Gudinski leaves an “extraordinary legacy” in live music:
Vale Michael Solomon Gudinski AM, 1952-2021 – he cast a giant shadow and leaves an extraordinary legacy. pic.twitter.com/aD5tKEp66i
— Live Nation AUS & NZ (@LiveNationOzNz) March 2, 2021
“When he started in show business in his teens, Australian music was a cottage industry. He was instrumental in turning it into a powerhouse”
“I’m not sure we ever agreed on anything, except maybe Ed Sheeran,” tweeted actor and musician Russell Crowe. “It still didn’t stop us from being mates for 30 years. I’m going to miss him deeply.”
Gudinski is survived by his wife Sue, his son Matt and Matt’s partner Cara, and his daughter Kate, her husband Andrew and their children, Nina-Rose and Lulu, as well as the extended “Mushroom family”.
“You simply cannot tell the story of Australian music without Michael Gudinski squarely in the centre of it,” says Tony Burke MP, Australia’s shadow minister for the arts. “For nearly 50 years, he was a passionate and relentless advocate for the local music industry and the artists that make it great.
“When he started in show business in his teens, Australian music was a cottage industry. He was instrumental in turning it into a powerhouse, earning him the title ‘the father of the Australian music industry’.
“From Mushroom Records to Frontier Touring, he was a brilliant, pioneering businessman – but he never lost his passion for the music itself.”
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The NZ Normal: What live is like on the other side
When IQ catches up with Stuart Clumpas, he is at the wedding of Live Nation New Zealand chief Mark Kneebone, and the following morning is flying his plane to Queenstown for an outdoor gig. “How very New Zealand-of-the-moment is that?” he comments, adding how fortunate he feels to be in a place that has dealt so well with the pandemic.
“What New Zealand has been able to do, by a combination of fortuitous positioning on the planet, a little bit of taking a punt and getting it right, and just a very cooperative element throughout society, is to stop Covid in its tracks, and then put up strict-but-fair barriers to prevent the virus getting into the country,” says Clumpas.
However, while going to a gig remains all but a dream for billions of people around the world, the reality in the Land of the Long White Cloud is that live music professionals are suffering from some of the same issues as their peers in nations where concerts remain banned.
“We’re in a bubble that nobody can leave or get into”
Indeed, never has the term Kiwi been more appropriate, as the national icon is a flightless bird, very much symbolising the current dilemma. “I feel like I’m the living embodiment of The Truman Show,” confesses Clumpas. “We’re in a bubble that nobody can leave or get into.”
Former Live Nation chairman Clumpas, who still consults for the company but otherwise runs Auckland’s 12,000-capacity Spark Arena and sister venue The Tuning Fork (cap. 375), contends that New Zealand’s ‘new normal’ comes with caveats. “It’s normal to all extents and purposes, but there is an uncomfortable feeling or an unease behind it; everybody knows that it ain’t the norm, even though you go about life being normal… it’s hard to explain.
“In terms of business, though, we’re able to have shows without restrictions, as there is no community Covid here.” (At press time, the New Zealand government announced that a 56-year-old woman who had completed the compulsory two-week quarantine had subsequently returned a positive test. She was ordered to self isolate at home.)
“Covid-19 [has] had a massive impact on the number of events we’ve been able to deliver”
While anyone remotely interested in live entertainment might be looking enviously at the freedoms the people of New Zealand are enjoying, for those working in the territory the reality is a lot more fragile. Clumpas, for instance, reports that Spark Arena’s business is 85% down, while others disclose similar struggles.
“Covid-19 [has] had a massive impact on the number of events we’ve been able to deliver. Since lockdown we have hosted 61 performance events in our venues; for the same date range in the previous year we hosted more than 130 events,” reports Gus Sharp, event sales and planning manager for WellingtonNZ, which through its Venues Wellington division operates six buildings: Michael Fowler Centre (capacity 2,500 seated); TSB Arena (cap 6,000); Shed 6 (1,400); The Opera House (1,388 seated); the Wellington Town Hall, (2,200 mixed); and the St James Theatre (1,700 seated).
Sharp continues, “The largest single night event we delivered was a drum and bass rave at the TSB Arena which, on the night, had a capacity of 4,000.”
Detailing Live Nation New Zealand’s post-Covid journey, managing director Mark Kneebone, recalls, “We started off with smaller shows like the Together Again series which were among the first socially distanced shows in the world, which we kicked off at the Tuning Fork, Auckland in late May 2020.
“The largest single night event we delivered was a drum and bass rave at the TSB Arena which had a capacity of 4,000”
“Initially, the capacity for the events were 100 people, including all staff. These events were all seated, with fans in pods, and with lots of health and safety precautions such as temperature checks, socially distanced seating, table service, staff wearing PPE and contact tracing.
“As the situation in the country became under control and restrictions were lifted, shows could happen at full scale again and we were back on the road as quickly as we could be.”
Kneebone continues, “The biggest headline show we did in 2020 was Benee, with the tour covering eight shows ranging from theatre to arena level in four cities across NZ, and included two sold-out shows at Spark Arena.”
On the festival front, Live Nation benefitted from the demand for entertainment outdoors at its 29-31 December Rhythm & Vines festival, which with an all-Kiwi line up, selling more than 25,000 tickets and attracting 83,000 attendees across the four days.
“We also had to create our own gigs, which is something that others elsewhere might want to look at”
Away from music, WellingtonNZ also hosted the world premiere of Digital Nights – Van Gogh Alive, an out-door digital projection exhibition of works by Vincent van Gogh. “It had more than 44,000 people through the gates,” says Sharp. “This was a fantastic outcome considering that for part of the eight-week season, crowds were unavoidably limited to no more than 100 people a session.”
Creativity has also been a challenge at Spark Arena, where Clumpas flags up a successful beer festival. “We also had to create our own gigs, which is something that others elsewhere might want to look at,” he says, citing the world’s biggest ever pub gig, which was organised in partnership with promoter Eccles Entertainment.
“This harks back to the 80s when the likes of INXS and Midnight Oil would play to 2,000 people in these huge pubs – nobody would pay to get in but they’d all come in and drink like hell,” explains Clumpas.
“It was Brent Eccles’ idea, where he put on all these Kiwi bands who were big in the 80s. It was fabulous – we had 3,000 people and because we didn’t have an international Spark Arena in Auckland has introduced Covid tests at the venue’s entrances touring production manager to deal with, we ran the room and we were able to do a whole bunch of shit that never in a month of Sun- days we would have been allowed to do – and people absolutely loved it.
“Such ingenuity is needed because New Zealand’s limited talent pool has already been used – to great effect”
“For example, there’s a famous takeaway hamburger caravan called The White Lady in central Auckland where people go in the early hours on their way home after a big night. We brought The White Lady into the venue and put it at the back of the room.
“And above the stage, Brent had this video screen on a loop, saying ‘No shorts or stubbies or jandals allowed in this bar, mate. Get too drunk and you’re fucking getting chucked out.’ The bands love it, and every punter who came up to me thought it was hilarious and begged us to do it again.”
Eccles, too, was thrilled at the success of the format. “We’ll definitely do it again,” he tells IQ. “In fact, I have plans to take the idea to Australia, when it’s possible.”
Delighting at the details of the event, Eccles says, “All the bars were on the floor of the arena, like a pub, and we had signage up for legendary 80s places like The Globe, the Windsor Castle and the Gluepot, which don’t exist any more. Such ingenuity is needed because New Zealand’s limited talent pool has already been used – to great effect – but venues throughout the country are struggling to fill their many vacant diary dates.
“Our local acts are boosted by getting to work with that state-of-the-art production gear”
Boosting the domestic scene
There are, of course, silver linings. Clumpas points to the amazing production support that has flourished thanks to all of the international tours that have visited New Zealand in the last decade.
“Our local acts have worked incredibly hard to deliver some great shows, and they are boosted by getting to work with that state-of-the-art production gear so they can look and sound as good in an arena as any of the international acts,” he says.
“We’ve certainly seen some homegrown success stories come out of 2020,” agrees Sharp. “The 4,000-capacity rave mentioned earlier was a purely domestic line-up: that’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened before Covid reared its ugly head.
“We’ve also had homegrown superstars such as Benee doing three sold-out nights in a row in one of our GA venues. The demand for homegrown talent is a fantastic thing to see and may well be ushering in a golden era for New Zealand performers and audiences.”
“We may well be ushering in a golden era for New Zealand performers and audiences”
Live Nation’s Kneebone observes, “Demand has been really strong as we came out of lockdown which has been great to see. We of course wanted to give extra thought and messaging around health and safety precautions. There will never be a one-sized fits all approach for marketing, so we continue to partner closely with artist teams to determine the right strategy. We’ve found things work smoothest when fans have all the details upfront so their expectations are aligned from the onset.”
Kneebone also tips his hat to the way in which home-grown talent has stepped up to entertain their fellow citizens. “Domestic acts have the spotlight to themselves at the moment and are headlining all the festivals around the country,” he notes. “Fans have been incredibly supportive of that, too, which means the industry can keep the wheels turning while enjoying all the best that Kiwi talent has to offer.”
Although he is the New Zealand representative of Australian giant Frontier Touring, Eccles has had no acts from that agreement to promote during the last few months. However, Eccles Entertainment was established in 2000 and has been built on a roster of Kiwi talent that has helped its founders retain all their employees throughout the pandemic. Indeed, with local act Six60 in the midst of a stadium tour that has sold 120,000 tickets, the company has the biggest tour of the NZ summer.
“Six60 are capable of selling out Western Springs, which is 50,000 capacity and a hallowed ground, as its had gigs by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Bob Marley – all the massive acts – so they are huge in New Zealand,” he says.
Looking ahead, Eccles is having to pull on all his experience to come up with new and unique ways to maintain interest for his roster of domestic talent.
“There are a lot of challenges to deal with and it’s going to be an exciting year for New Zealand artists”
“I don’t want to give away any secrets, but I’ve been asking the acts if there is somewhere they’ve always wanted to play, or some other act they’d love to work with,” he reveals. “You’ve got to offer something unique, especially after it starts to get cold here in April. But I’m really excited, as there are a lot of challenges to deal with and it’s going to be an exciting year for New Zealand artists.”
The ability to rely on domestic talent has given the industry a lifeline, although it appears to be a limited one. Recalling the shows at Spark Arena with Benee, Clumpas notes that fans were generally being a little more conscious of each other’s personal space.
“Perceptively you can see people standing a little bit further away in the queue and not in each other’s face. And instead of rushing the door, there was a calmness as they gave each other a bit more space.” Indeed, such considerate audience behaviour prompted Clumpas to allow the audience to choose how they wanted to experience the concerts. “We had what we call free-flow, where nothing is allocated, and that allows people to stand for a bit, then go grab a seat. So it’s up to them if they want to go and sit at the front or the back. And it worked really well.”
The arena’s sparse booking calendar also allowed some imaginative formatting for Benee’s visit. Judging that she would sell about 10,000 tickets, the decision was made to spread that across two nights. “It was Benee’s first tour and rather than do 10k on one night, when she’d never even played to half that, her management, who are smart boys, decided to do two shows at 5.5k as that wasn’t so daunting for the artist,” says Clumpas. “We took the view that we could do anything – even a whole number of nights at 2,000-cap, because we weren’t doing anything else.”
“We only have four or five bands that can sell-out half an arena, so we’ve kind of run out of talent”
Around the world, one of the key issues that the live entertainment business is having to face when it returns is a lack of personnel to kickstart operations.
Thousands of industry professionals have been made redundant throughout the pandemic, while others have simply moved into new areas of employment so that they can pay the bills, creating a significant headache for event organisers whenever the green light for mass gatherings is given. And despite a busy outdoor season currently underway, it seems colleagues in New Zealand are already facing identical problems.
Detailing the precarious nature of the NZ recovery, Clumpas explains: “Unlike in the UK, we have a very thin local market and that goes back to the fact that the business here used to be run out of Australia, bringing in loads of bands from overseas but never developing a local market.
“At arena level, we only have four or five bands that can sell-out half an arena, and the biggest comedian here can maybe sell 3,000 tickets, so we’ve kind of run out of talent: business is down by about 85% and we’ve had to lay people off because we don’t have enough things to put on at the arena.”
“We took an approach of leniency with contracts and generally acknowledged the completely unprecedented situation”
Sharp comments, “We have not escaped unscathed – even the relatively short disruption has had a huge influence on the industry and we are still feeling the effects.”
But, as with countless businesses around the planet, WellingtonNZ and its affiliates have been collaborating with others to try to mitigate the pain. “As a public organisation, our focus is on helping our partners through,” pledges Sharp. “We took an approach of leniency with contracts and generally acknowledged the completely unprecedented situation. This proved to be the right way to deal with the situation as it generated goodwill and strengthened relationships, both of which will bear fruit as the impacts of Covid on the sector start to recede.”
A team of five million
The willingness of the population to cooperate is key to New Zealand’s fight to keep the virus out, according to Scotland-born Clumpas, who emigrated to Auckland in 2002. “One of the first things that struck me about living in New Zealand is that there is a really strong community feel among its citizens, no matter who they are, rich or poor. And with Covid, everyone realised we are all in this together,” says Clumpas.
Highlighting that communal attitude, Clumpas refers to the Grab & Go facilities at Spark Arena, which relies on audience honesty to help themselves to food and drink and then pay before entering the auditorium. “It lets people move more quickly at the intervals and, of course, Kiwis pay – they would not dream of taking stuff and not paying. It’s remarkable but it sums up society here.
“Overall we are seeing similar ticket-buying patterns to pre-Covid times”
“Our prime minister, Jacinda [Ardern], referred to it as ‘a team of five million.’ It’s a genuine thing where people understand this is for the good of your fellow man, so they play the game. I find that hugely different to the US or the UK, where people might ignore the government because they don’t like their politics or whatever.”
Demand & supply
While industry leaders in Asia, Europe and the Americas speculate that the pent up demand of live music fans will propel the business back toward profit when the pandemic restrictions are lifted, it’s interesting to gauge how the Kiwis have handled their restart.
WellingtonNZ’s Sharp contends that marketing is still crucial to selling tickets, although “in the immediate post-lockdown period we did see huge enthusiasm for a return to live events and tickets flew out the door,” he admits. “The second lockdown definitely shook confidence, but overall we are seeing similar ticket-buying patterns to pre-Covid times.”
Eccles is revelling in those promoting challenges, citing his big- gest pub gig strategy as an example where he captured the imagination of ticket buyers. “We had a unique way of marketing the pub gig using The Sound radio station,” says Eccles. “We went on air with 100 tickets priced at $29.90 to announce the event, then as each band was announced we went to $39.90 for the next 100 tickets, then $49.90, right up to $79.90 when we revealed the headliner, and that kept people’s interest all the way through.
“Exemptions aren’t granted lightly, but they do show [that] the government understands the importance of live events”
“It was great fun and allowed people to remember the old days, as well as seeing the bands they used to see in those pubs back in the 80s.”
Underlining the local appetite to find entertainment, Sharp adds, “Overall attendance has been similar to what we’d expect in any other year. It shows that New Zealand crowds have confidence that they can safely enjoy events, which they continued to voraciously attend.”
New Zealand’s strict border controls make it tricky for anyone who is not a citizen of the country to visit. It’s not impossible for overseas acts to perform shows, but it’s not simple, either.
Sharp says international acts can secure a border exemption place on the grounds of their importance to the local events industry. “These exemptions aren’t granted lightly, but they do show [that] the government understands the importance of live events to both the cultural and economic wellbeing of the country.”
WellingtonNZ has benefitted from a number of acts who have taken the time to process through the quarantine procedures
But outlining some of the hurdles, Clumpas explains, “For anyone to get into the country now, you first have to book a space in the quarantine hotel, three months in advance. When your flight arrives, you go straight from the airport in a bus to the hotel, which is fenced off. The army run the thing and you are there for two weeks in managed self-isolation. If you leave without permission, you face three months in jail.”
WellingtonNZ has benefitted from a number of acts who have taken the time to process through the quarantine procedures. “We had Belgian drum and bass DJ Alix Perez play in November, and UK DJ Sub Focus on 7 January, both playing to sold-out crowds,” says Sharp. Elsewhere, the Wellington-based organisation has focused on securing alternative format events that can run for multiple weeks, such as Grande Experiences’ Van Gogh Alive concept.
“The exhibition was staged twice in New Zealand. The first was Digital Nights – Van Gogh Alive, which was the first time it had been held outdoors. It proved so popular that it returned for a run of indoor exhibitions at venues throughout the country,” says Sharp.
And with Spark Arena remaining dark for much of the time, Clumpas is currently exploring the idea of hosting dance events. “Perhaps by getting overseas DJs to go to their local club to set-up a video link so they can play to Auckland – they see us, we see them. I don’t think you can do that with a band because they need the interaction, but it might work with a DJ set,” he muses.
“Part of the issue is working out how we can scale up [crew] while making sure we retain that watertight border”
To attract others to physically visit, Spark Arena’s management is even looking at getting into the hotel business. “We have an idea to set-up luxury accommodation that we can run in conjunction with the army and security firms, and we pay for it,” says Clumpas. “So maybe we set up 20 suites where we can bring in an artist and they can rehearse there and stuff but keep isolated. It means that anyone who is prepared to come in and maybe do ten dates in 3,000-seater theatres, will be able to do that. I like to think we can get there.”
But looking at bigger international tours making their way to NZ is not on the cards, even though the likes of Six60 are visiting stadia. “We don’t have the likes of 140 crew places for people going into managed isolation, because we don’t have enough nurses and health professionals to manage the facilities,” Clumpas clarifies. “New Zealand is only five million people and you run out of people fairly quickly here. So part of the issue is working out how we can scale up while making sure we retain that watertight border.”
As the only significant market to properly reopen after a national lockdown, New Zealand has the eyes of the world on it, as live entertainment peers examine its successes and failures to try to piece together their own strategies for relaunch.
Sharp applauds everyone that WellingtonNZ has worked with over the past few months for being flexible enough to reorganise their operations, name-checking the likes of Live Nation, Frontier and TEG; homegrown promoters Eccles Entertainment, Liberty Stage, Breaking Beats and Plus One; and resident outfits such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet.
“Everyone, through to our smaller promoters and community organisations, has been deeply affected by the pandemic”
“Everyone, through to our smaller promoters and community organisations, has been deeply affected by the pandemic and shown their resiliency and adaptability in rolling with the punches,” he observes.
Our NZ professionals, meanwhile, warn others around the world not to bank too heavily on a surge of interest when markets come out of lockdown. “There’s no pent-up demand with people think- ing I must see loads of gigs,” says Clumpas. “But that might be different in the US or the UK or Europe, because we were not locked up for that long compared to elsewhere.”
Eccles agrees. “In our experience, the market didn’t come back as hard as people thought it would – it eased back in,” he tells IQ. “Demographics-wise, if the show is aimed at kids, or even teens into the late-20s, then they don’t seem to care. But the older age groups are definitely more wary.”
Sharing some of the negative lessons Eccles Entertainment has learned, he continues, “Looking back at 2020, when we came out of lockdown, we experienced quite a bit of attrition, which was hard to take. So, for a show where we’d originally sold 4,000 tickets, maybe only 2,000 actually turned up on the night for the rescheduled gig. It was quite demoralising.”
“We’ve seen some strange behaviour where pre-sales were soft but the general sale was strong”
But there have also been some pleasant surprises. “We’ve seen some strange behaviour where pre-sales were soft but the general sale was strong. That’s the exact opposite of what you’d expect and I’d never come across any pattern like that before. It’s very odd and I can’t explain why it happened.”
Sharp comments, “The NZ market is recovering well – we’ve seen a strong appetite for live events, which has largely been a result of the competent handling of the crisis by the New Zealand government.
“Having coped so well (so far, at least), it may be easier for us to see things in a more positive light. But there really isn’t much use looking at it any other way.”
It’s a precarious situation though, and Eccles is all too aware that the business is constantly on the precipice. “One thing is for sure, if we have another lockdown in New Zealand, then all the confidence in the market will go,” he states. Clumpas concurs, but he believes a better touring industry may emerge in the long run.
“What it might do, going forward, is that audiences might be more demanding in their expectations. So, bluntly, the venues that take care of the fans and who have got their shit together will do fine or probably better. But it could flag-up some of the venues that have been slack, as people will be more discerning and make choices on how safe they feel, according to the customer service they’ve experienced in the past.
“We will get out of this, but will the business be the same? I’m not so sure,” laments Clumpas. “But I’m hopeful that we will no longer see tours with 247 people on them, where artists might tour with a core of maybe 30 or 40, with advance teams of ten who go to a territory early and get local people to do a lot of the work. It would mean a shift but not necessarily fewer jobs: just less people touring, complemented by more people in each territory, which would mean much less of a carbon footprint, as well as giving places like New Zealand a real chance to grow.”
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Unsung Heroes 2020: Evelyn Richardson & Glen Rainsbury
Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.
We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with LEIF’s Evelyn Richardson and Glen Sainsbury, who follow Paul Reed of the Association of Independent Festivals.
In late May of 2020, when it was clear that the industry was looking at a long and uncertain return to normal operations as Australia came to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) was brought to life by TEG chief executive Geoff Jones and Roger Field, president of Live Nation Asia Pacific.
They enlisted key players from across the music, sport and venues sectors to form an executive committee that was representative of virtually every industry sector and each state and territory across the country – the first time that parties from the full breadth of the entertainment industry had gathered around a table to collectively advocate for the industry.
One of the key deliverables identified in the first meetings was to develop guidance for the industry to which venues and promoters could operate as safely as possible in the new Covid world – a task that Frontier Touring’s Glen Rainsbury was asked to co-ordinate.
“Working with LEIF chairman James Sutherland, we developed a structure that included ten separate working groups led by subject matter experts,” says Rainsbury. “The teams were tasked with developing guidance specific to their areas of expertise and which had to be general enough to be applicable to a broad range of event settings and reflect the regulatory advice of every state and territory, and venue types from clubs to stadiums. It required a very particular approach and discipline.”
“The work has been used by clubs, arenas, stadiums, festivals, and promoters in the development of their Covid-safe plans”
Rainsbury says the commitment of the 50+ contributors was immense. In a matter of weeks, the heavy lifting was largely complete and it was a case of honing the mountain of submissions into a cohesive work. “As it stands, the work has been used by clubs, arenas, stadiums, festivals and promoters in the development of their Covid-safe plans on their way back to operating,” he says.
Various states and territories have also drawn upon the guidelines in drafting their solutions, while Rainsbury and Tim McGregor, also from LEIF, have become the sole representatives from the commercial sector on the National Covid-19 Arts and Health and Advisory Committee.
“It was a privilege to work with the extraordinarily talented people from across the industry who gave their time and IP to deliver something that has assisted the industry to bounce back so quickly. It was the team’s fine work and effort,” adds Rainsbury.
As the chief executive of Live Performance Australia, Evelyn Richardson’s dedication to the live entertainment sector has never been in question, but while many in the industry were forced to pause their careers, Richardson doubled down on her workload to help LEIF lobby for assistance.
“It was a privilege to work with the extraordinarily talented people … who gave their time and IP to deliver something that has assisted the industry to bounce back so quickly”
With LEIF’s support, the LPA led the industry advocacy for federal government to provide emergency funding to the live entertainment industry. The A$250 million (€156m) package provided by government included $75m in grants and a $90m loans scheme targeted at the commercial sector.
LEIF and LPA have further called for the establishment of a business interruption fund to offset risks of cancellation or postponement over the next three years as the industry rebuilds.
Richardson tells IQ, “The most significant achievements of LEIF have been, firstly, the collaboration with our sporting colleagues with information sharing and support during a tumultuous period across the country and globally; and secondly, providing a united voice to governments with respect to advocacy, and raising the profile of the commercial entertainment industry, both in terms of its economic and social contributions to the broader economy.
“As we move forward, we hope to build on this, so our industry is recognised for the significant role we play as employers, providers of content to commercial and government-owned venues, and our critical economic alignment with other industry sectors such as tourism and hospitality.”
Australian industry welcomes $250m rescue package
The Australian government has dedicated AU$250 million (€153.3m) to help rebuild the country’s entertainment and arts sector over the next year, as it commits to presenting a clear timetable for reopening.
The package includes $75m (€46m) for a competitive grants programme – with individual grants of up to $2m (€1.2m) – to provide capital for new festivals, concerts, tours and events, and $90m (€55.2m) in concessional show starter loans – backed with a 100% state guarantee – to assist businesses to fund new productions and events that stimulate job creation and economic activity.
A further $35m (€21.5m) will be used to provide direct support to Commonwealth-funded arts and culture organisations facing threats to financial viability, including those in theatre, dance, music and circus.
The final $50m (€30.7m) is dedicated to supporting film and television producers.
“We welcome the government’s support for both the live entertainment and live sport sectors as we push ahead with these plans”
The government has also committed to establishing a creative economy taskforce to implement a JobMaker plan for the creative economy, as well as working to give the entertainment industry greater certainty about the timetable for restarting business.
Although the funding is over $105m (€64.4m) short of the relief package previously drawn up by Live Performance Australia (LPA), industry organisations have widely welcomed the government’s support, with the LPA calling it a “significant outcome” for the industry.
The recently formed Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), which comprises Australia’s leading promoters Live Nation, TEG, Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment and AEG, as well as WME agency, major venues and operators, and a number of industry organisations, thanks the prime minister “for recognising the serious business of entertainment that employs hundreds of thousands of jobs and makes a significant contribution to the Australian way of life.”
LEIF chair James Sutherland adds the forum is working with health authorities to develop “nationally approved high-level principles for a safe return to live entertainment and sport at large venues”.
“Through this unprecedented collaboration across live entertainment and sport we are committed to delivering COVIDSafe live events and sport. We welcome the government’s support for both the live entertainment and live sport sectors as we push ahead with these plans.”
“I know there’s a strong desire among all Australians to see the return of gigs, performances and events”
LPA CEO Evelyn Richardson says the measures “reflect our industry’s unique characteristics and the challenges it faces”, as well as recognising “the significant economic contribution that our commercial sector makes to Australia’s economic and cultural well-being.”
According to Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, the package is designed to support “a broad range of jobs from performers, artists and roadies, to front of house staff and many who work behind the scenes, while assisting related parts of the broader economy, such as tourism and hospitality.”
“Many in the sector will find a new way to operate while the current social distancing measures remain in place,” says Morrisson, “and while that won’t be easy I know there’s a strong desire among all Australians to see the return of gigs, performances and events.”
In step three of Australia’s recovery roadmap, which individuals states can choose to activate from the start of next month, seated and ticketed outdoor venues of up to 40,000 people can hold up to 25% capacity, with larger venues limited to 10,000 people.
Indoor venues will no longer have a capacity limit, but must ensure there is enough space for four square metres per person.
Night clubs and “high-risk outdoor events”, such as unseated music festivals, are to remain closed.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Australian biz unites for safe reopening strategy
The Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), a new initiative that aims to to ensure fans can return safely to live events when restrictions on mass gatherings are lifted, has been formed by Australia’s biggest live entertainment companies.
LEIF’s mission is to “support the COVIDSafe reactivation of events with live audiences across Australia” when restrictions are eased in July, according to the body. (COVIDSafe is Australia’s coronavirus contact-tracing app.) “LEIF will put in place a comprehensive, flexible, all-of-industry reopening and risk-management strategy that meets the needs of the public, governments, sporting bodies, venues, performers and industry, with safety at its core.”
LEIF comprises all major Australian live businesses, including promoters Live Nation, TEG, Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment and AEG; agency WME; venues Melbourne Cricket Ground, Sydney Cricket Ground, Marvel Stadium, Melbourne Olympic Parks and Adelaide Oval; venue operators ASM Global, Venues West and Venues Live; musical producer Michael Cassel Group; and associations Live Performance Australia, Venue Management Association and Australian Festivals Association.
Led by an executive committee headed by former Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, the forum says will work in conjunction with governments, sporting bodies, venues and audiences to “build confidence in the industry’s preparedness to operate safely, flexibly and sustainably and explore how industry can be supported by governments during its gradual return”.
“I am proud that we stand united to work together”
LEIF will develop measures regarding cleaning and sanitisation, crowd management, physical distancing plans, health monitoring and contact tracing, with the objective of restarting an industry responsible for more than 175,000 Australian jobs. The objective is to safely restart an industry which supports over 175,000 Australian jobs and feeds other sectors hit hard by COVID-19 such as tourism, transport and hospitality.
“This pandemic has brought our industry to a complete standstill. The thousands of cancelled sporting events, concerts, festivals, theatre, family and comedy shows, and all the associated revenues related to them, can never be replaced,” comments Sutherland.
“Our industry was the first to close during Covid-19 and it will be one of the last to fully reopen. The cultural, creative and sports industries supports the livelihoods of around 175,000 Australians, many of whom are casual or part time. The industry also contributes an estimated $150 billion to the Australian economy. Our live events have a huge economic flow on effect: we support jobs in airlines and other transport companies, hotels, pubs, restaurants and retail establishments of all sizes all over Australia.
“We need a clear roadmap to get our industry back to work, while playing a bigger role in the post-Covid-19 economic recovery of our nation. We are committed to working with all states and territories, especially with their chief medical and health officers. We will develop COVIDSafe best practices and a world-leading response to revive our industry, get people back to work and bring fans back together throughout Australia through the unbeatable power of live events.”
“We must put aside our natural competitive instincts so we can all bring large-scale live events back to the Australian people”
“Our industry has to work together at this challenging time. We must put aside our natural competitive instincts so we can all bring large-scale live events back to the Australian people safely,” says Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG. “We want to work closely with the federal, state and territory governments to create solutions that get our industry up and running again and help get the many thousands of people who support our industry back to work. We want to bring fans back and jobs back, safely.”
Roger Field, CEO of Live Nation Australasia – who also serves on the executive committee alongside Sutherland and Jones – adds: “Live events and mass gatherings are not solely for recreational purposes – they play a crucial part in the fabric of Australian life.
“Just as sport plays an important role in promoting healthy behaviours, so too do music and the performing arts. The positive impact culture brings to society is not only seen both psychologically and in social wellbeing, but in the fact that the live events industry contributes hundreds of thousands of jobs, which flows on and effects the whole economy.
“I am proud that we stand united to work together to make the return to events a reality and for the people of Australia to enjoy the power of live once again.”
Frontier announces Anzac Day Covid-19 concert
Frontier Touring has announced Music from the Home Front, a special Anzac Day concert featuring some of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest musical stars performing live from their homes.
Taking place this Saturday night (25 April) at 7.30pm in Australia and 9.30pm in New Zealand, Music from the Home Front will be broadcast live on television, on Nine/9Now and Three/ThreeNow, respectively. Performers include Jimmy Barnes, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Ben Lee, Delta Gooodrem, Vance Joy and the Rubens.
The event was conceived by Barnes and Frontier Touring/Mushroom Group founder Michael Gudinski, who explains: “Music From The Home Front is about uniting Australian and New Zealanders through the power of music in a time that we all need a bit of hope and happiness.”
Originally a day to commemorate the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac)’s involvement in the Gallipoli campaign (1915–16) of the First World War, Anzac Day now serves as a national day of remembrance in both countries, honouring all Australian and NZ servicemen and women past and present.
“Music From The Home Front is about uniting Australian and New Zealanders through the power of music”
Unlike other coronavirus relief concerts such as One World: Together at Home, Frontier says Music from the Home Front is “not a charity fundraiser”, rather “an opportunity for our nations to be united by music and celebrate the things that bring us together”.
“On an Anzac Day like no other, the Australian and New Zealand music community will join together to pay its respects and celebrate the mateship between two great neighbouring nations,” reads a statement from organisers. “While recognising and acknowledging the Anzac message, we also turn our attention to those that are currently fighting on the Covid-19 front line and say, ‘Thank you’.”
Nine’s head of content production and development, Adrian Swift, comments: “Music from the Home Front is a salute from Australia and New Zealand’s music communities to everyone serving our nations under lockdown. From the military this Anzac Day to all those on the frontline fighting Covid-19 and those working to keep food delivered, shelves stacked and streets cleaned.”
A full provisional line-up is pictured below, with more names set to be announced in the coming days:
Tales from Covid: Michael Chugg Q&A
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?
MC: 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
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.
“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.
Australian industry unites as gov boosts stimulus package
An Australian music industry taskforce, consisting of Chugg Entertainment, Frontier Touring, Live Nation, Live Performance Australia (LPA) and TEG, among others, has established Sound Of Silence, an initiative dedicated to bringing relief to the Australian live business.
The collective has implemented a range of targeted activity, encouraging fans to donate to music charity Support Act via the SOS website. On the platform, fans can also buy SOS t-shirts with all proceeds going to Support Act, or access an online superstore for artist merchandise.
The taskforce encourages fans to consider donating refunds for cancelled shows to venues or Support Act, and to keep tickets for rescheduled shows, as well as showing support by buying music through online platforms such as Bandcamp.
Workers affected by event cancellations and postponements are directed to the I Lost My Gig platform, which is logging the income loss from cancellations and the number of people and events affected.
At the time of writing, income loss stood at AU$300m (£150.5m), with 274,000 gigs and almost 600,000 Australian workers affected.
The Sound Of Silence initiative comes as many in the industry deem Australian government measures to support the business through the virus insufficient.
“Without a targeted, immediate and substantial support package, there will be no bridge to recovery for these companies and they will die”
Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a second economic relief package worth $66 billion (£33.2bn), on top of a previous $17.6bn (£8.8bn) package and more than $100bn (£49.8bn) in emergency banking measures.
The new package includes six-month income support for those who have lost their jobs and for self-employed workers, casual workers and contractors who meet the income test; loan guarantees for small- and medium-sized businesses of up to $250,000 (£124,600); and wage subsidies of up to $100,000 (£49,800) for small- and medium-sized businesses.
“The small business package measures announced today, while welcome, will not make a material difference to 80% of our companies,” reads a statement issued by LPA. “These are businesses whose entire revenue has fallen off a cliff. Without immediate support, they won’t survive.
“Without a targeted, immediate and substantial support package, there will be no bridge to recovery for these companies and they will die.”
LPA calls for an additional $650m (£325m) emergency music industry package, warning that without targeted support measures, the virus “will be the death knell for Australia’s world class live performance industry”.
Photo: Commonwealth of Australia 2016 (CC BY 4.0) (cropped)