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
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.
It’s just been announced that @BluesfestByron has been cancelled. While this is such huge blow for Aussie music, the health and well-being of this country has to come first. Thanks to the team at Bluesfest for doing the best they could in preparation. pic.twitter.com/4fpJBzqXAh
— Jimmy Barnes (@JimmyBarnes) March 31, 2021
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.
“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.”
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Australia releases guidelines for return to live
Live Performance Australia (LPA), the trade association for the country’s live performance industry, has released a comprehensive set of Covid-safe guidelines to help facilitate Australia’s return to live.
The guidelines cover auditions, rehearsals and performances, as well as touring of live performances. The Performing Arts Connections (PAC) Australia guidelines for Covid-safe theatres, originally issued in June, have also been revised and updated.
Meanwhile, tailored guidelines for events of scale, such as large concerts and music festivals, are being developed through the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF).
“People in our industry are passionate about getting back to work and engaging and entertaining live audiences, but safety must be our top priority to ensure the well-being of our workers and audiences,” says LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson.
“As public health restrictions are eased in different states and territories, these guidelines will help the industry reopen, restart and rebuild following the devastating impact of Covid-19.”
The guidelines have been developed with industry input, reviewed by medical experts, revised based on that advice and endorsed by an epidemiologist. LPA also consulted with trade union Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) on the three guideline documents.
“People in our industry are passionate about getting back to work but safety must be our top priority”
Richardson says the live performance industry is also committed to working closely with state and territory governments on the implementation of the guidelines and the return to live.
“In addition to the emergency funding assistance that governments have provided to help our industry through this crisis, enabling our companies to reactivate and our performers to get back on stage in front of audiences is the best form of support they need. These guidelines provide the pathway for reopening venues and bringing our live performance industry back to life in the months ahead,” Richardson says.
Western Australia is now in its fourth stage of lockdown easing, permitting all events except large scale, multi-stage music festivals. Unseated performances are allowed to take place at music venues and concert halls, with gathering limits only determined by the state’s two-square-metre-per-person rule. For the state’s biggest venues, however, a 50% capacity rule currently applies.
The state began its return to live with the first “post-restrictions” stadium concert, which took place in mid-July, with local musicians Crooked Colours, ShockOne, Slumberjack and Tina Says performing to over 2,000 fans as part of the WA Unlocked event at the HBF Stadium in Perth.
Phase 5, which could see the removal of WA’s two-square-metre rule and the 50 per cent capacity for major venues, was due to be implemented on 15 August but has now been delayed until at least 29 August.
Elsewhere in Australia, Melbourne’s gradual reopening of nightlife is still on hold as the city battles a deadly second wave of coronavirus. Australia’s second-biggest city was put back into lockdown on 9 July after a localised outbreak of Covid-19.
The state has recently mandated wearing masks and tightened a stay-at-home order to reduce transmissions.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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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)
Australian PM advises ban on events over 500-cap.
Updated 18/3/20: Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announces a ban on “non-essential” indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, including “social activities and entertainment”, effective immediately.
The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has advised against all “non-essential” mass gatherings of over 500 people, effective from Monday (16 March).
The announcement follows yesterday’s statement from organisers of Australian festival Byron Bay Bluesfest that the event was to go ahead as planned.
A statement released by the Bluesfest team reads: “We are now awaiting the official requirement from Federal and State authorities on Monday and will update you at that time.” Updated (16 March): Bluesfest executive chairman Peter Noble today issued a statement cancelling the festival, saying “it is obvious we will not be on this Easter. We are heartbroken as we believe we were presenting one of the best ever bills of talent for you.”
Leading Australian promoters Frontier Touring an Chugg Entertainment today issued a statement that “a number of concerts will no longer be able to proceed as scheduled”, including shows by Jimmy Eat World, Marc Rebillet, Kip Moore, Miranda Lambert and Seaforth.
“Frontier Touring and Chugg Entertainment are presently working with all artist teams to determine if dates can be rescheduled to late 2020 or early 2021,” reads the statement.
“For ticketholders, tickets will remain valid for rescheduled dates and they will be notified directly as soon as details of new dates are confirmed. Where concerts cannot be rescheduled a full refund will be available for all tickets purchased through official ticketing agencies.”
The promoters note that concerts by New Order, Gengahr and Julia Jacklin will proceed as scheduled over the weekend.
“Frontier Touring and Chugg Entertainment are presently working with all artist teams to determine if dates can be rescheduled to late 2020 or early 2021”
In Melbourne, Robbie Williams’ upcoming concert as part of TEG Dainty, Apollo World Touring and Westbrook Inc.’s World Tour series has also been called off, along with the Australian Grand Prix. The concert was to take place at the Lakeside Stadium within the Grand Prix racetrack on Saturday.
“We appreciate that this is very disappointing news for the fans due to attend the show and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and will be contacted by Ticketek shortly,” reads a statement from World Tour Melbourne and TEG Dainty.
The news follows the cancellation of Miley Cyrus’ World Tour Bushfire Relief show at the same venue earlier this week.
The Australian editions of Download Festival, set to take place in Sydney and Melbourne on 20 and 21 March, have also been cancelled.
Headliners My Chemical Romance pulled out of headline appearances at the festivals, as well as all other performances in Australia and New Zealand today, “given the current global situation”. The band have also cancelled upcoming tour dates in Japan.
“Given that this announcement has come barely eight days prior to Download Australia we will not be able to secure an alternative headliner as there is insufficient time to secure visas and arrange the other relevant logistics that are required prior to the festival,” reads a statement from organisers.
“As we are unable to deliver a complete line-up, we have very reluctantly made the decision to cancel Download Australia 2020″
“As we are unable to deliver a complete line-up to meet the standard that Download fans both expect and deserve, we have very reluctantly made the decision to cancel Download Australia 2020.”
The team says it is working with My Chemical Romance and fellow headliners Deftones “to schedule separate headline shows in Australia in 2020”, as well as with other Download acts to arrange “headline shows in Sydney and Melbourne next week”.
All ticketholders will receive a full refund via Moshtix.
In the wake of event cancellations, the Australian live performance industry has called on the government to supply a stimulus plan to support the business in the event of significant loss of trade.
“We believe it’s possible to design measures that are targeted, scalable and temporary in terms of their budgetary impact, and which could be lifted once the current public health crisis is resolved,” comments Live Performance Australia chief executive, Evelyn Richardson.
Read insurance brokers advice on navigating coronavirus-related event cancellations here.
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.
Industry orgs welcome music investment package in Oz
Music industry associations across Australia have spoken out in favour of the government’s decision to dedicate a A$30.9 million (US$22m) funding package in its latest federal budget.
The Australian Music Industry Package has set aside $22.5m (US$16m) in funding to provide $10,000 grants for Australian small businesses, assisting them in hosting more live music events.
A further $4.8m is dedicated to new mentoring programmes to encourage greater representation of women and indigenous (Aborigines/Torres Strait Islanders) artists, and $2m will be used to boost touring opportunities. National music export development initiative Sounds Australia will receive $1.6m to help its expansion into Asian markets.
The government will also invest $3.4m in specialist music education programmes.
“Australia’s local music industry is one of our most important cultural exports, contributing up to $6 billion to our economy each year,” comments minister for communication and the arts, Mitch Fifield.
“This investment is about removing roadblocks for Australian musicians and boosting their profile in a competitive global market.”
“This investment is about removing roadblocks for Australian musicians and boosting their profile in a competitive global market”
The budget allocation has been lauded by industry organisations including the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS), Sounds Australia and the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN).
“The Morrison government has recognised that Australia is a music nation. Of all the art forms Australians engage with, music is by far the most popular,” says APRA AMCOS chief executive Dean Ormston.
“This package will be a boon for the pipeline of talent coming from across the nation and now exporting to the world. We applaud this diverse and multi-layered approach to support one of Australia’s great flagship industries,” adds Ormston.
Ormston also commends the government for taking into account the recommendations made by the House Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts following an inquiry into the Australian music industry.
The committee advised the government to increase investment in live music and touring, facilitate the expansion of Sound Australia’s music export programme and develop music education.
Sound Australia posted on social media, saying: “We welcome today’s announcement by senator Mitch Fifield on a funding boost for Sounds Australia. We’ve seen firsthand the increasing appetite for Australian music internationally and we are thrilled to be expanding our reach into Asia and other important emerging markets to help find new audiences for Australian artists and music businesses.”
“We are disappointed that the government has not done more to leverage the significant economic and cultural value of all live performance or the creative industries more broadly”
AMIN simply called the funding “great news” for the music industry.
However, representatives from other creative industries, specifically the wider live performance sector, have criticised the government for not meeting their needs.
“We are disappointed that the government has not done more to leverage the significant economic and cultural value of all live performance or the creative industries more broadly,” says Live Performance Australia (LPA) chief executive Evelyn Richardson.
“Live performance promotes Australian talent and creativity across a range of genres and is a major driver of our visitor and night time economy, attracting visitors from interstate and overseas,” adds Richardson.
“In the context of a vote buying budget, this is clear statement that arts and culture are not seen as ballot box issues,” comments Shelagh Magadza, executive director of the chamber of arts and culture (Western Australia).
“With the exception of the Contemporary Music fund, there is nothing that provides a meaningful boost for the sector based on a longer term vision,” says Magadza.
Australian live biz posts modest growth in 2016
The Australian live entertainment business returned to growth in 2016, posting a 1.2% increase in revenue an 0.8% increase in attendance, reveals new data from trade association Live Performance Australia.
Revenues from live performance – which, in addition to popular music concerts and festivals, includes ballet and dance, children’s/family shows, classical music, performing arts, theatre, opera, comedy, circus and physical theatre – grew to A$1.43 billion (US$1.12bn), with 18.78 million tickets sold.
However, the modest growth shown in 2016 failed to put much of a dent in the 6.7% contraction seen by the industry in 2015, with LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson saying once again that the figures highlight the important of a “more strategic approach” to the live industry from the government.
“These figures underscore the economic and cultural value of the live performance industry for millions of Australians,” she comments. “The need for increased investment in the performing arts has never been greater.
“The survey results also support recent customer spending data that shows more Australians are spending their hard earned cash on ‘meaningful experiences’ such as concert tickets and the theatre. Our research reaffirms the important contribution that live performance makes to the national culture and the creative economy.
“We have access to a wide array of high-quality local and international performances, which the report shows Australians truly value and enjoy. However, if Australia is going to continue to compete globally, to satisfy both Australian audiences and attract international tourists, we need to ensure we invest more, not less, in creating local product that is world class.
“Instead, the last few years have seen funding cuts, our small-to-medium sector massively impacted and very little indication that government is prepared to deliver on its vision for innovation and jobs growth in our sector.
“We strongly believe that the government needs to step up and support greater investment in our industry which creates jobs, employs more than 34,000 people, generates significant economic activity and enriches the cultural lives of millions of Australians.”
“We strongly believe that the government needs to step up and support greater investment in our industry”
By sector, contemporary music continues to be the largest contributor, commanding 30.8% of revenue and 30.1% of attendance. It declined 7.9% last year, although LPA notes this is “much less than in 2015”, when revenues fell 21%.
Much of this can be attributed to falling ticket prices, which have declined 22.8% from a peak average price of $110.50 in 2013.
Concert music attendances, meanwhile, increased 1%, with 5.7m people attending non-festival events.
The festivals category reported a significant 25.2% decline in revenue, while attendances fell by 48.2% – down from a peak of $129.2m in 2014, with the sector still feeling the effects of the declines of major music events such as Future Music Festival and Stereosonic.
Interesting, in the festival sector – contrary to the revenue and attendance declines – the average ticket price actually increased, by 6.7% to $85.35.
Read the full Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey 2016 report at the LPA website.
Australia gov urged to follow US, UK lead on bots
Live Performance Australia (LPA) has called for Australia to follow the UK’s lead in banning ticket bots.
Now that “new laws criminalising bots have just taken force in the UK overnight“, the trade association says it is time for the government of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to “support legislation which outlaws the use of bots to buy tickets which are then resold on the secondary market, often at vastly inflated prices”.
“The UK and US have taken action, but the Turnbull government is missing in action”
Among those calling from similar legislation in Australia is senator Nick Xenophon, whose parliamentary motion to ban bots is supported by opposition parties but opposed by the government.
“Bots are a problem for all ecommerce businesses, not just our industry,” says LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson. “This is a global problem and the impact on fans is enormous. Ticketmaster has publicly reported that it blocked five billion attempts by bots to unfairly access their websites globally in 2015, and bot activity increased by 10% in 2016.
“The UK and US have taken action, but the Turnbull government is missing in action. Bots are a global problem, and Australia should be part of the global response.”
Australian live industry contracts in 2015
Live entertainment revenues and attendance both fell in Australia last year, reveals new data that Live Performance Australia (LPA) says underlines the “critical importance of a more strategic policy approach from the [government] for the live performance industry”.
The trade body’s Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey 2015 reveals revenues declined 6.7%, to A$1.41 billion, and attendances 0.9%, to 18.38 million tickets sold, despite a 4.7% decline in average ticket prices.
“These figures underscore the economic and cultural value of the live performance industry for millions of Australians – but the [Malcolm] Turnbull government hasn’t always matched this with policy direction or commitments,” says LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson.
“Instead, we have seen cuts to Australia Council funding for small to medium organisations, and more recently massive and unjustified increases in visa fees for large international touring groups.
“We strongly believe the government needs to support greater investment in our industry, which … enriches the cultural lives of millions of Australians”
“We strongly believe that the government needs to support greater investment in our industry, which creates jobs, employs more than 34,000 people, generates significant economic activity and enriches the cultural lives of millions of Australians.
“At the very least we require more effective consultation with government ministers and departments well before any changes that may affect our industry are considered.”
Continuing the trend seen in previous years, the survey found contemporary music and musical theatre to be the two largest contributors to the live industry, generating 34% and 23.8% of revenue, respectively.
Single-category festivals (ie only music) only managed third, hit by the December 2015 cancellation of Big Day Out. Similarly, 2016’s figures are likely to be affected by the surprise cancellation of SFX’s Stereosonic.