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New South Wales set to gain two new arenas

The Australian state of New South Wales is set to gain two multi-million-dollar arenas that will host “some of the biggest local and international acts touring in the country”.

The newly formed Cedar Mill Group today announced that it has acquired a 105-acre site in the Hunter Valley wine country, New South Wales (NSW), where it will build a purpose-built 22,000-capacity outdoor amphitheatre.

The venue, dubbed Cedar Mill Hunter Valley, is expected to open in 2023 at a cost of AUS$107 million.

Cedar Mill Group also recently announced a 30,000-capacity concert venue for Lake Macquarie in NSW as part of a AUS$235m redevelopment of Morisset Golf Course.

The group and its parent company, New South Wales-based property developer Winarch Capital, say they are on the lookout for more Cedar Mill sites in Australia.

“Cedar Mill Hunter Valley and Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie are purpose-built, the first in Australia on this scale.”

“Cedar Mill Hunter Valley and Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie are purpose-built, the first in Australia on this scale,” says Cedar Mill Group general manager Kyle McKendry.

“Our aim is to provide an unparalleled visitor experience in the heart of the region, offering a gateway for tourists to connect with everything that makes the Hunter Valley a world-class visitor destination and event hub.”

Alongside the amphitheatre, there are plans for Cedar Mill Hunter Valley to house a 100-bed hotel, specialist food and beverage, a wine museum and multiple cellar doors. Development plans for Cedar Mill Hunter Valley will be lodged in the coming months.

News of the new venues comes after the group last month bought one of the county’s leading event management, logistics and production planning companies, Humm.

Cedar Mill Group says the recent purchases are part of its plan to “reinvigorate Australia’s live music and events industry as it recovers from the global pandemic”.

 


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Bluesfest announces rescheduled 2021 dates

Byron Bay Bluesfest is now slated to take place in October with a four-day format, after the original 2021 event was cancelled at the eleventh hour.

The festival had been set to take place between 31 March to 5 April 2021 but less than 24 hours before it was set to open, the New South Wales government called it off due to a new Covid case in Byron Bay.

The rescheduled event will take place at Byron Events Farm across four days instead of five (1–4 October 2021), though the organisers have said that current five-day ticket holders will receive some ‘special’ news alongside the lineup announcement.

This Wednesday (19 April), the festival will announce the full line-up which organisers say ‘will be worth the wait’.

“Trust us when we say the wait will have all been worth it…,” reads a post on Byron Bay Bluesfest’s Facebook. “We’ve been adding more of Australia’s absolute best talent – a way of saying thank you to all of you who have supported us during this time.”

“Trust us when we say the wait will have all been worth it”

The April 2021 lineup included the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana and The Teskey Brothers. It’s unclear whether any of the acts from the original lineup will appear at the October event.

Season tickets will go on sale after the line-up is revealed, followed by three-day and one-day tickets.

The cancellation of the April Bluesfest event was touted as a “watershed moment” by the Australian music industry, which had been lobbying for a business interruption fund that would help live events redeem their costs in the event of an eleventh-hour cancellation.

The Australian Festivals Association’s Julia Robinson told IQ that such a fund is essential to boost business confidence. Read her comment here.

 


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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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Great Southern Nights sells more than 75,000 tickets

More than 75,000 tickets were sold for Great Southern Nights, a government-backed concert series which brought more than 1,000 Covid-safe gigs to venues across New South Wales (NSW) during November.

The series, presented along with the Australian recording industry association (Aria), was organised with the aim to reinvigorate NSW’s live music scene.

Artists including Tones and I, the Presets, Thelma Plum, Jimmy Barnes, the Veronicas and Tash Sultana performed throughout the month.

The shows are supported by NSW’s tourism agency, Destination NSW. The state’s minister for jobs, investment, tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, says: “NSW has led Australia, and even the world, in getting live entertainment back on stages, from Great Southern Nights’ 1,100 gigs across NSW to musical theatre reopening in Sydney.

“We have demonstrated that live music is crucial to NSW’s social, cultural and economic well-being and can be enjoyed while following the health advice, which supports NSW’s approach to further easing restrictions in recent weeks.”

“We have demonstrated that live music is crucial to NSW’s social, cultural and economic well-being”

ARIA CEO Dan Rosen added, “It is extremely heartening to see the impact that the Great Southern Nights initiative had on all areas of the live music industry in NSW – from artists and venues to sound and lighting crew.

“This program helped kick-start the live music industry, by getting thousands of artists and music industry professionals back to work and ensuring music fans could experience our great Australian artists in a live environment once again.”

The concert series concluded with two shows at Qudos Bank Arena (cap. 21,000), organised by TEG, Live Nation and the NSW government.

The shows, dubbed Greatest Southern Nights, invited more than 12,000 fans over two nights in a seated, ‘Covid-safe’ setting.

Ocean Alley headlined the first gig, on 28 November, joined by Jack River, Ruby Fields and Jack Botts, with Bernard Fanning and Matt Corby, supported by Merci, Mercy, played the second on 5 December.

TEG CEO Geoff Jones recently spoke to IQ about what it was like organising the first indoor arena shows in Australia since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

 


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Aus festivals receive share of gov’s $75m Rise fund

The promoters behind Australian festivals including Bluesfest, Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival are among the first recipients of the federal government’s AU$75 million Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (Rise) fund.

The fund is part of the government’s $250 m Creative Economy Support Package to help restart activities such as festivals, concerts, tours and events once it is safe to do so.

Music festivals in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria were among the first recipients of the Rise fund, with Byron Bay Bluesfest receiving $1 m for its 2021 event to run between 1–5 April over the Easter long weekend.

The event, which normally draws 100,000 patrons, was cancelled this year when Covid restrictions came into effect, weeks before it was expected to go ahead.

An economic impact report showed that the cancellation of Byron Bay Bluesfest deprived the state of New South Wales of over $200m and 1,150 jobs.

This week, Bluesfest revealed that it has dropped all international names from its bill and is debuting a completely domestic lineup featuring Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, Ocean Alley and more. The festival revealed that four months out, 70% of tickets have been sold.

Other NSW recipients include Secret Sounds, the promoters behind Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival (both of which were cancelled this year), which will receive $1.5 m to develop a new festival ‘that would keep audiences connected while also reaching new audiences across Australia and overseas’.

“My message to everyone in the arts and entertainment sector is – we want you back out there doing what you do best”

Reportedly, the new festival will be among the additional events that Secret Sounds has applied to host at the Byron Parklands site.

In the first round, NSW has received $17.8 m which will go to 28 organisations while Victoria has received $20 m for 48 projects.

Successful applicants in Victoria include Melbourne International Arts Festival/Rising ($1.48 m); Melbourne Fringe ($275,000); and Castlemaine State Festival in regional Victoria ($172,900).

The arts sector has expressed impatience with the minister’s office over the time it has taken to announce the recipients. A full list is to be published by the Office for the Arts in mid-December.

“As well as generating jobs and income, the Rise fund means there will be lots of shows that Australians can go and see – and that’s good news for all of us after a tough year,” says minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher.

“And my message to Australia’s artists and performers, to backstage crew, to everyone in the arts and entertainment sector, is – we want you back out there doing what you do best, and Rise is going to really help that happen.”

The federal government has also published a roadmap for “reactivating live performance venues and events” in Australia. The guidelines break up the return to live music into three steps, though it delegates decision making on capacities to state jurisdictions. It projects an ultimate return to standing concerts only in outdoor and “mixed” performance spaces.

Festivals are also projected to make their return after the final step, with restrictions.

 


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Australia’s NSW to allow 5,000-cap country fairs

The government in Australian state New South Wales (NSW) will allow country fairs to host up to 5,000 people from January 2021, the second-largest attendance permitted at outdoor events since social distancing restrictions were imposed.

The Bowral Show, scheduled for 9 January at the Bong Bong Picnic Racecourse, will be the first event to welcome an audience of that size since the NRL grand final in October, which accommodated 40,000 seated fans at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (cap. 83,500).

Deputy premier John Barilaro, who is also the minister for regional NSW, announced the rollback of restrictions recently in a bid to boost the economies of regional areas hit by the pandemic.

Safety measures will include social distancing at venues, controlled access at entry points throughout the show to minimise crowding, a limit to the number of attendees depending on venue size and the one person per four-square-metre rule.

The 5,000-capacity allowance has not yet been extended to other types of events such as festivals.

“The industry has a framework to deliver Covid-safe events using the Live Entertainment Industry Forum Guidelines, the same guidelines created with other leading promoters and arenas that has seen the recent return of crowds to sporting events,” says Australian Festival Association spokeswoman Julia Robinson.

“There is a long way to go for a sector worth $2.7 billion that employs nearly 10,000 full-time-equivalent workers”

“The easing of restrictions in regional areas is an important step for an industry that was switched off in March, however there is a long way to go for a sector worth AUS$2.7 billion that employs nearly 10,000 full-time-equivalent workers nationally.”

This week NSW and Sydney are enjoying a return to live with the month-long festival, Great Southern Nights.

The event, which is an NSW government initiative, will take place throughout November, Australia’s Music Month, in an attempt to “stimulate the revival of the live music and entertainment sectors and, in turn, the visitor economy in the recovery phase of Covid-19″.

The festival will host 1,000 Covid-secure gigs featuring artists including Jimmy Barnes, Amy Shark, Tash Sultana, Tones & I, AB Original, Vera Blue, Hoodoo Gurus Ruel, Lime Cordiale, Alex The Astronaut, Missy Higgins and Matt Corby.

Live music has also returned in part to regional Victoria, albeit under stringent restrictions.

Indoor venues remain closed but the state is permitting live music in outdoor spaces under several conditions; gig-goers must remain seated and are limited to tables of ten, which must be at least 1.5 metres apart from any other table. Band members are required to wear a mask, singers excluded, and must stand at least two metres from each other and five from the audience.

 


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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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New late-night trading law to boost Sydney nightlife

Sydney City Council has endorsed changes to planning controls for late-night trading, extending opening hours for live music venues and allowing 24-hour trading in the city’s busiest districts.

The updated Draft Sydney Development Control Plan – Late Night Trading 2018 (Draft DCP) has been informed by a resident and business survey, in which over 10,000 people called for increased trading hours and more late-night activity.

The changes include an increase in opening hours until 2 a.m. for “low impact venues” in local centres and the introduction of an incentive system for venues to host live performances, awarding a bonus hour of trading to a venue for every night of live performance it programs.

Venues will need to apply for extra trading hours through a development application process and will be subject to trial periods to ensure they are well-managed and work in conjunction with the local community.

The council also plans to turn part of Sydney’s Alexandria industrial estate into an arts, entertainment and cultural hub.

“I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world’s premier late night destinations”

However, the changes will not override the controversial lockout laws imposed by the New South Wales government on many live music venues. The laws require venues, bars and nightclubs in Sydney’s central business district and Kings Cross area to lock their doors at 2 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 3.30 a.m.

“It’s time for Sydney to become a 24-hour city and we’ve now given businesses the opportunity to open around the clock,” says mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney is doing its part,” adds Moore. “I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world’s premier late night destinations.”

The new late-night development control plan is the result of work by mayor Moore, councillors Jess Miller and Jess Scully and the Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel.

 


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“Our 30th was just wonderful”: Bluesfest round-up

The 30th edition of Byron Bay Bluesfest wrapped up on Monday 22 April, following a weekend full of artist collaborations from Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Mavis Staples, Kasey Chambers and more.

Australia’s most highly awarded music festival welcomed 88 artists and over 105,000 attendees to its anniversary event, with headline performances from festival favourites Jack Johnson and Ben Harper.

“Our 30th was just wonderful”, says festival director Peter Noble. “We tried some new things and it seems they really worked. Jack White’s the Saboteurs were absolutely brilliant. There were more great Australian artists such as Tommy Emmanuel, Paul Kelly, Julia Stone, Russell Morris, Kasey Chambers and more.

“The headliners were loved and the return of both Ben Harper and Jack Johnson were major moments. The list is never ending,” comments Noble, giving a special mention to Chicago’s Melody Angel, “who is emerging as a bonafide star at Bluesfest”.

“Our audience is telling us what a great time they are having, and the truth is, we just want to do it all over again,” adds the festival’s owner and director.

Noble recently spoke out against strict new licensing laws that have swept across New South Wales, imposing many additional costs on festivals and placing extra responsibility on organisers to ensure the safety of patrons.

“Our audience is telling us what a great time they are having, and the truth is, we just want to do it all over again”

Collaborations across the weekend saw Ben Harper join Mavis Staples for a Saturday afternoon performance. Kasey Chambers brought Ben Harper, the War and Treaty, Tommy Emmanuel and the Veronicas on stage during her performance and Jack Johnson was joined by Lukas Nelson, Gary Clark Jr. and Paula Fuga for his Sunday night headline slot.

A closing ceremony taking place at the Boomerang festival precinct on Sunday afternoon saw artists from across the festival come together to perform dances, chants and traditional calls to celebrate the First Nations peoples of Australia.

“Boomerang had a spirit this year that resonated across the Bluesfest site, from the eclectic line up of First Nations music, to the dance, story and workshops. There truly was something for everyone,” says festival director Rhoda Roberts.

Tickets for Bluesfest 2020 are available online exclusively for 2019 ticketholders from AU$430 for a five-day ticket. Tickets will be available to the general public from 29 April 2019. More information can be found here.

 


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FastForward returns to Sydney for 2019 conference

FastForward Sydney is returning for its second edition this year, as the forward-looking music industry conference explores topics including the power of live music, eco-friendly touring and the future of music festivals.

The second outing of FastForward Sydney takes place from Thursday 11 to Friday 12 April in the Aerial UTS Function Centre at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The Sydney edition is the third leg of the FastForward conference series. Media Insight Consulting chief executive Chris Carey founded the flagship Amsterdam event in 2016, adding a London-based conference in 2017, before expanding into the Australasian market last year.

The conference consists of a series of keynotes, panel discussions, mini-keynote presentations and networking opportunities.

Keynote talks this year come from Heidi Lenffer of Australian alternative rock group Cloud Control, who will discuss solutions for greener touring, and Genevieve O’Neil of In Chorus, who will present ideas on how to accelerate the process towards diversity and inclusion in the music industry.

The Sydney edition is the third leg of the FastForward conference series

Australian singer-songwriter Emma Donovan will also appear in a keynote talk, joining journalist Rod Yates in conversation.

Mini-keynote sessions include Live Nation Australasia’s Michelle Lucia, who will present on the power of the live industry for artists, brands and fans, and Rachel Maria Cox of Australian promotions and events agency Sad Grrrls Club, who will speak about their experience running a gender diverse agency and record label.

Panels include ‘Are Niches the Future of Music Festivals’ and ‘Key Trends in the Global Music Industry’. A discussion on how the music industry may influence government policy features representatives from Music New South Wales, Australian music rights organisation APRA AMCOS and the New South Wales shadow minister for music, John Graham.

Last minute conference tickets are available on the FastForward Sydney website for AU$285.

 


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