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Report: Bluesfest cancellation cost NSW €124m

The Australian state of New South Wales lost out on AU$203.6 million (€123.6m) in revenue, due to the cancellation of this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest, a new report has shown.

The Economic Impact of Bluesfest 2020 report, commissioned by the festival and undertaken by Reuben Lawrence Consulting, highlights the loss of employment and gross revenue to the Northern Rivers region and state of New South Wales as a result of Bluesfest 2020 not going ahead.

In comparison to last year, it is calculated that Northern Rivers has lost $116.9m (€70.9m) in indirect tourism expenditure and around 745 full-time jobs due to the cancellation, with the wider state losing out on over $200m (€123m) and 1,158 jobs.

The 2020 edition of Bluesfest, which was set to feature Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band, Kool and the Gang, Patti Smith and John Butler, was called off in March – just three weeks before it was set to take place – following a nationwide ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

“The economic impact reports clearly demonstrate that because of the Covid-19 pandemic our community is not only culturally poorer but also financially poorer”

“The economic impact reports we have commissioned clearly demonstrate that because of the Covid-19 pandemic our community is not only culturally poorer but also financially poorer,” comments Bluesfest festival director Peter Noble, adding that the report also “demonstrat[es] the impact that just one event of this scale can have on the economy of the country”.

“We therefore made the conscious decision to go ahead with Bluesfest 2021, with the awareness that we need to present the festival as a Covid-19 safe event, and we are working with the relevant authorities to ensure that happens, so the public can remain safe and to provide the wealth and jobs in the future that Bluesfest creates,” says Noble.

“Bluesfest is 100% independent and we are proud to contribute to our state and local communities and we look forward to doing it again in 2021.”

Bluesfest 2021 is set to take place from 1 to 5 April at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, featuring Bon Iver, Patti Smith, Jimmy Barnes, John Butler and Xavier Rudd, among others. Tickets for Bluesfest 2021 are available here, with five-day tickets priced at $513 (€312) and single day tickets starting from $157 (€95).

The Bluesfest economic impact report 2020 can be read in full here.


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Australia hosts first major “post-restrictions” events

Western Australia, home to the city of Perth, has become the first Australian state to host large-scale live events, allowing its biggest sport and entertainment venues to operate at 50% capacity.

The state saw the return of stadium concerts this weekend, 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.

The event, organised by Zaccaria Concerts and VenuesWest, was billed as the first “post-restrictions” concert to be held in the country since lockdown measures came into force in March.

Seated tickets for the event cost AU$60 (€37), with standing tickets priced at AU$81 (€50).

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. Perth’s Optus Stadium admitting 25,000 football fans for a match on Sunday. The stadium is allowed to admit up to 35,000 for concerts and 30,633 for sporting events, with HBF Park given limits of 10,150 for sports and 16,500 for music events.

Western Australia is now in its fourth stage of lockdown easing, permitting all events except large scale, multi-stage music festivals

Phase five of Western Australia’s lockdown lifting, which was to see almost all remaining restriction removed, was recently pushed back from 18 July to 1 August.

Elsewhere in Australia, venues in Melbourne joined those in a number of major cities worldwide to be forced to re-close their doors amid a surge in new coronavirus cases.

The re-imposition of lockdown restrictions across the parts of the state of Victoria – which saw citizens permitted to leave their houses only for work, education, exercise or to buy essential supplies from 8 July – will last for six weeks.

Nightclubs in South Australia similarly faced a second wave of closures after briefly reopening over the first weekend of July. All venues now have to submit a Covid management plan before being allowed to operate.

In New South Wales, home to Sydney, venues are allowed to operate at 25% capacity, with a maximum number of 10,000 people in attendance, as long as social distancing measures are applied. All venue operators must submit a Covid-19 safety plan before organising an event.

Queensland is allowing events of up to 25,000 people (where that is equal to 50% full capacity), as long as there is an approved Covid safe event plan, and enough space for one person every four square metres.

Photo: DaHuzyBru/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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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Australia prepares for live music comeback

The Australian recording industry association (Aria) has teamed up with the New South Wales (NSW) government to put on 1,000 Covid-safe shows across the region, as Australia announces a furthering easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Artists including Tones and I, the Presets, Thelma Plum, Jimmy Barnes, the Veronicas and Tash Sultana are performing as part of the Great Southern Nights series in November.

“This celebration of outstanding Australian artists and incredible live music venues across NSW gives us all something to look forward to, from eventgoers to industry,” comments the minister for jobs, investment, tourism and western Sydney Stuart Ayres.

“With the NSW Government’s 24-hour economy strategy set to reinvigorate Sydney’s nightlife, Great Southern Nights will be a big step forward for our state’s live music and hospitality community that has been hit hard in recent times.”

The government has invited venues in Sydney and regional NSW to nominate themselves to host the shows, which will be put on in accordance with appropriate physical distancing and capacity requirements.

In NSW, a current 50-person capacity limit on music venues, theatres and pubs will be scrapped from 1 July, replaced instead by a one-person-per-four-square-metres rule. Outdoor venues with space for 40,000 people will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity, giving the go ahead for events of 10,000. All events must be seated and venues with a capacity of over 40,000 must remain closed.

“This celebration of outstanding Australian artists and incredible live music venues across NSW gives us all something to look forward to, from eventgoers to industry”

Festivals and club nights are not expected to return in the region until August, depending on the public health situation.

Organisers of Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass festival last week called off the 2020 edition, which had previously been rescheduled from July to October. Tickets for the 2021 festival, which will take place from 23 to 25 July, are available here.

The new follows an announcement from Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison last week that the four-square-metre rule, rather than capacity limits, was to apply to venues as the country moves into stage three of its reopening plan next month.

Under the regulations, any seated, ticketed events of under 40,000 people is to be allowed to take place, given there is the adequate amount of space. Nightclubs and large-capacity stadiums will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The different regions in Australia are approaching the reopening of live music events at varying paces. Large venues in Western Australia were this month able to host up to 300 people in multiple, divided spaces, whereas venues in the state of Victoria will only begin to welcome 50 guests from next week.

Industry body Live Performance Australia has proposed a AU$345 million (€209m) recovery package for the country’s live business, which typically generates $2.2 billion (€1.2bn) each year.

 


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Australian states take differing stance on live’s return

Live music may return in varying degrees across Australia this week, as the country’s six states advance with differing reopening plans.

In Western Australia, home to the city of Perth, indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted from Saturday (6 June), as the state embarks on phase three of its reopening plan, which makes specific mention to the reopening of concert venues.

Large venues “with multiple, divided spaces” may host up to 300 people, provided no more than 100 gather in each space and there is two square metres per person.

Although “excited” by the easing of restrictions, Mike Harris, CEO of local music body West Australian Music, calls on the state government to rescind the requirement for seating at live music venues, which “does not reflect or represent the places where most music is played, making compliance with this restriction logistically and financially challenging for many”.

South Australia, which includes the city of Adelaide, this week began allowing a maximum of 80 people to gather at a venue, with any separate room or area containing a maximum of 20 people, subject to a one-person-per-four-square-metres rule.

Under the state government’s “future steps for consideration” is the allowing of larger gatherings and reopening of stadiums and larger entertainment venues.

Live music may return in varying degrees across Australia this week, as the country’s six states advance with differing reopening plans

The government in New South Wales, which has been criticised for its lack of support for the cultural sector and information around its reopening, recently dedicated $50m (€30.7m) to arts and cultural organisations, with expected beneficiaires including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia, Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Sydney Theatre Company.

Pubs, clubs, small bars and restaurants in NSW were permitted to open for up to 50 customers this week, although all other indoor entertainment venues are to remain closed for now.

This has not stopped music returning to the state’s biggest city, Sydney, where the Bondi Beach Public Bar is relaunching its Friday and Saturday night DJ sets this weekend.

In the neighbouring state of Victoria, where AU$4m (€2.4m) was recently earmarked for the live music sector as part of a $150m (€88.2m) experience economy aid package, concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums and stadiums are to open with up to 50 seated patrons from 21 June.

Queensland, home to Brisbane, is this week allowing up to 20 people in concert venues, theatres, arenas and stadiums, with this number set to increase to 100 from 10 July.

Australia’s island state of Tasmania is also reintroducing gatherings of up to 20 people in theatres and concert venues this week. From 13 July, 50 people will be allowed at indoor venus and up to 100 at outdoor shows. The state will also “consider” the reopening of night clubs from this date.

 


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Byron Bay Bluesfest to go ahead as planned

The organisers of Byron Bay Bluesfest have confirmed that the festival is going ahead as planned from 9 to 13 April, despite the spread of Covid-19.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned,” reads a post on the festival’s Facebook page, last updated today (12 March).

“Both NSW Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the federal body, report that attending public events such as Bluesfest are low risk.”

Fan are assured that their tickets are “fully insured” in case of a coronavirus-related cancellation.

The New South Wales festival, organised by Peter Noble, is entering its 31st year in 2020, featuring acts including Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band, Kool and the Gang and John Butler.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned”

Extra safety measures and additional facilities, such as hand sanitisation stations, will be put in place at Bluesfest to further safeguard the health and safety of guests.

Covid-19 was yesterday declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Major festivals including Coachella, Ultra Miami, South by Southwest and Tomorrowland Winter have been cancelled or postponed due to the virus.

Events affected in Australia include Miley Cyrus’ cancelled headline performance at the World Tour Bushfire Relief concert in Melbourne, Victoria. However, Robbie Wiliams’ appearance as part of the same event series is going ahead as planned, along with the Australian grand prix.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said there will be a “further review of mass gatherings” across the state, saying, “there is no need to massively change what you are doing but it’s not business as usual. We are asking everybody to be alert.”

13 new cases of the virus were reported in NSW yesterday alone, bringing the state’s total to 78, half the total number of cases reported across the whole country.

 


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SITG sells record 50k tickets for 20th anniversary

Australia’s Splendour in the Grass festival celebrated its largest ever ticket sale today (27 February), with fans clearing out all 50,000 tickets under an hour.

The festival has sold four times as many tickets for its 20th edition than it did for its inaugural event in 2001. This year’s festival is the biggest ever, marking a 7,500 capacity increase from last year.

The Strokes, Flume and Tyler the Creator are heading up the festival from 24 to 26 July, which will also feature performances from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Midnight Oil, Denzel Curry and more.

“The response to our 20th edition of Splendour in The Grass has been phenomenal,” says event producer Jessica Ducrou. “We know many people are doing it tough in our local communities at the moment and we’re grateful for the opportunity to bring people together in Byron through the uniting power of music.”

New South Wales is one of the regions most affected by the Australian bushfires, which have been raging through the country since September.

“We never would have thought when we produced our first edition of Splendour back in 2001 that it would resonate and mean so much to so many people 20 years later”

“We never would have thought when we produced our first edition of Splendour back in 2001 that it would resonate and mean so much to so many people 20 years later.”

Harley Evans, managing director of Splendour’s ticketing partner Moshtix, comments: “It’s been Moshtix’s great privilege to be involved in this wonderful event for so many years and the incredible demand for the 20th edition is a testament to the efforts of Jess, Paul, and their amazing team, and the love that the public has for Splendour.

“In difficult times, it will be wonderful to see 50,000 people come together in July to celebrate music and life.”

Moshtix, formerly the biggest independent ticketing service in Australia, was acquired by Ticketmaster in February last year.

Fans can sign up to the resale waiting list here.

 


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Strip searches at SITG may be “unjustifiable”

A public inquiry into police conduct at last year’s Splendour in the Grass festival in Australia has found that 143 strip searches were carried out over the three-day event, including on seven minors.

According to the inquiry, illegal items were found on 12 of the 143 who were strip searched.

The New South Wales Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) opened the four-day inquiry to investigate the potentially unlawful strip search of a 16-year-old girl at the 2018 festival.

Police regulations in NSW state that a parent, guardian or support person must be present whenever an individual under the age of 18 is strip searched.

The inquiry found that the girl was one of six minors to be strip searched at the festival without a parent, guardian, or other supervising adult present.

It was also revealed that staff including shopkeepers and bar workers were also strip searched at the event. None were found with illegal items.

According to the inquiry, illegal items were found on 12 of the 143 who were strip-searched

Under NSW law, police can only carry out field strip searches if the “urgency and seriousness of the situation requires it”.

When questioned at the inquiry, a senior constable who performed 19 such searches at Splendour in the Grass said they could not “think of any” circumstance which would necessitate a strip search at a music festival.

Splendour in the Grass promoter Secret Sounds tells IQ that the team is “learning of these searches along with the general public”. The promoter is unable to comment further as the inquiry is ongoing.

The New South Wales festival celebrated record ticket sales for its 2019 event, which took place from 19 to 21 July at its site in North Byron Bay Parklands with performances from Tame Impala, Childish Gambino and the Lumineers.

Splendour in the Grass and fellow Secret Sounds-promoted festival Falls are part of a coalition of events threatening to leave NSW, after the government reintroduced “unworkable” festival legislation.

 


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NSW music festival regulations rejected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Report: Bluesfest 2019 attendance, spending up

Byron Bay Bluesfest increased attendance by almost 10% and contributed over AU$83 million to the New South Wales economy in 2019, a new report has shown.

The report, commissioned by the Bluesfest Group and conducted by Lawrence Consulting, documents the economic impact of the 30th edition of Bluesfest, which took place from 18 to 22 April 2019.

Speaking to IQ ahead of this year’s festival, director Peter Noble noted that all ticket sale records had been broken for the sold-out anniversary edition. More than 105,000 fans attended this year’s Bluesfest, a 9.2% increase on the previous year.

Findings show that spending by attendees increased by almost 19% this year, with an average daily expenditure of $304. As a result, festivalgoers brought over $35.5m to the local government area of Byron Shire, contributed $59m to the region of Northern Rivers and a total of $83.4m to the state of New South Wales.

Spending by promoter Bluesfest Services was up 38% in Bryon Shire at $2.6m and increased by 24% across the rest of the Northern Rivers at $1.9m. Overall, annual expenditure on Bluesfest was approximately $18.4m, including around $1.6m in wages to 15 full-time staff.

“Bluesfest has become a pinnacle event in the calendar of Australians and music fans overseas”

The Bluesfest Group this year hired a record number of 1,454 people in NSW alone.

“I’m thrilled to think that from its humble beginnings as the East Coast Blues Festival, Bluesfest is now such a critical contributor to the local economy in the tropical surrounds of Byron Bay,” says Noble.

“Over the 30 years of its existence, Bluesfest has become a pinnacle event in the calendar of Australians and music fans overseas. I’m excited to see where the next 30 [years] will bring us as a festival in relation to the Byron, Northern Rivers, NSW and Australian economies.”

Tickets for Bluesfest 2020, which will take place from 9 to 13 April, are on sale via Moshtix. Tickets are priced at $600 plus fees for a five-day pass and $420 for three days. Single day tickets will become available in December.

Acts confirmed for the 2020 event include Dave Matthews Band, Patti Smith, John Butler and Frank Turner.


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Govt reveals plans to scrap Sydney lock-out laws

The New South Wales (NSW) government has announced it plans on scrapping Sydney’s controversial lock-out laws at the end of the year, except in the King’s Cross precinct.

A parliamentary committee has been conducting an inquiry into the effects of the lock-out laws, which were introduced in 2014 in response to alcohol-fuelled violence, and the wider night time economy, which will be presented on 30 September.

“I’m more than happy to relax or even repeal the laws depending on the committee’s findings,” NSW premier Galdys Berejiklian announced on Sunday (8 September).

“Community safety will always be a major focus for my government, but we need a balanced approach. Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our night-life to reflect that,” said Berejiklian.

The lock-out laws mandate bars, pubs, clubs and music venues set last entry to 1.30 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 3 a.m. The restrictions apply to establishments in the city’s central business district (CBD) and King’s Cross precinct.

“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our night-life to reflect that”

Many, including Live Nation Australasia boss Roger Field and Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, have stated that the laws have exerted a strong negative impact on the city’s nightlife. The planned changes to the laws have been welcomed by live music professionals.

John Wardle, general manager of music policy advocate Live Music Office, called the potential axing “a milestone in the rebuilding of the cultural and economic nighttime future of the city of Sydney.”

Keep Sydney Open, a grassroots movement opposing the laws, celebrated the decision – “a huge moment” –, while demanding more details about the decision to exclude King’s Cross and on what the changes would entail for venues.

However, the move has been criticised by the president of the Australian Medical Association, along with other medical professionals, as a step backwards for public health.

 


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