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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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Queensland to go 100% capacity in venues and stadiums

The Australian state of Queensland will welcome a huge rollback of restrictions from tomorrow, permitting a near-full return to live.

From 4 pm tomorrow (17 November), seated and ticketed indoor events like concerts can increase patron numbers from 50% to 100% and social distancing will increase to one person per two square metres.

Outdoor events can have up to 1,500 people attend with a Covid Safe Event Checklist, while open-air stadiums can increase seated capacity from 75% to 100% with a Covid Safe Plan. Outdoor dancing will be permitted.

“Queenslanders have worked hard to stop the spread of the virus, which means we can enjoy more of our Queensland way of life and keep [the state’s] economic recovery plan moving forward,” says Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“We can enjoy more of our Queensland way of life and keep [the state’s] economic recovery plan moving forward”

The news comes as other states relax regulations, including New South Wales (NSW) which is set to host Australia’s first arena shows since the shutdown of the concert business in March.

The Greatest Southern Nights shows will play to more than 12,000 fans at Qudos Bank Arena (21,000-cap.) over two nights in a seated, ‘Covid-safe’ setting.

The NSW government is also set to permit 5,000-capacity country fairs from January 2021, the second-largest attendance permitted at outdoor events since social distancing restrictions were imposed. The Australian Festival Association is now calling for the new capacity increase to be extended to other types of events too.

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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Greatest Southern Nights an “incredibly powerful statement”

On 28 November and 5 December, Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena will welcome thousands of fans for The Greatest Southern Nights, the first indoor arena shows in Australia since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

Here, Geoff Jones, CEO of co-promoter TEG, explains how the concerts came together, how fans will be kept safe, how it feels to co-promote shows with rival Live Nation, and why these “circuit-breaker” concerts aren’t about the money…


 

Q: These two concerts will be the first big indoor arena shows in Australia, and there has only been a handful of arena shows globally since Covid-19 struck. What was the genesis of these shows?
GJ: When Covid-19 shut down the live industry globally, we convened the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) in Australia and spent several months working together to devise a set of very helpful guidelines to assist the return of live entertainment in a structured and methodical way. While these guidelines were developed for the entire live industry, increasingly we saw that major live sporting events and codes were getting the lion’s share of focus and support from governments, which is somewhat understandable given they mobilised so quickly to protect seasons in mid-flight or international broadcast rights. It seemed to me that the live music sector was at risk of being left behind and I wanted to do something about it.

So, in late April, I called my colleague, Tim McGregor, the managing director of TEG Live, and asked him to work on a plan to restart concerts based on the developing COVID Safe requirements of Australia’s public health authorities and the safety guidelines created by LEIF in consultation with those authorities. Initially, we explored (and continue to explore) a number of outdoor concert options as there was a lot of commentary and advice that events in these settings were likely to return sooner. But the LEIF experience made it very clear to me that the live music industry really needs its indoor venues to return to full mode capacity as soon as practicable in order to be financially viable.

TEG owns the biggest indoor arena in Australia, Qudos Bank Arena, and Tim and I thought it would be an incredibly powerful statement to somehow deliver some large-scale concerts in that venue before the end of the year. But we wanted to do it in a collegiate way with the industry, so I reached out to Live Nation Asia Pacific president, Roger Field, and invited them to join us in this venture. And so it all began to take shape.

“In the current pandemic context, and with all the work done together with LEIF, a collaboration with Live Nation just made sense”

I understand you all worked together on the Live Entertainment Industry Forum guidelines but did you actually expect to co-promote shows together with Live Nation?
In the current pandemic context and with all the work done together with LEIF, a collaboration just made sense to put the LEIF guidelines into practice and collectively shine a light on live music by working together to produce The Greatest Southern Nights. We’re supporting the artists, the production suppliers and crew, the event staff and many others, including, most importantly, the music fans who have been deprived of arena concerts since March. It’s the sort of industry leadership that we are proud to be a part of.

The New South Wales Government has shown strong support for the live music industry through its Great Southern Nights programme with the Australia Record Industry Association (ARIA). So presumably they were keen on the idea?
The New South Wales government, in particular minister for jobs, investment and tourism Stuart Ayres and Destination New South Wales CEO Steve Cox, and ARIA have shown incredible leadership and support for live music and, indeed, when I presented this concept to them, it was warmly received and we got to work immediately. I really have to applaud all three bodies and hope other governments roll out similar support to get live music moving in their markets.

How do the two “Greatest” Southern Nights arena concerts connect with the 1,000 smaller concerts being run under the “Great” Southern Nights moniker?
The 1,000 gigs for the Great Southern Nights is a superb concept, delivering shows of all shapes and sizes across New South Wales. It will hopefully create a lot of momentum for the industry and joy for fans as they get to see some of their favourite domestic artists in some intimate settings, in a Covid-safe format. So we just thought The Greatest Southern Nights was an excellent complement to the programme, but, of course, upscaled to the biggest capacity indoor arena in the country – Qudos Bank Arena – again with Covid-safe measures in place.

What are the Covid-safe measures that will be in place at The Greatest Southern Nights?
The safety of fans, artists and staff is always our top priority and we will work closely with and comply with the evolving requirements of the public health authorities in respect of the Greatest Southern Nights events. First and foremost, Qudos Bank Arena is a 21,000-capacity venue but will be capped at a fully seated capacity of around 6,200 for these concerts. This will allow for effective implementation of social distancing measures across all parts of the venue, including by way of chequerboard seating in the auditorium. There will also be an extensive cleaning regime and hygiene measures, a fully cashless operation and Ticketek’s fully mobile ticketing platform will assist with efficient ingress and contact tracing if necessary. Again, we will work closely with the public health authorities to implement these and other arrangements deemed necessary at the time to operate on a Covid-safe basis.

“These concerts are not designed to show how live music can recommence on a financially sustainable basis”

You have locked in some great acts for these concerts…
Yes, we had really overwhelming interest from artists wishing to be a part of these historic shows. We’re thrilled that Ocean Alley, Jack River, Ruby Fields and Jack Botts will play at the 28 November show and we have Bernard Fanning, Matt Corby and Merci, Mercy at the 5 December show. We’re so rapt with these two huge consecutive Saturday nights of live music to close out what has been a very, very tough year for our industry and we want them to provide some hope for a much better year in 2021.

Does this mean we will see more shows at Qudos Bank Arena in this reduced-capacity format?
Possibly – but, I can assure you, these concerts do not make a lot of financial sense and that’s not why we are doing it. Firstly, we will be operating with a reduced capacity, which obviously means lower ticket sales. At the same time, we need to use the entire venue, which entails a full deployment of ushers, security and other staff, in addition to all the Covid-safe measures I have mentioned. All of those things cost money. So we have reduced revenue and greater expenses to operate these shows.

Without the generous support from the New South Wales government and without Qudos Bank Arena being provided on a rent-free basis, these concerts would make even less financial sense (although we are going to explore this very carefully to see what might be feasible as we have some solid ideas).

The bottom line is that these concerts are not designed to show how live music can recommence on a financially sustainable basis. They are intended to act as a circuit-breaker to interrupt the near-paralysis that the large concerts industry has been experiencing since Covid arrived; to demonstrate how large indoor concerts can be operated safely and professionally in a Covid world.

Our hope is that The Greatest Southern Nights will generate some important momentum to help lift live music up onto the pedestal alongside sport, where it absolutely should be.

 


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 to host first arena concerts since March

TEG, Live Nation and the government of New South Wales (NSW) have announced plans for The Greatest Southern Nights, Australia’s first arena shows since the shutdown of the concert business in March.

Taking place as part of Great Summer Nights, the state-backed 1,000-show concert series running in NSW throughout this month, the Greatest Southern Nights shows will play to more than 12,000 fans at Qudos Bank Arena (21,000-cap.) over two nights in a seated, ‘Covid-safe’ setting.

Ocean Alley will headline the first gig, on Saturday 28 November, joined by Jack River, Ruby Fields and Jack Botts, with Bernard Fanning and Matt Corby, supported by Merci, Mercy, playing the second on Saturday 5 December. For each, co-promoters TEG Live and Live Nation will welcome more than 6,000 fans to the Sydney venue.

Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG and a key figure in the pan-industry Live Entertainment Industry Fund (LEIF), comments: “These shows are vital for our industry because they will show that we can stage big live concerts safely and that Australians cannot wait to get out and share great live entertainment experiences with their friends and family.

“We have seen the successful and safe return of large crowds to major live sport, and it is time for live music to make a return at scale at a world-class venue, Qudos Bank Arena, which we will operate in a reduced, Covid-safe capacity for these shows.”

Tickets for the Ocean Alley show cost A$91.60 (€56), while the Bernard Fanning-Matt Corby date is priced at $99.90 (€60). The shows go on sale at 10am local time Monday and Tuesday, respectively, via TEG’s Ticketek platform.

“After eight long months of zero arena shows, these concerts will see great musicians bring thousands of fans back together”

“After eight long months of zero arena shows, these concerts will see great musicians bring thousands of fans back together,” comments Roger Field, president of Live Nation Asia Pacific, who also serves on the LEIF executive committee. “Not only will these two wonderful nights of entertainment deliver significant employment but they are sure to inject a vital economic boost to our industry and the economy.”

The shows are supported by New South Wales’s tourism agency, Destination NSW. The state’s minister for jobs, investment, tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, says: “NSW has led Australia in reigniting the live music industry through Great Southern Nights, and now we are excited to announce these landmark concerts that will be the hottest tickets in the country.

“The NSW government is proud to be getting artists, roadies, venues, hospitality staff and tourism businesses back to work and we hope this heralds the safe return of major indoor arena events.”

Arena shows have already returned to neighbouring New Zealand, where Live Nation recently promoted a headline tour by local star Benee. At press time, Australia had just 12 new cases of coronavirus today (6 November), while NZ had one.

“I’m so happy to be part of the reopening of the live music scene in NSW,” adds Bernard Fanning. “It’s a great opportunity to get people safely together again, but just as importantly to give the music industry workers whose lives have been so upended by Covid a chance to get back to doing what they do best.”

 


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