Live music industry says 45% of businesses will close in three months as JobKeeper ends

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The live music industry is calling for travel permits and more consistency across state restrictions to help the ailing sector survive once JobKeeper winds down on March 28.

A recent survey by the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC), which represents 600 small businesses and sole traders, found almost 70% of live music businesses had seen their revenue drop by 75% to 100% since lockdowns began in March last year.

The poll also found 77% of businesses will only survive the next six months if trading conditions improve, and 45% of businesses expect to close by June.

ALMBC board member and chief executive at Select Music Agency, Stephen Wade, says the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme will have a significant impact on the industry.

“It will have a major effect because we’re in a situation where still a year after we first closed down, we do not have any certainty as to when our industry will be back to 100%,” he says.

Wade says it is essential that state governments work together to establish consistent capacity limits and restrictions for live music events and remove some of the “alarming inconsistencies”.

“If you have a 1000-person capacity venue in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, in each of those cities the capacity would be different,” he says.

Wade also says inconsistencies exist within states, citing Victoria as an example where major sporting events held in Melbourne’s MCG can hold up to 75,000 patrons.

“You would think that would be more dangerous to the health of Victorians than if you had 10,000 people in a live music event,” he says.

ALMBC is also calling on the government to establish travel permits to ensure performers can cross state borders for work even if border closures are in place due to the pandemic.

“Our artists do 80% of their work in states outside of the one they live in, so we need to have an assurance that we can book shows and national tours in August, September and October knowing that our artists can travel to work,” Wade says.

Overall, the ALMBC says a nation-wide commitment to 75% to 100% capacity restrictions and a travel permit system would help the industry overcome the greatest barriers it currently facing.

ALMBC says the uncertainty of the past year has negatively affected the mental health of almost 93% of live music business owners and workers.

Memo Music Hall co-owner Simon Myers says the capacity limits set by the Victorian state government is affecting his business’ cash flow.

The Melbourne venue is currently running at 75% capacity, which means that each show can sell up to 300 tickets instead of 400.

“In reality, most shows don’t sell out, but you do rely on those few sell out shows to give you the cash for some of the other shows that you don’t do so well in,” Myers says.

Myers is satisfied with the Victorian state government’s efforts to support the live music industry throughout the pandemic, but he does say that federal government support was lacking.

“The problem is that the music industry has been lumped in with every other industry,” he says.

“When you look back it was one of the first to be stopped dead in its tracks.”

The federal government allocated $75 million to the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund.

The fund provides grants to arts and entertainment businesses that can prove they would be unable to continue operating as a result of COVID-19, if they did not receive additional funding.

However, Memo Music Hall’s application for a grant through the federal government’s Rise Fund was not successful.

According to ALMBC, many businesses have been overlooked by the RISE Fund with only 17% of its members saying they benefited from the fund.

For free mental health support contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. Business owners can also register for Beyond Blue’s New Access for Small Business Owners program here.

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