Music identities to meet with Qld government to push new crowds campaign

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“What I am saying to the government is that if you can’t increase the (venue) capacity, you are going to have to come and financially help us out,” Mr Collins said.

Mr Collins leads Australian music’s Play Fair campaign tackling the double whammy about to hit Australia’s live music industry: ongoing crowd restrictions and job losses linked to the windback of JobKeeper.

In most venues fans are asked to remain seated, although dancing is now allowed.

Limited standing is allowed, but the overall restrictions mean live music venues run at about one-third capacity, seriously eroding their profitability.

The latest COVID-19 community transmission case in Brisbane on Friday may impede the plans, but musicians argue their case is crucial.

Mr Collins said all live music venues had obeyed Queensland government health warnings during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, “took the medicine” and “took a large economic hit”.

“It was a health issue last year, but I really think it’s not a health issue now; it’s an economic crisis for the venues,” he said.

“And with JobKeeper ending, it is going to be a massive hassle.”

Dave Sleswick, creative director at The Tivoli night club in Spring Hill.

Dave Sleswick, creative director at The Tivoli night club in Spring Hill.Credit:Tony Moore

Mr Sleswick said people had the wrong perception venues were operating at full capacity.

“Essentially we [The Tivoli] are operating at under 50 per cent capacity. The losses here are substantial,” Mr Sleswick said.

“Whilst it seems there are still music events starting to pop up now, there is this public perception that things are back to normal,” he said.

“And it couldn’t be further from the truth really.”

Mr Sleswick asked for:

  • a industry-specific COVID-19 recovery strategy;
  • relaxed crowd capacity restrictions;
  • improved inconsistencies in border restrictions

How restrictions are impacting major Queensland venues

The Triffid at Newstead.

  • Normally has capacity of 800 people
  • Now operating at 260 to 270 people
  • 60 per cent of wages are subsidised by JobSeeker
  • All casual staff wages covered by JobKeeper
  • “There is just no revenue at this level,” John Collins

The Fortitude Music Hall, Fortitude Valley

  • The Fortitude Music Hall opened in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley in July 2019, eight months before COVID-19 shut down the live music industry, says John Collins
  • It has a maximum capacity of 3300 people when fans can stand
  • With current restrictions it has a capacity of 1100 fans
  • “This venue was not designed for 1100 people. It was designed for 3000 people and all our building and economic figures were designed around having that many people in the room.”
  • “The losses here are now substantial.”

The Tivoli at Spring Hill

  • Maximum crowd allowing standing 1560
  • Now crowds are 690 to 700, either seated or standing
  • Recently lost $70,000 in revenue sales in one weekend when Queensland Health denied a Melbourne musician entry to the state, forcing four sold out gigs to be cancelled
  • 28 of 38 Tivoli staff – mix of casual and permanent jobs – are subsidised by JobKeeper

The federal government on Thursday announced arts businesses and organisations could apply for grants totalling $125 million to help run festivals, concerts, tours, productions and events.

What the Queensland government says

It is unlikely the Queensland government would be able to offer financial assistance to Queensland venues, a premier’s department spokesman said.

“No, not yet. We are trying to accomodate JC and we understand his problem, but we still have to deal with the pandemic and takle the CHO’s advice,” a Premier’s Department spokesman said.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the plans was to “phase in” reduced restrictions.

“The reality is the risks from COVID are not over yet. The risk of community transmission remains real, as recent events at the PA Hospital, the Hotel Grand Chancellor and North Brisbane on Friday show,” she said.

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