By PATRICK DONOVAN

MUSIC VICTORIA CEO

The world is facing its largest pandemic since World War II, and the entertainment industry is bearing the brunt of it.

Victoria’s live music industry contributes $1.7 billion to the economy, so this is not just a concern for our industry, but for the state’s economy.

The situation in Australia is changing by the hour – the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, just accepted advice from Australia’s chief medical officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, to implement a ban on non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people for the foreseeable future.

This will have a debilitating impact on the live music sector until the crisis stabilises and we enter recovery phase in the second half of the year.

The industry needs to be patient and work collaboratively and creatively to support each other and ride out the storm. As a community we need to weigh up the public health issue with public confidence in live music and the health of the music industry – financial and mental.

The international touring circuit is grinding to a halt and the whole ecosystem is losing the ability to earn money. A number of major tours and conferences have been cancelled, and this has impacted on the whole ecosystem, including festival promoters and venues, international and local acts, smaller venues that were hosting the sideshows, production companies and merchandise companies who have boxes of T-Shirts that may not sell, and the fans who will be starved of entertainment.

Victorian acts are having to put touring plans on hold, as travel bans are put in place for many countries (Check the latest travel advice here: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/)

The advice provided until the Prime Minister’s recent announcement was that every upcoming event should be considered on a case by case basis. For instance, the Grand Prix was only cancelled this morning (March 13) because of a number of teams that had to pull out after contracting the virus.

But at least the Prime Minister’s advice provides some clear direction. The music sector needs to think creatively about live music options over the next six months. Some options include:

–          Hold more frequent smaller shows

–          Hold more outdoor shows

–          Consider streaming your shows to get your music out to a wider audience

 

The latest messaging and advice from the State Government from an arts briefing today is:

–          The government’s response will be measured and proportionate to the issue

–          They are calling for community solidarity to get through the crisis

–          Promoters should treat each event as business as usual, and weigh up the elements of each event, until the government provides advice that public events aren’t safe

–          They are aware and concerned about the precarious nature of artists and small business careers, and the casual workforce

–          They want the arts sector to help come up with solutions

–          They will consult the arts sector on the recovery process

 

The rest of the advice, which is updated daily, can be found at: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19

In the meantime, the industry is calling on the federal government to extend its stimulus package and Relief Plan to compensate the music industry through measures such as social security payments, wages subsidies and retrospective hardship grants. (see https://themusicnetwork.com/live-sector-lobbies-scomo/)

The Australian Music Industry Network and the Australian Festival Association are measuring the impact of the virus on the sector (we will be seeking input from you next week).

In the meantime, the best way to support the industry is to get out there and see some music – and clean your hands. I look forward to attending the Airey’s Inlet Open Mic festival this weekend.

If you need some support, please don’t hesitate in contacting the 24 hour Wellbeing help line:

https://supportact.org.au/wellbeinghelpline/