As the days count down until the creative sector’s safety net is yanked for good, Australia’s federal government comes to the rescue.
Early Thursday (March 25), Canberra confirmed a A$135 million ($102 million) survival and stimulus package, including A$125 million ($95 million) in new RISE funding, available until Dec. 31, 2021, with the remaining A$10 million ($7.6 million) earmarked for the Support Act charity.
That’s in addition to an original commitment of A$75 million ($57 million), which is provided to arts businesses and organizations as competitive project grants towards the cost of putting on such activities as festivals, concerts and tours.
“This investment by government will help us keep companies alive, projects moving and people in jobs,” enthuses Evelyn Richardson, CEO of Live Performance Australia.
The latest announcement is the culmination of year-long lobbying efforts from the music industry, which crescendoed with a round of meetings last week with the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister of the Arts.
Its timing couldn’t have been any sweeter. There was no time left on the clock, with JobKeeper wage subsidies due to disappear by month’s end.
From across the music industry on Thursday, plaudits to a government for giving the crippled live sector a leg-up.
“We commend the federal government wholeheartedly for this package and its recognition that our industry just wants to get back to business,” comments Geoff Jones, LEIF co-chair and CEO of TEG.
His colleague Roger Field, LEIF co-chair and president & CEO of Live Nation Asia Pacific, adds, “Our next step is to work with all governments to enable 100% venue capacities, bring leading international touring artists into the country and enable them and domestic artists to plan national tours,” with eye an to plotting a path back to a healthy, growing industry.
Australia’s live sector is awakening from its COVID-induced slumber, arguably at a pace more rapid than other territories. The damage from the lockdown, however, is done. According to LEIF, established last year to facilitate the opening of venues around the nation, some 86% of live entertainment jobs are lost to the health crisis.
The industry is “delighted the Australian government has listened to our plea to help support Australia’s live music entertainment industry through the uncertainty of the next six months,” comments Dean Ormston, CEO APRA AMCOS.
The targeted funding will help the sector as it “struggles to restart under the weight of government restrictions and sudden border closures,” he continues.
Ormston was joined by colleagues at APRA AMCOS, plus reps from Live Performance Australia, LEIF, and managers for what turned out to be fruitful talks with the country’s leaders in the capital.
The champagne corks aren’t flying just yet. Actions speak louder than words, and the industry is keen to see the money reach those who need it, swiftly.
Association of Artist Managers (AAM) patron and Support Act board member John Watson welcomes “this significant support of live music,“ but is keen to see the cash flow. “We look forward to further consultation with government in regard to these guidelines to help ensure that these badly needed funds make it to the coalface of our industry as soon as possible”.
The federal government is confident its package will support around 230 projects and up to 90,000 jobs, including entertainers, managers, promoters and booking agents.
Under the proposed expansion of the RISE guidelines, the threshold for grant applications are lowered to A$25,000 ($19,000) from A$75,000 ($57,000), which ought to provide direct support to more emerging artist tours and grassroots events.
Several reports published by LPA and the ALMBC illustrate an industry in dire straits. Some 77% of businesses will only survive the next six months unless trading conditions improve, an ALMBC survey found. It gets worse. Just shy of half the respondents said their businesses may only survive another three months.
Late last week, LPA issued a plea to government to remove venue capacity limits, give assurances that borders would remain open, and to remove uncertainties surrounding international acts entering Australia. Otherwise, the live industry, once worth billions to the national economy, could collapse.
Now, LPA, APRA and others turn their attention to the states and territories to provide further support and “harmonise the regulations surround live music events,” Ormston notes.
One of those states, New South Wales, has stepped up with a commitment worth A$24 million ($18 million) for live music venues.