Coronavirus Paralyses Australia’s Live Community as Industry Strikes Collaborative Note

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The Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas returns to the harbour after a seven day cruise that went nowhere after the ship was refused entry into New Zealand on March 18, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

BRISBANE - Australia’s once-thriving live entertainment sector has gone painfully quiet.

As the country’s borders effectively close, and new directives are activated to limit the numbers of gatherings and ensure Australians keep their distance, the threat of COVID-19 has paralysed the live economy.

It’s tough out there as thousands of artists and industry professionals face a prolonged period without work.

On Thursday, the nation’s arts ministers met for a virtual powwow on how to tackle the “unprecedented and evolving” situation.

A communiqué circulated after the gathering of federal and state players recognized the arts “integral economic and social role” of Australia’s arts landscape, and the devastating effects coronavirus has had on the entire live entertainment ecosystem, in just a matter of weeks.

The live industry, however, has received no assurances of a much-needed cash injection from the government's multi-billion-dollar bailout fund.

“We are extremely concerned that Australia’s most senior cultural figures are yet to show clear leadership at this critical time. Time is running out for Australia’s cultural sector - many companies are deciding whether they wind their businesses up within the coming weeks,” Live Performance Australia CEO Evelyn Richardson says in a statement to Billboard.

The trade body provided a comprehensive A$750 million emergency support package to all governments on Thursday, breaking down practical ideas that could be implemented to save jobs and protect businesses, Richardson explained.

While no action was agreed upon during the meeting, ministers will meet again for talks on cash flow issues, grant arrangements, and more. “We remain immediately ready to work with government on practical actions to implement measures to shore up our vulnerable cultural resources which are at the very front line of this crisis," says Richardson. "The clock is ticking.”

On Friday, LPA presented a united front with the wider arts, entertainment and media sector in a call on Canberra for a "clear commitment."

According to I Lost My Gig, an initiative set up by the Australian Music Industry Network and Australian Festival Association to track the real impact on the music community from the COVID-19 outbreak and recent bushfires, some $250 million has been lost due to canceled events by Friday afternoon, with upwards of 240,000 gigs canceled.

“Our industry is not running,” Richardson warns. “It has arrested and is carrying the overwhelming burden of the economic and social impact of the public health response so far.”

A slew of concerts and festivals have been canceled or shut down, including the six-date So Pop 2020 Australasian arena jaunt, the two-city Download Festival and CMC Rocks QLD fest. “Just as the airlines have had all their flights grounded,” explains Richardson, “we’ve had every venue in the country shut down and all events cancelled.”

With live entertainment suffering, Australia’s wider music industry is rallying.

PPCA, which collects on behalf of recording artists and record labels, is introducing an emergency special policy to provide one-off advances ranging from $250 to $10,000 for PPCA registered artists suffering hardship due to the shock dismantling of the live sector.

“We trust this initiative will go some way towards mitigating the devastating impact our artists are experiencing, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” PPCA’s CEO Dan Rosen says in a statement. “We will continue to work with our industry colleagues and government on financial support mechanisms to ensure our artists and sector can navigate this incredibly difficult period as work opportunities vanish and social isolation increases.”

Meanwhile, a team of industry professionals, including Jackie Antas, Vice President Communications Asia Pacific at Live Nation Entertainment, launched Sound Of Silence, a national campaign from the music community asking music fans to donate to Support Act, a music charity that provides crisis relief services to artist crew and workers.