Coronavirus

Australia's Gov't Pledges Millions In Arts Support, Live Industry Warns 'Time Is Running Out'

Sydney, Australia
Buena Vista Images/Getty Images

Sydney, Australia

BRISBANE - As Australia’s live music sector faces a cold, harsh winter, the national government casts out a lifeline. On Thursday (April 9), Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP pledged A$27 million in emergency funding for the arts, with the money targeting three specific and “vulnerable” fields.

Of that sum, a $10 million funding package will go to Support Act, an organization that provides relief to performing artists, musicians, crew and others working in the industry, many of whom are hard hit by the COVID-19 lockdown.

The additional funding from government “will enable us to ensure that Support Act can provide short term financial support to those artists, crew and music workers who fall through the cracks for any reason and are unable to access government benefits,” comments Clive Miller, CEO Support Act, “and those who are injured, unwell or have a mental health issue that is preventing them from being able to work.”

Following the federal government’s funding commitment, the Support Act board convened to create an industry task force to administer the funds. An immediate first step will be to extend access to its helpline to all members of the arts sector, Miller explained.

Also, A$10 million of the government funding will be allocated to regional artists and organizations to help develop new work and explore new delivery models, and the remainder will benefit indigenous arts programs.

Announcing the funding, Fletcher noted the live performance industry, already reeling from the bushfire season, had been hurt by closures and cancelled performances.

"The charity Support Act will receive funding to immediately bolster its incredible work providing crisis relief to artists, crew and arts workers across the arts sector who have been affected by cancellation of gigs and performances across the country," he noted. "We have chosen to back Support Act, and I hope that others consider contributing to this worthy cause too – if they are able – to help extend the important work it does even further."

The pain is real for the live sector. According to ilostmygig.net.au, a service set to up track the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown and the bushfires, Australian artists have lost over A$330 million due to the cancellation and postponement of live events.

ARIA, APRA AMCOS and Live Performance Australia welcomed the government’s funding commitment. Though with the multi-billion-dollar live sector in a deep-freeze, the money won’t stretch far enough.

LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson warned the live industry would need “much, much more” in the form of direct assistance from all levels of government if it is to survive.

All concerts, festivals and bars are closed across the country after government imposed strict measures to control the coronavirus outbreak. Those restrictions on public gatherings were important to slow the spread of the disease, notes Richardson, “but they stopped our industry dead in its tracks.”

Commercial radio is also struggling as advertising dollars dwindle in these uncertain times. The sector’s trade body Commercial Radio Australia on Thursday pleaded with government for assistance.

The Australian government “can provide much-needed relief and certainty by easing regulatory constraints and the heavy compliance burden on local radio,” CRA chief executive officer Joan Warner said in a statement.

Warner said the full impact of the pandemic on the radio industry is not expected to be seen until the June quarter ad revenue figures are published.

LPA’s Richardson and the wider arts industry has lobbied government since the early days of the outbreak. A $650 million bailout plan was put on the table, but the response has fallen well short.

“Governments still haven’t come to grips with the scale of the devastation that has been wreaked across our world class $4 billion live performance industry,” notes Richardson.

“We were the first impacted and will be the last to come out. We stand ready to work with government now and during the recovery. Additional targeted measures are urgently required and a ‘Bounce back’ plan is going to be vital.”

Much more must be done, she insists, and “time is running out.”

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