BRISBANE — Australia’s live entertainment sector has presented the federal government with a list of urgent, targeted measures which are pitched as a lifeline for businesses reeling from the “devastating impact” of lockdowns and restrictions.
On Wednesday (Oct. 14), the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) shared the grim findings of a report into the state of business. Right now, it’s an industry on its knees.
If tough restrictions on gatherings are kept in place by December 2020, the pandemic is expected to strip out almost two-thirds of the economic output of the industry, from A$36.4 billion ($26 billion) last to $12.8 billion ($9.1 billion).
The cost of the novel coronavirus is disastrous for those who work in the industry, according to preliminary findings from The Economic Cost of COVID-19 on Australia’s Live Entertainment Industry.
In 2019, the sector supported 122,000 full-time equivalent jobs. If restrictions on gatherings remain until the end of this year, however, that figure is forecast to plummet by two-thirds to just 43,000 full-time equivalent jobs, a loss of almost 80,00 jobs.
Though government has forked out tens of millions of dollars in relief packages for the creative economy in recent months, further support is essential to prevent “lasting damage” to the sector.
The measures proposed by LEIF include the continuation of a JobKeeper-style support program for employees in the industry for the foreseeable future; a moratorium on GST on live event tickets; an industry-led Live Entertainment Business Interruption Fund underwritten by government; and a “significant expansion” of the RISE grant funding program, with a particular focus on assisting commercial, non-subsidized live entertainment operators to deliver popular live events in COVIDSafe formats.
The music community has been on life support since March 13, when nationwide lockdown measures were enforced.
The city of Melbourne, widely renowned as Australia’s “capital of culture,” has faced the arguably the toughest lockdown conditions as transmissions ballooned, though live venues in Brisbane, Perth and elsewhere have experimented with reduced-capacity shows.
Until the live circuit returns to normal and without the constraints of major restrictions, it’s an unsustainable situation, promoters and venue operators say. And without those “necessary conditions,” explains LEIF chair James Sutherland, “the outlook is truly bleak.”
The preliminary findings were unveiled this morning at The Event Summit 2020, ahead of its full publication later this month.
Also during the morning session, Sutherland participated in a Q&A with LEIF Executive Committee Members Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG; and Live Nation’s President of Asia-Pacific Roger Field.
“More than 80% of people have held onto tickets for postponed shows during COVID,” notes Jones, whose company is parent to Ticketek, TEG Dainty and other live businesses. “Australians have cabin fever – they want to entertain themselves, get the kids out of the house, and have a concert, exhibition or live experience to put on the kitchen calendar – for this year or next – and look forward to after such an awful 2020.”
Access to live entertainment is “part of what makes the Australian lifestyle so special, which is why our industry needs and deserves temporary assistance to ensure its survival.”
Field points to the government’s creation of a A$50 million ($35 million) Screen Australia fund, which has allowed that industry to get back to making movies and TV shows.
“As proven by this report,” he notes, “event fans contribute significantly more spending in the local economy, so there’s even more value in figuring out this solution to get our shows back on the road.”
LEIF was unveiled in June with a mission to reactivate concerts, sports and shows of all kinds when restrictions are lifted.