Accento (Arts News)

Live performance industry faces an extraordinary challenge

Tony Burke, Shadow Industrial Relations Minister, echoed the sentiments of every arts and entertainment sector worker in a press conference. While people around the world work around the clock to implement remote working strategies, the live performance sector, dependent on patrons’ attendance at gigs, struggles to cope with the flow-on effects of COVID-19.

“People in these [arts] industries live gig to gig, they live shift to shift, they live event to event. With every major event cancellation the public attention goes straight away to ‘what does that mean for the people who were going to attend?’ and making sure that they get their ticket money back, and I completely understand that,” Mr Burke said.

“But what’s happening now is a series of artists, of road crew, of people who run the food stalls, are watching the next few months, where they had a line of income locked in, they’re watching it disappear. And this Government still has no plan for that sector. These are the same people, the same industry, that only months ago was providing free benefits for bushfire victims. They are about to face an extraordinary challenge. The Government needs to have a plan to deal with the people whose employment relies on festivals, on gigs, on major events, on sporting events,” Mr Burke said.

“These are people who are always the first ‘go-to’ when we’re asking people to work for free to benefit in other good charitable causes. We only think of it often as the ‘superstars’ as being the ones reliant on the entertainment industry. This is a huge industry. And event after event is now being cancelled. There needs to be a plan for the workers in that industry”

Tony Burke, Shadow Industrial Relations Minister

Live Performance Australia (LPA) has called on the Federal Government to urgently work on a plan to support Australia’s $2.5 billion live performance industry due to escalating disruption caused by COVID-19. The economic stimulus package announced by the Federal Government yesterday will provide some welcome support for households and businesses, but will need to be expanded to cover other sectors of the economy as the public health response to COVID-19 continues to develop.

“We’re already seeing cancellation of events and touring programs across the country. We expect this to get worse with the industry losing hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.”

Evelyn Richardson, LPA Chief Executive

Ms Richardson urges the government to upgrade their public health response to COVID-19 in the event that live performance events continue to be cancelled. A short term targeted relief package is urgently required to keep businesses operating.

“As a sector with high casual employment we would also urge the Federal Government to consider a program similar to Farm relief to make access to social security payments available in the event of a sector shut-down or significant loss of trade. Waiting periods should be waived,” Ms Richardson said.

Ms Richardson suggests that the government consider extending the wage subsidy of fifty percent for apprentices and trainees to artists, performers, creatives and technical crew who are employed by companies.

On behalf of the LPA, Richardson believes it’s possible to design measures that are targeted, scalable and temporary in terms of their budgetary impact, and which could be lifted once the current public health crisis is resolved.

“We also need to provide certainty for the ticket-buying public that while it’s ‘business as usual’ for now, when things change in the future, the government will be there to support the industry through disruption.”

Evelyn Richardson, LPA Chief Executive

Immediate government intervention is crucial to ensure companies survive and people stay employed. The impact of forced closures will be huge and in the short term, business continuity is a priority. A stimulus package into the arts and entertainment sector will help companies get back up and running to attract consumers during the recovery phase.

“Many of our companies are vulnerable and within both the commercial and subsidised sectors, there are companies that will not have the balance sheet strength to withstand the combined impacts of box office failure and contract obligations, and some larger event cancellations may cause irreparable damage. Given the significant economic and social contribution of the live performance industry, including in regional areas, it is vital that government acts now to minimise business failure, loss of jobs and investment”, Ms Richardson said.

LPA is the peak body for Australia’s live performance industry. Established over 100 years ago in 1917 and registered as an employers’ organisation under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, LPA has over 400 Members nationally. We represent commercial producers, music promoters, major performing arts companies, small to medium companies, independent producers, major performing arts centres, metropolitan and regional venues, commercial theatres, stadiums and arenas, arts festivals, music festivals, and service providers such as ticketing companies and technical suppliers.

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