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COVID-19 and the WA Music Sector

17 Mar

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The public risk of COVID-19 is very real and West Australian Music (WAM) supports measures to restrict the exposure and spread of the virus. This includes the banning of mass gatherings over 500 people.

Unfortunately, the impact of these measures is hitting the music industry very hard. The Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN) – the network of state industry bodies including WAM, Music NSW and others in each state – worked quickly to set up the ilostmygig.net.au website that encourages those affected by the bans to record their lost earnings. This showed losses of $100 million by Tuesday 17 March lunchtime. Working with Edith Cowan University in 2017, WAM demonstrated the value of music to the local economy was close to $1 billion in addition to its immeasurable value to health and wellbeing. Music is a critical part of our society.

The live music sector has been under pressure for some time, however, recent years have seen a resurgence in the number of live venues in WA, and that encouraging yet precarious position is at serious risk. The significant number of cancelled events and the uncertainly around what comes next is all but shutting down the music industry: artists and their managers and agents, venues and allied services, equipment hire companies, even recording studios are reporting substantial impacts.

WAM President Al Taylor said of the impact, “While it is entirely understandable that the Government is acting quickly by implementing measures to contain the spread, they need to be as equally swift in implementing support for the industries that are suffering immediate impact from the measures. It is critical to not just protect people’s health and well-being, but also their lively hood.”

WAM CEO Mike Harris added to this, stating “Government needs to immediately address the ongoing concerns of, and losses to, the local music industry. It needs to show its support for music now by establishing programs that stimulate and support the sector now, during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic”.

WA musician, Gina Williams, noted the direct impact of the bans on artists and performers, explaining “Musicians rely heavily on festivals and live performances to sustain our businesses, more now than ever in this era of digital downloads. We work incredibly hard at what we do because if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. We are now in financial free fall. And as much as we want government to step up and support us, we also need some grace from financial institutions and billers (banks, power, gas, utilities) as we struggle to make ends meet”.

Artist manager and booking agent, Hayley-Jane Ayres from 360 Artist Logistics added “Immediately, my artists have seen 80% of their income disappear overnight. Seven immediate tours have had to be cancelled. Most of these shows and tours were in venues under 500 capacity but we have chosen to cancel in the best interest of public health and the wellbeing of our artists. Not having a plan that offers us a sense of how this will play out in the near future is of significant concern”.

The impact of the ban and resulting event cancellations extends beyond artists, with Luke Willett from local production hire company CCA Productions noting, “On Friday all jobs for the next three months cancelled. We can survive for around 4-8 weeks then we are big trouble. But we know we are in a better position than most out there. We are trying to remain positive because at the moment that is literally all we have got”.

Relief measures can include suspending mortgages and billing for government-controlled services, tax relief, immediate assistance for sole traders and small businesses, and compensation to the concert, festival and venue sectors.

In the coming days WAM will reach out to all sectors of the music community via digital means to discuss what support measures are required and what the priorities are. WAM is part of the COVID-19 Music Industry Taskforce which is collectively driving support for the music industry with government. We advocate and lobby for the support packages and programs needed to keep music alive.

In the meantime, please support music and the music community by whatever means you can.

Government of Western Australia Department of Culture and The ArtsGovernment of Western Australia Department of Culture and The Arts

WAM is supported by the State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and Lottery West, and is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.