“An industry in crisis”: Musicians, sole traders and festivals call for JobKeeper extension in open letter to government

Kasey-Chambers-Bernard-Fanning

Kasey Chambers and Bernard Fanning. Source: Wiki Commons.

The beleaguered music industry is calling on the federal government for targeted support in the final weeks before the JobKeeper wage subsidy ends.

Artists from Bernard Fanning to Midnight Oil and Sarah Blasko have jointly signed an open letter, along with more than 3,500 musicians, sole traders, venues and music businesses, who continue to struggle due to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter, which has also been signed by Jenny Morris, the chair of the Australasian Performing Rights Association, calls for an industry-specific wage subsidy to be continued beyond March for those who work in music and live events.

“Each time there is another COVID-19 cluster or a quarantine breach, any plans to trade again are halted. Musicians, sole traders, venues, clubs, festivals, music businesses and the industry remain out of work,” the letter states.

“Billions of dollars for hospitality and tourism generated from Australian music remains stifled. We are an industry in crisis,” it states.

At present, live music is operating at under 4% of pre-COVID-19 levels as a result of continual border closures and social distancing regulations.

Since the onset of the pandemic last March, there has not been a single national tour undertaken by an Australian artist and there has not been a single festival run at full capacity.

“The music and live entertainment industry remains in lockdown,” the letter states.

The music industry acknowledges the government’s response package for arts and entertainment announced last year, which included $10 million in critical funding to Support Act for crisis relief and mental health and wellbeing support, and $250 million in grants and loans to stimulate the restart of the arts and entertainment sector.

But with the end of JobKeeper looming, the industry says it is essential for its long-term survival that an industry-specific wage subsidy is established.

“This doesn’t just make cultural sense, it makes economic sense,” the letter states.

“The arts and entertainment sector contributes around $15 billion per year in GDP, employing close to 200,000 highly-skilled Australians.”

A recent RMIT study found that 58% — or three-in-five — workers in Victoria’s music industry are considering leaving the industry.

The Victorian Music Development Office (VMDO) and the Victorian Office for Women commissioned RMIT University to complete the study, called Understanding Challenges to the Victorian Music Industry During COVID-19.

VMDO general manager Katie Stewart said the study found one crucial consequence created by the pandemic would be the likely significant loss of talent from the Victorian music sector.

“Throughout the pandemic, many music workers found themselves doing unpaid work, and also found it difficult to stay connected to industry peers,” Stewart said.

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