On the eve of the national Jobkeeper programme ending, the Australian Government has pledged to inject $135 million into the local live music and entertainment sector, which has been operating at less than 4 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
The funding will be directed towards the RISE (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) Fund, which will receive a $125 million extension (available until 31 Dec, 2021) on top of the $75 million already allocated to the Fund to date.
Music industry charity Support Act will also receive a $10 million package 'to allow them to respond quickly and effectively to the continuing needs of artists, crew and music workers including sound and lighting technicians, managers, booking agents, promoters, venue workers and roadies still affected by COVID-19'.
The decision from the Federal Government has been welcomed by a host of industry peak bodies.
"This new package comes at a time of dire need for the live music sector," ARIA Chief Executive Officer, Annabelle Herd says, "which has suffered unprecedented loss from COVID-19 shutdowns and uncertainty for the past 12 months.
"Live music was one of the first sectors to be shut down and is still operating at well below capacity."
According to Live Performance Australia (LPA), the arts and entertainment industry peak body, today's announcement will stimulate not only the live music industry (valued at $15 billion to the Australian economy) but a host of associated businesses that rely on live performances to sustain their own income.
"A boost to the existing RISE programme to get more shows and acts on stages nationally will provide considerable community stimulus to both upstream and downstream businesses, which are driven off the back of Australia's $15 billion live performance industry," LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson says.
"Extending the scope of the RISE programme will provide a targeted and temporary measure for the sector to retain its core skills base as it prepares for full reactivation in Q4 onwards.
"In addition to music promoters and festivals, this will encourage more direct applications from micro-businesses such as managers and booking agents for contemporary music tours and events.
"It will also help support employment retention in the live music sector over the next six months when it will still be operating well below capacity – making it easier for businesses to get support to plan shows and claim pre-production costs, which includes key entertainment workers, is critical."
However, as the spectre of Jobkeeper ending casts a a ghoulish shadow across many businesses and artists clinging to the remnants of their pre-COVID worlds, APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston urges the government to "expedite the application process" to allow funds to be received before it's too late for some.
“We urge the Australian Government to expedite the application process so these funds can be distributed to the industry urgently. The livelihoods of thousands will rely on this new package to ensure the sustainability of our sector.
"The proposed expansion of the RISE guidelines will be vital to help support micro businesses including entertainers, managers, promoters and booking agents for contemporary music tours, festivals and events.
"The reduction of the threshold of grant applications from $75,000 to $25,000 will also hopefully provide more direct support to emerging artist tours and events.
"Since March last year," adds Mr Ormston, "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.
"Night clubs have largely remained closed and what live music venues are open are still trading at no more than 30 percent of capacity.
"If Australian music has any hope of recovering from the pandemic we need to limit the impact of a massive skills shortage for our sector. An industry specific package was the only way this can happen.
"Our attention now turns to the states and territories to provide additional support to our industry, harmonise the regulations surround live music events and to work towards the safe and timely opening of both national and international borders."
On that front, the NSW Government has today revealed a plan to invest $24 million to save live music venues.
"The risk for NSW without this package was not only the loss of valuable cultural infrastructure but also thousands of jobs that are supported by live music across the hospitality and tourism industries," Mr Ormston says.
"APRA AMCOS has always argued that live music venues are the heart of the Australian music industry. From the smallest venues through to the largest stages in the state, live music venues are where local artists harness their craft, get their first breaks, earn a living and then travel the globe as a crucial cultural export.
"Every live music venue in a city, town centre or regional area is part of an intricate network that supports our industry. Sitting behind these venues is an army of musicians, managers, agents, promoters, crew, technicians, music teachers and many other industry professionals."