Five Things I Know: Clive Miller, CEO of Support Act

If there’s a beacon in the Australian music industry during this dark period, it’s Support Act. CEO Clive Miller tells us how the music crisis relief charity is channelling its efforts towards financial and mental health support for artists and music workers struggling during the pandemic

The music industry was hit very hard by the pandemic

To people who point out that everyone’s struggling and not just musicians, what we’d say is that everybody’s in this together. There are people struggling across all industries. But having said that, the music industry was probably one of the first to really feel the full brunt of the shutdowns and closures.

There are artists who have been very frustrated and disappointed and quite shattered by everything that’s been going on. There are people who are feeling vulnerable and just wondering if this is the industry they should continue with – and that’s an entirely natural response. Hopefully, as things get back to normal, everybody will want to be participating again and supporting the industry and getting back to doing what they know and love.

Facing the bushfires and now COVID-19 has been demanding on everybody

It’s been demanding for donors, who were obviously such an incredible outpouring of support, financially, for people affected by the bushfires. And now COVID-19’s come along and been even more pervasive in its impact. People in regional communities have had droughts and floods and other events they’ve had to deal with.

Specifically for the music industry, the summer was difficult: there were festivals that had to be postponed because of the fires. COVID-19’s also changed relief messaging rapidly. During the bushfires, the messaging was, “We have to make an effort to visit those regional communities and try to boost their economy.” Now the message is, “No, now is not the time, we want everybody to stay in their homes and not do anything to spread the virus.”


clive miller ceo support act australia
Clive Miller. Credit: Campbell Manderson

The music industry is not as regulated

And employees don’t have as much support as they need. But I don’t think this is specific to the music industry. It just shows that at the end of the day, there are things that are bigger than all of us that we can’t always plan for – but we all certainly need to. This pandemic is a wake-up call that bad stuff can happen on a really, really big scale. And the more prepared we can be, whether the music industry or whether the government or anybody else, the better off we’re going to be.

Mental health is important now more than ever

We’ve seen a 400 per cent increase in people accessing Support Act’s wellbeing helpline since the outbreak began. People need someone objective to talk to, someone they can share their concerns with – whether that’s about dealing with anxiety, depression, or in some cases, having suicidal feelings.

“This pandemic is a wake-up call that bad stuff can happen on a really, really big scale”

The helpline is also there to help people worrying about their career, who have financial concerns, who might have relationship issues, who need grief counselling. So it’s an invaluable resource, and people are starting to really appreciate that now.

The bushfires and COVID-19 have reinforced the absolute importance of having an organisation like Support Act. The work we do both in relation to crisis relief and into health and wellbeing support is absolutely critical, and we want to be able to do more.

isol-aid peachnoise australia coronavirus
Gina Somfleth of Peachnoise performing from her home as part of the ISOL-AID live-streaming gigs. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake / Getty Images

Government relief is more accessible now

Support Act set up a COVID-19 Emergency Appeal, which originally had a $20million target. When we set that target, it was very much at the very beginning of the pandemic, before the Government announced their support. But the target’s been revised to $1million, and it’s been adjusted on the emergency appeal website. We want to make it achievable; you never want to set an unrealistic target. The Government is shouldering the major part of the need, and it’s going to cost them a hell of a lot more than $20million.

We’re encouraging people to reach out and claim what they can from the Government in the first instance, and then reassess their position. People in the music industry may not feel their financial affairs are in sufficiently good order to withstand the rigour of any Government interrogation, but our belief and advice is that people should still be applying nonetheless. The Government is indicating that there’s a much greater level of flexibility now.

“There are people who are feeling vulnerable and just wondering if this is the industry they should continue with”


If they can’t get anything from the Government or if they’re still experiencing financial difficulty, then we’ll be looking at how we can provide support in that area. We’re also looking at how we can roll out other mental health programs in addition to funding the expansion of the wellbeing helpline.

I’ve never encountered a crisis on this scale before, and I don’t think any of us have. I’d like to think that yes, after years of working not-for-profits, I have some skills. But I’m not gonna suggest I’m doing everything right. Like all of us, we’re just learning as we go along and do the best job we possibly can.

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