Before embarking on her biggest national tour yet – a 60-show run dubbed the ‘See U Somewhere’ tour – Amy Shark has called on the Australian government to better support its local artists, imploring those in power “to learn from what’s happened” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the ABC, the Gold Coast artist said she was hopeful the pandemic had wreaked the last of its havoc on Australia’s touring landscape, but argued that safeguards should still be enacted now, lest a similar event impact the industry in years to come.
“I feel like [the pandemic is] coming to an end, but it’s so uncertain,” Shark said. “We don’t know, but I would hope that the powers that be would have learnt from what we’ve been through and try and get somewhat prepared. In case this does happen again, what are the procedures?”
Shark was one of many Australian artists to have their touring plans impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, which state governments enacted suddenly and strictly, on unpredictable schedules, with the certainty of restrictions lifting when projected being flimsy at best. Shark was forced to either cancel or postpone many dates on her ‘Cry Forever’ album tour, and in January, pleaded with WA premier Mark McGowan to be allowed inside the state.
She was lucky, though, as her major label backing made it possible to stay afloat amid the pandemic’s most worrying stretches. As she noted to the ABC, that simply wasn’t the case for many of her colleagues. “So, so many artists I know have just quit [because] they just can’t financially do it anymore,” she said, pointing out that “touring is the main source of income for many bands and artists and it was just taken away”.
Shark went on to argue that Australia’s music industry “should be taken seriously a little more”, opining that after two years of constant cancellations and postponements – not to mention the complete eradication of international touring – she hoped people would see performing more validly considered to be “real work”.
“Music just gets treated like its a pastime,” she said, admitting that despite her eight ARIA Awards (atop a further 21 nominations), two Number One albums and a cumulative 17 Platinum certificates, “even my family don’t see it as work”.
According to a report from Live Performance Australia (LPA), the first year of COVID-19 saw the country’s live music industry face a 70 per cent loss in revenue, from $1.9billion in 2019 to $605million in 2020.
Efforts to mitigate that loss were petitioned staunchly by industry groups. This past January, for example, it was alleged by a chief executive for LPA that Australia’s arts minister, Paul Fletcher, was lobbied for a federal event insurance scheme in December 2020, but showed “no appetite” for one.
When the 2021 edition of the Byron Bay Bluesfest was cancelled just one day out from when it was supposed to begin, several music bodies – including LPA and APRA AMCOS – used the incident to voice their support for a government-backed initiative that would help live events recoup their costs after eleventh-hour cancellations.
Thankfully, Australia’s touring scene looks to be recovering now – several major-scale tours, including some with international artists, have gone ahead without a hitch in recent months, and cancellations have been few and far between.
Shark’s ‘See U Somewhere’ tour marks an ambitious return for the singer-songwriter’s touring endeavours, with a whopping 60 shows throughout May, June, July and August. It’ll start next Wednesday (May 18) in Bunbury, ticking off the first of 12 shows booked in WA. Find all the details here.