Arts union pushes for broader income protection for music industry workers

Some arts and entertainment workers are still unaccounted for

Australia’s arts and entertainment union has urged the federal government to close gaps in the proposed JobKeeper legislation, announced on March 31. The proposal seeks to cover workers in the sector who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic but aren’t eligible for wage subsidies.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has pointed out that freelancers who are employed on short-term contracts by a company and casual workers who have been employed by a company for less than a year are currently ineligible for the JobKeeper scheme. Examples of these kinds of workers include freelance musicians, casual bar staff and production crew.

We need a wage subsidy to save our creators

We've only got 24 HOURS to change the government's mind and include the thousands of freelancers and casuals who work in the arts, events and entertainment sectors in the JobKeeper income subsidy #saveourcreators

Posted by MEAA on Monday, April 6, 2020


In a statement put out by MEAA on April 6, CEO Paul Murphy said the complexity of employment in the live entertainment sector has led to some workers falling through the cracks.

“The Federal Government must not abandon the arts and entertainment workforce at this time,” he said.

“But as JobKeeper currently stands, a large proportion of the industry’s workforce will miss out unless it is amended before this week’s vote.”

The move to exclude long-term casuals has been defended by finance minister Matthias Cormann, who said during an interview with Sky News that workers seeking support should apply for the Jobseeker program if they’re ineligible for JobKeeper payments. The Jobseeker payment provides $1,100 a fortnight to eligible recipients, which is $400 less than the JobKeeper scheme. The JobKeeper scheme, however, is taxed.

MEAA’s concerns were echoed by Australian singer Josh Pyke during an episode of Q+A on Monday March 30. Musicians and performers operate under a number of different corporate structures, such as corporate entities, sole traders or self-employed artists. Contract work can also lead to fluctuating income for arts workers, meaning they might not be able to prove “they have suffered or expect to suffer a 30 per cent decline in turnover relative to a comparable prior period” as required.

“Our industry’s very much a famine and feast industry. You could have a quarter that’s highly successful and then basically have nil income for two quarters,” Pyke said on Q+A.


“I find it confusing to see how the eligibility criteria would apply to us.”

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics find that only 47 per cent of businesses in the arts and recreation sector are currently operating.

The finalised JobKeeper legislation will be voted on in Parliament tomorrow (April 8).