Australian live music orgs call for insurance funds to be matched with film and TV boost

"A national approach is needed if the live music and entertainment industry is going to ‘ride this wave’," ARIA say

A host of Australian live music industry bodies have responded to the federal government’s announcement that it would extend the film and TV industry’s Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF), calling on Arts Minister Paul Fletcher to enact a similar initiative for the live music and events sector.

Fletcher announced on Wednesday (January 12) that the TIF – which has received $50million in government funds thus far – would be extended by six months, now running until Thursday June 30. The move, while generally understood to be a positive development, has been controversial due to the government’s lack of stimulus schemes for the music industry, particularly in the way of live events.

In response to the news, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) shared a statement once again calling on prime minister Scott Morrison, state premiers and territory chief ministers to throw their support behind the live music industry with a government-backed insurance scheme.

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“Since the Omicron wave [of COVID-19] has hit around the country,” the statement reads, “the live music and events sector has once again been smashed with restrictive health orders and COVID spread leading once again to mass cancellations and rescheduled events.

“The Temporary Interruption Fund for the Film industry was extended by [$50million], yet the live music and entertainment industry’s calls over the past 18 months for a similar national scheme have fallen on deaf ears.”

The statement – which is co-signed by AAM, AFA, ALMBC, AMIN, APRA AMCOS, PPCA, LEIF and Live Performance Australia (LPA) – goes on to note that the Australian government’s efforts to ensure the longevity of the country’s live music industry have now fallen behind a slew of other countries, including New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Estonia.

“Victoria has already delivered an insurance scheme that is now set to be tested by the Omicron-related disruptions,” it continues, “but a national approach is needed if the live music and entertainment industry is going to ‘ride this wave’, survive and play its role living with the virus.”

Calls for a federal event insurance scheme have been made consistently throughout the course of the pandemic. When the 2021 edition of the Byron Bay Bluesfest was cancelled a day out, 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.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble had called for such a policy last January, saying that a business interruption insurance policy for live events would “incentivise event presenters to put on events and be protected in not going to the wall, should an outbreak of [COVID-19] shut down their businesses at short notice and protect artists, crew and Suppliers [to] get paid should that occur”.

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Last August, a group of industry bodies comprising LPA, APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA, the Live Entertainment Industry Forum and the Australian Festival Association issued a statement to the federal government requesting the introduction of insurance policies similar to those implemented in the UK. It followed a separate call made by LPA in December of 2020.

Earlier this week, it was reported that LPA met with Fletcher in December to lobby for a federal event insurance scheme, only to find that there was “no appetite” for it. Chief executive Evelyn Richardson said it was “disappointing” that for the most part, the Australian federal government has refused to implement a national support scheme for the live events industry, appearing to leave that up to individual state governments.

“Omicron has played out worse than anyone expected,” she said. “We appreciate the support we’ve had, but the government needs to step up and introduce a national scheme. Yes the states have a role, but it has been very disappointing that the federal government hasn’t led and pulled the states together and worked with them.

“We have people that haven’t been able to work for two years. Before Omicron, workers could get daily PCR tests to keep working, now they can’t even get rapid antigen tests. We’ve fallen into an abyss… the notion that it is all over and that we’ll ride through this, but that is not the reality we’re living in right now. We need support until things settle down.”

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