Australian music reacts to Bluesfest’s 2021 cancellation: “Devastated”

A business interruption fund providing insurance for live events like festivals is "now a matter of urgency", says Live Performance Australia

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2021 has been cancelled, prompting an outpouring of disappointment and sympathy from Australian artists, industry members and music bodies.

As reported earlier this afternoon, the five-day festival was ordered cancelled today (March 31) by New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This came following news of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Byron Bay area.

The cancellation marks the second time the festival has been called off due to the coronavirus. Bluesfest was due to begin tomorrow (April 1) and run over the Easter weekend until April 5.

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Artists on the 2021 all-Australian line-up, including Briggs and Kate Miller-Heidke, have taken to social media to express their dismay over the news and send their good wishes to the Bluesfest team.

“It was so important to see this iconic event prevail, and the shocking timing of a couple of Covid cases has seen it all collapse, taking the hope and livelihood of so many of our industry down with it,” The Cat Empire wrote on Twitter.

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Several music bodies, including APRA AMCOS, have reacted to the Bluesfest news by voicing their support for a government insurance scheme that would help live events such as music festivals recoup their costs in the event of an eleventh-hour cancellation.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble had called for such a policy in January. 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 out break of Covid shut down their businesses at short notice and protect artists, crew and Suppliers [to] get paid should that occur”, he wrote on Facebook.

Live Performance Australia and the Australian Festival Association, who have been advocating for such an insurance scheme for months, reiterated their calls for the policy, calling it “now a matter of urgency”.

Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke has also called for a “COVID insurance system” for live music. “The music industry is full of viable profitable businesses unable to function because of public health,” he wrote on Twitter. “Govt has a COVID insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently.”

See other responses to Bluesfest’s cancellation below.

Ocean Alley are expected to go on triple j’s Hack program this afternoon to further discuss the cancellation.

This is a developing story.

Additional reporting by David James Young

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