G Flip and Grinspoon‘s Phil Jamieson, along with AFL greats Matthew Richardson and Bob Murphy, have amplified calls by grassroots organisation Save Our Scene for the Victorian government to ease density restrictions for music venues in the state.
Though seated venues in the state had their capacity limits increased to 75 per cent today (March 26), a density limit of one person per two square metres remains in place.
It’s a prohibitive measure, say Save Our Scene organisers, who claim that as a result many venues are operating at around 30 per cent of their licensed capacity – a 70 per cent drop in revenue while fixed costs such as rent, insurance, utilities and staff remain static.
Speaking to the media today alongside Jamieson, Richardson and Murphy, G Flip – aka Georgia Flipo – highlighted the impact of continued restrictions on small venues in particular.
“Small venues are definitely the stepping stone for any musician’s career, it’s the launching pad. It’s like the first two steps of the staircase, if they’re gone, how are you gonna get up? I don’t want to see them go,” the singer said.
“The Melbourne music scene is so thriving, probably the best in Australia, so we don’t want that to go. We need it around for the new artists that are coming up, they need to go up that staircase and they need those two steps.”
“I’m playing up the road tonight in a limited capacity venue, solo, and have been doing that over the last year or so, sometimes playing three shows in one night because of the capacity and trying to spin my wheels in some way,” Jamieson explained.
“It seems incongruous that… we’ve got so many people celebrating sport which is awesome and a great entertainment but we can’t see somebody play a guitar, it seems really weird.”
Former Richmond forward Richardson also contrasted the difference in restrictions placed on music venues in the state compared to sporting events.
“Melbourne’s getting its culture back, its vibrancy back, but it won’t be complete until we get our live music back,” he said.
“I think its time that they were afforded the same luxuries that we have in our industry… I feel like live music has been neglected a little bit.”
Earlier this month, over 130 Victorian live music venues signed an open letter appealing to the state government to ease restrictions.
Organised by Save Our Scene, the open letter called for attention to the revenue loss incurred by the current density quotient, particularly in the wake of the government’s JobKeeper program ending this week.
“The reopening of live music venues has seen Victorian artists performing again and our industry’s live music and hospitality workers back in employment. Help us to preserve this vital cultural sector for the long term by increasing venue capacities now,” read the letter, addressed to the State Government.
“Music venues are the critical infrastructure of this industry. If our venues disappear, the live music economy will disappear, and our cultural heritage will go with it. Australian artists will have fewer places to perform, to grow, to find fans.”
Signatories to the letter included the Espy, Northcote Social Club, Forum Theatre, the Tote and the Corner Hotel.
“Until now we have been fumbling on, on a lot of goodwill and with the welcome support of JobKeeper,” commented the Corner Hotel’s Rod Smith today.
“That’s coming to an end next week along with rent relief and with our fixed costs remaining static. Well, we’re in trouble basically.”