New report finds Bluesfest’s 2021 postponement cost NSW over $181million

The April edition – now planned for October – was axed just one day before gates were set to open

Organisers of the annual Byron Bay Bluesfest have issued a report detailing the economic losses caused by a last-minute decision to pull the plug on its April 2021 edition.

Released today (August 3), the report was commissioned by Bluesfest and delivered by Reuben Lawrence Consulting. It’s available to read in full here, and states that a nationwide loss of $181.2million was caused as a result of the cancellation.

Bluesfest 2021 was initially scheduled to take place over the Easter long weekend, running Thursday April 1 through Monday 5. It was officially cancelled on March 31, less than a full day before the festival was set to open its gates, after a single case of COVID-19 was reported in Byron Bay.

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Of the $181.2million reported lost, $44.2million is attributed to wages that would’ve paid 897 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. The report notes, however, that Bluesfest still created an economic output of $33.8million, and wages totalling $7.4million between approximately 103.4 FTE positions across Australia.

“We were heartbroken when we first got cancelled in 2020, but the last-minute cancellation in 2021 was catastrophic,” festival director Peter Noble said in a statement.

“Our entire industry was traumatised, yet we picked up the pieces, put ourselves back together, paid our bills, including significant payments to the cancelled artists and still delivered major numbers to the economy of New South Wales in economic output and job creation.”

When the decision was made to cancel Bluesfest 2020 last March, organisers reported the move cost NSW’s economy $203.6million, including $116.9million in indirect tourism expenditure.

Today’s report notes that, “Although overarching figures are down from those incurred when Bluesfest was cancelled for the first time in March 2020, this is due mainly to the reduced capacity that was laid out in the approved Bluesfest COVID-19 Safety Plan.”

In comparison, Bluesfest 2019 generated a total of $305.9million in revenue, with 1,556.8 FTE workers employed across the five-day event.

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Upon the initial cancellation of Bluesfest 2021, peak industry body Live Performance Australia claimed it would cost Bluesfest over $10million in internal losses. Today’s report, however, puts that figure at $44.2million.

Despite catastrophic losses faced, the festival looks set to bounce back this October, with most of the acts booked to perform in April making it onto the rescheduled event’s lineup.

Bluesfest 2021 is now due to take place over the long weekend of Friday October 1 through Monday 4, with an all-Australian lineup boasting headliners Midnight Oil (who confirmed they’ll be launching their forthcoming 13th album at the event), Paul Kelly, Tash Sultana and Jimmy Barnes.

Last week, it was announced Bluesfest would receive $2.4million in Federal Government funding via the fourth tranche of grants issued by its RISE (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) initiative.

“In the end we move on because we believe our industry, the live music industry, will come back stronger than ever,” Noble said in today’s report. “There is simply nothing that equals the experience of live music. If you think we are going to give up, not only must you think again, but also, we don’t think you are thinking right in the first place. Live music will return and we will be at the forefront.”

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