Can music festivals keep going ahead with so many fluctuating COVID protocols?

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Can music festivals keep going ahead with so many fluctuating COVID protocols?

Words by Christie Eliezer

All the latest Australian music industry news this week.

Been out of the loop with everything that’s been going on in the music industry recently? We don’t blame you. Here’s a wrap-up of all the biggest music industry news stories from the past few weeks.

The big stories:

  • Australian music festivals and venues are at risk from patron behaviour and the Government’s stance against live events.
  • Billy Hyde Music reopens in Adelaide.
  • A new survey predicts that live-streamed gigs will continue to thrive in the wake of the pandemic,

Keep your eyes peeled on our Industry News page to stay updated on all the latest headlines. 

Have Festival Goers Already Hit Covid Restriction Exhaustion?

Festivals are slowly getting back to speed with where they left things pre-COVID, but some promoters are concerned patrons are flaunting restrictions simply because they’re tired of them.

In Tasmania, only 250 festival goers are allowed to dance at any mass gathering. At the Basin-ish Concert, promoters had to interrupt Spacey Jane’s set midway to plead with the crowd to stop dancing, or authorities would close it down.

A few weeks before, some fans at the sold out SummerSalt threatened to get refunds when told days out they couldn’t dance.

A spokesperson for the festival said that ‘The biggest problem we face is that people are fed up and disobeying rules, but that makes it difficult for us as promoters when we apply for other events.’

The music industry in recent weeks has been furious with national and state governments. They’ve been quick to close borders and bring in restrictions, and slow with rate of vaccine injections around the country. They’ve also shown priority towards allowing large crowds at live sporting events but not music ones, and are still very slow at working with the industry on implementing its solutions.

These include essential worker permits where a tour entourage puts itself under strict quarantine at shows and on the road so a tour can continue, as well as dividing venues into zones with own bars and toilets to make contact tracing quicker so venues can go back to 100% capacity.

Sydney clubs say they are turning away one in five patrons because of crowd caps, festivals are taking the risk of staging events without insurance because premiums increased four-fold in 2021.

The Tivoli in Brisbane lost $75,000 in one weekend after cancelling four sold out shows by Holy Holy because a member lived 95 kilometres away from a recent Melbourne CBD hotspot.

The last straw, however, came when Bluesfest was cancelled one day out due to a single positive result being recorded in Byron Bay.

Bluesfest had over six months and weekly consultations with state and national authorities put together a 150-page COVID-19 Safety Plan that even authorities agreed was more stringent than any supplied by a sporting code. Cost of cancellation: over $10 million. 

Asked if he thought it an over-reaction, Bluesfest director Peter Noble told the Sydney Morning Herald ‘It would have been nice to have found that we had other options.’

Live Performance Australia and the Australian Festival Association issued media releases intensifying calls for the federal government to initiate an emergency Business Interruption Fund like the one it gave the screen industry last year.

Report: Live-streams Will Stay Post-Pandemic

A survey by Bandsintown reports that live-streams are now very much part of the mainstream, and expected to stay long after in-person concert return.

Since March 2020, 22,000 acts live-streamed 79,500 gigs on Bandsintown. 86% of fans watched at least one music livestream in the past 12 months, 31% watched 7 or more, 62% paid, and 55% will continue to watch them in the post-pandemic era.

As for artists, 70% of those surveyed livestreamed shows, 41% now do it at least once a month, and 85% will continue after in-person concerts are green-lit.

Billy Hyde Music Back In Adelaide

The Billy Hyde Music retail brand has returned to Adelaide after a few years away, with a two-floor superstore in Marleston on the corner of South and Richmond Roads, packed with guitars, drum kits, keyboards, PA and DJ products.

The brand began in Victoria in the ‘60s by the Hyde family. More recently it was taken over by another music retail family, the Cleves from Mt Gambier in SA.

Billy Hyde Music managing director Michael Cleves said, “We’ve been back in the Victorian market for a while now, and the fondness for the brand was evident from day one.”

Grants For Queensland Music Venues

The Queensland government has set up a Live Music Support program to help music venues get over the effect of COVID-19.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the idea was to ensure the survival of the sector, help offset the loss of revenue and stabilise operations.

Clubs who’ve been in operation for over 12 months and with a capacity of over 500 patrons can apply for up to $80,000 and those below that threshold can try for up to $60,000.

In The Fast Lane

Richard Lane, well known for Perth bands The Stems and The Chevelles, is the latest musician to be honoured with a lane name.

Richard Lane is found behind Fremantle’s historic Artillery Drill Hall, home to the Fly By Night and currently Freo.Social. The guitarist died last May.

In the meantime, City of Adelaide has officially started its program of musical laneways, with Sia, No Fixed Address and Cold Chisel, with next up to be Paul Kelly and The Angels.

Jimmy Barnes who was at the unveiling of the Chisel roadway quipped to the assembled that “When Cold Chisel were a young band, we thought the only street the government would show us was the street out of town!”

Venues Update: New arrivals, closures, departures, threats

  • Adelaide Oval might start hosting eight concerts a year with a maximum of 15,000 people. The Stadium Management Authority has asked City of Adelaide to consider it.
  • Matt Hatton, frontman with Two For Flinching and Super Beast, launches a new 150-capacity music venue Convenients on Northbridge’s Lake Street on April 9.
  • The Unicorn Hotel, in Sydney’s Paddington, is up for a change of ownership, with an auction set for May for $10 million. It is offered fully tenanted, with Mary’s Group Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham still running the pub downstairs since taking it over in 2015.
  • A 22-year old man pleaded guilty in Beenleigh Magistrates Court in Brisbane in relation to making online threats against staff of Mr. Percival after it was set on fire and shot at.
  • ABC Radio WA reported that Fremantle’s Mojo’s Bar is losing its managing director and co-owner Andrew Ryan, with management releasing a statement his “prior conduct” that made others “feel uncomfortable”.
  • Canberra’s Chisholm Tavern will close in May after the developer of the site chose not to extend the lease. Graham and Jennifer Hunt have run it since 1991.
  • Crowbar Sydney in Leichhardt is currently running a crowd funding campaign to raise $100,000 by the end of this month, to survive.  An auction included a Frenzal Rhomb guitar, a stage backdrop from The Amity Affliction and test pressings from The Bronx, Luca Brasi, The Chats and Modern Baseball.
  • A group of unidentified Brisbane nightclub owners forked out $3.55 million for the Old Soul nightclub in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast. They bid against four other parties.
  • Thebarton Theatre in Adelaide is getting a $17 million upgrade, with a new ground-level entry foyer, auditorium timber flooring and roof solar panels. It’s part of the South Australian government’s $290m jobs stimulus program that includes 57 projects across the state.

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