Melbourne’s iconic music venues have published an open letter to the Victorian Government to launch SOS – Save Our Scene – in response to the state government’s lifting of restrictions for museums, galleries and historic sites from today, and the upcoming easing of restrictions for indoor cinemas, theatres and performance spaces for up to 50 people from June 22. Despite this partial loosening of restrictions, it will be many months before the state’s music venues can safely re-open at viable capacities.
In the meantime, venues are being crippled by mounting debts including rent, mortgage payments, bills and insurance. Loss of venues mean loss of employment for musicians, music workers, contractors and suppliers, many of whom are already vulnerable in this gig economy.
“It will be a long while before our music venues can open safely and viably,” says Ben Thompson, 170 Russell venue booker and SOS spokesperson. “The reality is that the live touring industry won’t be going back to work when everybody else does. The Premier has said as much. Unfortunately, many of our loved music venues and clubs are not going to make it without serious government assistance. The flow on effect for artists and the Victorian music culture will be devastating.”
Before the global health crisis, Melbourne was widely recognised as the music capital of Australia, boasting more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. Pre COVID-19, the 700 music venues across Victoria hosted approximately 100,000 gigs a year, with an estimated economic impact of $1.42 billion generated from live music, clubs and festivals. It is a cornerstone of Victoria’s identity as the “creative state” as well as a huge economic driver.
Now more than 80% of live music venues responding to a National Live Music Office survey are currently closed for trading, and in a campaign spearheaded by Support Act – I Lost My Gig Australia – the results revealed 78,437 gigs were cancelled in Victoria alone, impacting 291,940 people at a cost of $121,112,866.
Another survey of Australian freelance musicians (those who rely solely on live performance for income) estimates that Victorian freelance musicians stand to lose $4,800 in income per month, or $10,900 in the period to EOFY.
It’s clear that without Government intervention, many venues, both large and small, will be forced to close doors permanently; and without them, our music scene won’t survive. The precious breeding ground for new music and the preservation of the old, the places where punters go to listen, dance, share and celebrate will start to disappear.
Read the open letter in the post below.