The Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), which represents dozens of Australia’s largest live music and sport businesses, has just released a preliminary report on the employment and economic costs of COVID-19. And the figures it gives are shocking. It predicts that by the end of the year 79,000 or two thirds of jobs will be lost to the entertainment industry compared with last year, and that economic output generated by the sector will decrease by 65%.
Conducted by EY (Ernst & Young) and titled The Economic Cost of COVID-19 on Australia’s Live Entertainment Industry, the full report will appear later in October, but already LEIF is urgently calling on Government to introduce measures to prevent further job losses and “lasting damage to the sector”. These measures include extending JobKeeper past the March 2021 cut-off date, expanding the RISE (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) grant funding program for arts and cultural events, suspending GST on live event tickets, and introducing an industry-led Live Entertainment Business Interruption Fund to be underwritten by Government.
Announcing the preliminary report, LEIF Chair James Sutherland particularly highlighted the need to extend JobKeeper support for people working in the live entertainment sector:
“JobKeeper has provided a lifeline for our sector, but the prospect of it disappearing in March 2021 – when the industry is likely to remain massively inhibited by key pandemic-related restrictions – is of grave concern to all industry operators. For our sector to operate profitably we require venues operating at full capacity, unrestricted interstate movement, and open international borders without extensive quarantine. Without those necessary conditions, the outlook is truly bleak.”
“Given the long route to recovery, and the nature of lasting restrictions, we believe that an industry extension to JobKeeper is a fair and important next step.”
LEIF was established in June of this year to assist a live music scene that has struggled over recent years, with some festivals having been hit by police closures over drug use, and is now severely hit by COVID-19. It is the collective voice of leading entertainment promoters and venue managers along with organisations such as Live Performance Australia and the Australian Festivals Association. The latter in turn represents many of the country’s biggest music festivals, including the Falls Festival, Listen Out, Rainbow Serpent, Splendour in the Grass and the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Scores of festivals like these around the country have been cancelled or postponed this year, and that means loss of income not only artists but numerous others who make these events happen, from organisers, operations staff, technicians and vendors to hire companies. The reverberations spread widely through the community. Festivals attract visitors and get people spending. Without them local economies suffer, and it will take months or perhaps even years to rebuild the festival scene to where it was pre-COVID.
The LEIF report is vitally needed to prevent a long-term collapse of the whole live performance sector.