Cash grants for SA live music venues amid closures

The state government says struggling live music venues can apply for grants of up to $60,000, following a series of high-profile club closures in the city’s West End.

Jan 12, 2024, updated Jan 12, 2024
Arts Minister Andrea Michaels has announced live music venues can apply for up to $60,000 in funding. Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Arts Minister Andrea Michaels has announced live music venues can apply for up to $60,000 in funding. Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Arts Minister Andrea Michaels today announced a $900,000 extension to the See It Live grants program.

It’s part of $10 million committed by the state government at the 2022 election to live music venues, with Michaels saying the government was “repurposing that money” for “exactly what the sector wanted with this program”. In July 2023, InDaily reported just under $1 million of a $5 million grants and e-vouchers program for venues and promoters to book artists was undistributed.

Of the total funding package, $850,000 will be for new grants to support live music venues. From today, operators can apply for grants of up to $60,000 to host live music, with a focus on “original content to attract patrons and create employment opportunities for local musicians, lighting and sound techs” according to the government.

A further $50,000 will be available to venues hosting live music performances during the 2024 Adelaide Fringe. Grants of up to $2500 will be made available under the ‘Fringe It Live’ program.

Free workshops on business fundamentals will also be on offer to venue operators, as well as a one-on-one consultation to assess their business needs and opportunities for mentorship.

It follows the closures of several West End venues last year, including Super California, and Enigma Bar. The former blamed the ongoing cost of living crisis while the latter said the increasing price of rent, electricity and insurance was the heavy music venue’s death knell.

Traders at Hindley Street alternative bar Ancient World told CityMag in December that it was also fighting to survive after being hit by the cost-of-living crisis meaning many punters no longer had the disposable income they used to.

Asked by InDaily how the grants program would assist venues with rising costs of doing business, Arts Minster Michaels – also the Small & Family Business Minister – said the funds would make sure “venues are supported to put on live music”.

“It could go towards paying musicians, sound, and lighting, so it definitely is a cash boost that will help them in the next little while in terms of putting on live music acts and obviously that financial help will help them overall,” she said.

“The activity progress period for this funding is over the next year, so they’ll have the next five weeks to apply for grant funding of up to $60,000.”

Asked why the funding was announced now and not before the late-2023 closures of West End venues, Michaels said she had been working on the package for the sector “over the last few months”.

InDaily also asked whether more could be done to encourage South Australians to go out and see live music at venues and whether there was a longer-term plan for public messaging on the issue.

“That’s why we’re putting in the business advisors to make sure venues are able to get onto their proven digital marketing,” she said.

UNESCO City of Music general manager Joe Hay said live music venues were “essential” to developing the skills of local artists.

“It’s where people get their go, where they practice, or where they get experience and find new audiences. This funding is very welcome,” he said.

He said there was a “diverse range of issues” affecting venues, including pricey rents and lower turnouts from punters.

“It’s the recovery after COVID, it’s the cost-of-living crisis, it’s changing habits as well,” he said.

Grace Emily Hotel owner Symon Jarowyj. Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

West End pub and live music venue Grace Emily Hotel’s owner Symon Jarowyj said COVID “decimated the entertainment industry”.

“Basically, we’re just trying to fight back with getting audiences and getting some money to pay our sound guys, and if we’ve got a bit of money were can do more marketing,” he said.

He added insurance was a big cost for the venue, and that smaller venues in the CBD were having to compete for the wallets of consumers who were preferring to spend on big-ticket gigs and large music festivals.

“People just don’t have the money they used to,” he said.

“People might see a big show, stay home and watch Netflix for three weeks, then go see another big show and they’re not filling that time in between seeing local talent.

“We’ve got such good local talent at the moment so it’s a bit of a shame. Hopefully, with time and audience development, people will start coming back in big numbers.”

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