Sound check: Live music scene calls for leftover millions

Millions of dollars left over from funds set up to help South Australia’s live music venues and promoters survive pandemic restrictions remains unspent, amid a call to reinvest it into the industry’s recovery.

Jul 07, 2023, updated Jul 07, 2023
Photo: Tony Lewis

Photo: Tony Lewis

The $5 million ‘Live Music and Event Cancellation Fund’, launched in June last year to insure gig organisers in the event that new COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, remains unspent.

Just under $1 million of a $5 million grants and e-vouchers program for venues and promoters to book artists called ‘See It Live’ – created alongside the COVID fund to “revive” the live music industry – is also undistributed.

When asked this week by the Opposition on whether these funds could be repurposed, Arts Minister Andrea Michaels said: “I think we were quite clear going into the election as to what that commitment was and particularly what that $5 million was for.”

“I think most live music venues would rather have had their doors open for the last year and a bit than having to be calling on us for some lockdown support, so I think we have been really clear as to what the package was,” she said.

“The grants, vouchers, etc., that have gone out the door have been really positively received. It was really needed for the industry. They did bear a big burden in COVID lockdowns, and it is good to see them getting back on track. I think there is some positivity in the sector at the moment, which is good.”

Music SA CEO Christine Schloithe told InDaily that it was “easy to make generalisations” about the state of live music venues in South Australia.

“Some live venues are doing really well but some are not, and I think the bigger issue is a conversation around audience development and ensuring that we’ve got audiences going out and seeing live music,” Schloithe said, following the not-for-profit’s strategy launch this week.

“Audiences for live music have not come out in the same numbers as what they were pre-COVID.

“Some things are doing exceptionally well but there are other things in the industry that are still not doing as well as what they were.”

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Though Schloithe welcomed state government support of its new programs including the new Good Music Month in November, she said she would love to see that leftover $6 million “repurposed back into the industry, particularly supporting artists and industry development”.

“The $5 million that was held back for insurance, we understand that technically it may be drawn back into Treasury,” she said.

“We would love South Australia to follow the example of the Federal Government where they made a decision to change the rules and repurpose that money so that it was accessible by the industry for a really great outcome rather than just seeing money go off the table.”

She added that the funds could go quite far in terms of supporting artists, especially because “there are some really incredible low-cost programs and industry opportunities”.

“All of those ultimately lead to more people supporting more music, more jobs and a boost to the economy so it is a win-win situation,” she said.

“It is the promise of $10 million that wasn’t fully realised and we are really frustrated by that.”

The state government’s 2023/24 Budget promised little towards arts and cultural groups except for a commitment to support the Adelaide Film Festival to the tune of $2 million over four years.

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