Words: Matt Innes
The Australian live music industry is facing a shortfall of catastrophic proportions and is in dire need of assistance.
Since March, nearly all but a select few technical production personnel have been forced out of the industry by the restrictions imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of them not eligible for JobKeeper, and with no financial support afforded to those working in technical production, have understandably moved into other work outside of the music industry.
The lucky ones retained meanwhile, have not exercised their skills in seven months and have been left in an indefinite limbo. To rebuild the workforce will require extensive, not to mention expensive, re-training and recruiting.
Make no mistake: without a competent and experienced workforce of technical production staff and suppliers, there will be no summer touring season in 2020.
Forget about festivals, days on the grass, theatre shows and arena events – and don’t even bother getting excited about your favourite international act making their way here – for who will be there to drive the trucks, pack the trucks, lug, setup and operate the equipment?
Live music is a symbiotic relationship between artists and the crew; one cannot exist without the other.
Without substantial financial intervention and a clear roadmap for reviving live music, the Australian live music industry is in real danger of not recovering to its former glory.
We are talking about an industry worth literally billions of dollars in revenue and that has seen consistent growth – Australians love live music. We cannot afford to lose the live music economy.
The situation is best summarised by Dee Dimmick, founder-in-chief of All Access Crewing, a Brisbane-based company that has supplied crews all over Australia and the world for the past 25 years.
One of the very best in the business, Dee has penned a letter of appeal to all Australian MPs expressing her serious concerns for the future of live music in Australia if serious action is not taken immediately.
“It’s scary that we’re going to go back, and people have either left for greener pastures or have lost currency in their production skills,” Dee says.
“And what touring production people will be left? Because they have to go off and earn a living, so when it all comes back and we need backline techs, sound guys and lighting guys, where have they gone in the interim? And would they return?
“Now they’re saying touring acts may not bring their entourage with artists, so they won’t bring 50 sound guys and lighting guys, they’ll have to pick up the bulk from Australia, which they could have done at some point but I’m not sure how that will go now.
“What do you bounce back to? And what if you come out here with a Lady Gaga stadium event? Who’s going to do it?”
The skills, training and safety are all at high risk of not being there, and the quality of events will slip back because of poor work circumstances, no experienced production personnel and nobody to maintain the current conditions for the workers in the music industry.
To put it in perspective: Dee has not had a crew working since Elton John played Brisbane in March – after that, everything came to a grinding halt. Although she has been able to retain a core crew of some 40 staff, a typical crew for a stadium-size gig tops out at around 250 personnel.
Australian roadies are among the best in the world, highly regarded for their skills and expertise. But that proud heritage and glowing reputation is at stake if these men and women are left to fend for themselves on the fringes.
The problem is one of economics – there is simply not enough skilled people available to facilitate the demand for a return to live music in Australia, be it on a local, national, or international level.
Musicians and music-lovers alike need to express their support to the people who work tirelessly to keep the show on the road. They are the lifeblood of this industry, and their survival is essential to rebuilding this country’s live music economy.
Working Locally, Thinking Globally – MADCAP Global Commodities & Agri-business