One might say that Madge from Altona is as miffed as anyone else in Refinery Terrace. It would seem that the corner store has run out of Winnie Blues due to some unregulated panic buying, and this year’s Chateau Plonc is barely worth the cardboard box it comes in. But what, you may ask, of the grand metropolis up the road, that once heaving hub of social activity, now ring fenced, locked down and surrounded by squaddies armed to the teeth. There is not a bar, venue, stadium, theatre or dancehall open – and it may not be about to get better any time soon. That is the ‘orrible truth, and here is why:
If you take music venue managers at their word, (and who wouldn’t?) they were either losing money or barely making any profit in the past even if their venue was full. Cut down the allowable punters and ticket prices would have to go up a staggering 400% just to maintain the status quo.
Taking my superseded copy of the Building Code Of Australia as a guide (see note 1), the design capacities could be reduced by between 70% (concert halls) and 87% (stadiums). Bars are even worse. In summary – the greater the original crowd capacity, and the smaller the venue, the bigger the loss of bums on seats. There probably isn’t a venue in Melbourne that could turn a profit. If a venue is losing money, the more music it puts on, the quicker it will go broke, and no musician will earn a living from live performance – not that many ever did anyway (see Note 2.)
Musicians are better off than venue owners. They can all earn $400USD + per month by running up a million plays on Spotify (see Note 3) or… play for the fun of it -or as Venue managers used to say “for exposure”. So Musos dependant on gigs for their income (remember, there aren’t many) must rely on the philanthropy of venue owners, as the others will have gone broke anyway. Industry executives (see note 4) are predicting a downturn from the 2019 industry value of $555 million. How many bars that have closed will reopen?
Unless you enjoy playing so much you will do it for free, it doesn’t look good. Cheer up! – any day now, pigs will fly, the moon will turn blue, and someone will come up with a vaccine. Maybe get a cure for saxophone playing and Little Sunflower while they are at it.
So…A bit heavy on the serious stuff this week, and it is not looking too bright just yet. It will get better. Lots of jammers hunkered down with their ukulele, bagpipes, bolivian nose flutes or whatever. Chops should be sensational. Meanwhile, all the singers are learning the verses to go before the choruses – another first.
Festival and Jammers News:
Note 1: The figures given are calculated from Table D1.13 of The Building Code of Australia, a 665 page manual so obscure that it was used to burn down several apartment buildings in Melbourne.
Note 2: According to their submissions to government, every musician in Australia has lost hundreds of gigs because of Covid19. Luckily, only around 33% of professional musicians earn their living solely from music.
Note 3: What does streaming pay? Depends who you ask! The second link is a fun little exercise.
Note 4: Industry executives: they can be identified by their propensity to call musicians “artists” or “talent” or “profit centres”, or “units”. The figures are taken from the ARIA annual report.
Aria Report 2019
The report might be worth a read (link below) but the Bar Chart says it all.