COVID-19 vs The Australian Music Industry How the Australian music industry is struggling through a pandemic. By aisling O'Mahony.

"I spent weeks devastated that our big plans to bring this album to you in real life on a stage were shattered…but, somehow, in all the uncertainty and before all the unknowns…right now seems like the most insane, but also the most apt time to reveal this record." - Glass Animals' Dave Bayley on their recent album Dreamland. Via Instagram.

Image via @glassanimals

After his best friend and fellow band member suffered a tragic cycling accident in 2018, Dave Bayley - the front man of English psychedelic pop band Glass Animals – took inspiration from the “strange time” and pushed it into his music.

On 1 May 2020 Glass Animals announced their third studio album ‘Dreamland’ which will be ready for release on 10 July 2020. An album produced and written in a time where “it was so difficult to look forwards that I [Dave Bayley] found myself looking backwards.”

Image via @glassanimals

Although, Bayley’s time in hospital supporting bandmate Joe Seaward was the catalyst for the new album, he came to realise that the music he had created was also particularly relevant to the world at this time.

Social Isolation and the cancellation of live music events globally has certainly taken a toll on the music industry worldwide. A main source of income has been stripped from artists in a matter of days, but many industry creatives are using this time to work on their craft and experiment with their music.

With a lack of concerts and extra time on his hands, Bayley spent his time in social isolation remotely producing a self-shot music video for the title track ‘Dreamland’. Which is the kind of creativity the music scene was craving at such a devastating time.

Despite quarantine being a great time for artists, like Bayley, to write, produce and play with their music. The long term effects of the Coronavirus on musicians globally and the entertainment industry at large are nowhere near as positive.

Direct impact on Australian artists and creatives.

Image via Adobe Spark.

As of 27 April 2020 the Australian music industry has lost a total of $340M from live music events that have been cancelled, postponed or rescheduled across the country. Since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020 new lockdown laws were put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Live music events were among some of the first restrictions, leaving the Australian creative industry without work for the foreseeable future. Not only are the performers suffering, the whole industry is in crisis – from booking agents to hospitality workers, everyone is feeling the hit.

Australian music industry monetary loss. Image via I Lost My Gig Australia.

Dark Mofo festival was one of the first events to be cancelled in Australia, on 11 March 2020, David Walsh released a statement explaining that “COVID-19 might jeopardise my income if we run Dark Mofo.” This cancellation was swiftly followed with many more, over the coming days and weeks. Local and big-name artists took to Instagram to spread the news of the cancellation or rescheduling of their upcoming gigs, concerts and tours.

Image via @dark_mofo

While fans were devastated, love and support flooded the comment sections of each announcement post.

Comments section of announcement posts via Instagram. From left to right @dylanalcott @lucabrasitassie @cubsport.

However, some people have taken to Twitter to voice their opinions on why struggling artists should stop complaining about losing work.

Negative opinions about artists via Twitter.

The reality is that many Australians working in the music industry are young and middle-class, relying on profits from live events to pay rent and buy groceries for the week.

With gigs, festivals and concerts off the cards for such a prolonged length of time, artists are reaching out to their followers to show support in other ways. Melbourne-based indie, dance band Northeast Party House (NPH) announced their album tour ‘Shelf Life’ during the lockdown, originally scheduled for late August – early September 2020. The tour has since been postponed and the band hope to perform in November/ December 2020.

Image via @northeastpartyhouse

Like many struggling artists, NPH encouraged followers to find other ways to support “those whose main source of income has been wiped out for the foreseeable future.”

Northeast Party House via Instagram. Top left, top right, bottom.

Research released by Entertainment Assist and Victoria University in 2016 found that 72.5% of entertainment industry workers are earning less than AUD$60,000 a year. This is substantially less than the average yearly income for full time Australian adults - AUD $86,252.

Performing artists, composers and crew were already struggling financially to monetise their art and make a living out of touring and producing music. Now, with a substantial amount of their income removed they are facing some seriously tough times.

Anyone working in the entertainment or arts industry is having to deal with monetary loss and significant economic difficulties, but the impacts aren’t just financial.

The 2016 study also revealed that working in the Australian entertainment industry is likely to have a significant impact on one’s mental health. Respondents to the survey reported that factors such as poor working conditions and irregularity of hours have impacted their mental state.

"25% of performing artists, and most roadies have attempted or considered suicide". - Key finding from the Entertainment Assist 2016 research.

Fans and supporters devasted after event cancelations.

Image via Adobe Spark.

The impacts, both emotional and financial, reach far beyond the industry itself. Fans, supporters and avid music lovers are also at a loss in this situation. Music has always been something that brings people together - friendships, relationships and communities have been built on a mutual love and appreciation for artists and their work.

Image via Adobe Spark.

From small gigs at a local bar to large scale music festivals filled with thousands of people, live music events have always been a great place to catch up with friends and listen to some good tunes, all while supporting your favourite bands and solo artists.

Image via Adobe Spark.

Cancelled music events have left eager fans in the dark about when they will see their favourite act perform live. Restrictions on travel and social distancing measures means that music festivals will likely be one of the last things to return.

Image via Adobe Spark.

Supporters of the Australia music scene have been left with live streams in place of live events, listening from their bedrooms and kitchens rather than packing out stadiums and bars. Although ticketing companies have been efficient in issuing refunds the monetary loss around travel plans and accommodation is something that can’t be compensated.

Image via Adobe Spark.

However, among all the bad news, negative impacts and monetary loss there are some positives. In a dark time where everyone is struggling, Australian artists and producers have banded together to source new ways of connecting with their audience online.

Instagram lives have taken on a new purpose during isolation.

Isol- Aid music festival is an Instagram live-streaming festival, where artists from around the country set up virtual gigs in their bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens or wherever they are self-isolating. The 2-day event hosted its first set of streams on 21 March 2020 and has been streaming every weekend since then. The initiative was organised by Rhiannon Atkinson (@merpiremusic) a Melbourne-based Indie-pop musician, festival organiser Emily Ulman (@millylala) and Shannan Egan (@shannenthescholar) from Turning Heads agency.

Iso-Aid music festival line-ups via @isolaidfestival on Instagram.

The socially distanced music festival has gained a lot of traction online, with over 43,000 Instagram followers, the festival has featured local artists, new talent and big-name musicians such as Vera Blue, Odette, Hermitude and Missy Higgins.

Top left: via @odette, bottom left: via @missyhigginsmusic, top right: via @verabluemusic, bottom right: via @hermitude.

The Australian music industry package and other support.

Image via Adobe Spark.

With all the monetary loss and lack of income for Australian artists currently, the need for Government support and action is crucial to keeping the vibrant music culture we all know and love alive.

The Federal Government has committed to a AUD$27.5 million support package to assist the struggling music scene. The money will be split between the Live Music Australia initiative, The Women in Music Mentor Program, the Indigenous Contemporary Music program, the Contemporary Music Touring program and Sounds Australia.

On top of this, the Victorian Government has announced AUD$49.1 million to help the creative sector, with AUD$4 million going to the music industry specifically.

But, the question of whether this is enough is at the top of many industry workers’ minds. The total loss currently exceeds the support packages by millions of dollars.

Support Act – “The heart and hand of Australian music” – has set up a COVID-19 emergency appeal to help provide crisis relief and mental health support to those currently struggling. The donations currently sit at AUD$855, 927, with a target of AUD$1.5 million.

Image via mycause

In an unprecedented time of crisis, it’s refreshing to see big businesses committed to helping those in need. The digital music streaming service Spotify has launched a COVID-19 music relief to support the global community, matching online donations up to a collective AUD$10 million.

Spotify's COVID-19 Music Relief page. Image via Spotify.

Ways to help and support

Image via Adobe Spark.

So, how can you, as a fan and lover of the local music scene, help the industry recover?

The easiest way to support your favourite artists during this trying time is simply by showing your support and sharing their music with your friends. It’s as simple as reposting your favourite track to your Instagram story.

Image via Adobe Spark.

If you have the means, donating to Support Act or directly to the artist is extremely beneficial. Every dollar counts.

Image via Adobe Spark.

For events that have been rescheduled or postponed, keeping your ticket rather than asking for a refund will help the artists, booking agents, venue staff and hospitality workers.

Image via Adobe Spark.

Buying physical copies of music rather than streaming to increase artist revenue. On top of this, if you can afford it buying artist’s merchandise is an awesome way to add to some new threads to your wardrobe while also supporting someone in need.

Image via Adobe Spark.

If everyone does their bit, musicians, crew, booking agents, producers, record labels, hospitality workers, bar staff and many more will have jobs to come back to and our unique music scene will bounce back.


Created with images by Icons8 Team - "Bitcoin on pastel background" • Nicholas Green - "I took this shot to catch the reaction of fans of Logic: Everybody’s Tour expressing how they feel about his lyrical music. This photo means a lot to me because Logic is one of my favorite rappers and catching this reaction from the fan reflects on how I was feeling during the concert!" • m - "untitled image" • Jerome - "untitled image" • Alfonso Scarpa - "Luci Distorte Photo , un attimo rubato in un Party techno estate 2017 Doclevita Italian Discoteque" • Spencer Davis - "untitled image" • Luke van Zyl - "untitled image" • Matthew Waring - "Help and support" • Tim Mossholder - "Colorful Hands 3 of 3" • Juja Han - "Turquoise" • United Nations COVID-19 Response - "Donations come from the heart. Our goal here was to let people know that every donation, be it ever so small, can help. No matter if they donate to small businesses, restaurants or local stores in their neighborhood – it all matters. Image created by Loved GmbH. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives - help stop the spread of COVID-19." • Raychan - "untitled image" • Jason Leung - "untitled image"