Calling on the Government to Save Our Stages

Last week, the Save Our Stages petition, that has so far gathered over 27 000 signatures, was presented to Parliament by the Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP. Jenny Leong MP spoke in support of the petition and called for a genuine commitment from Ministers to deliver a stimulus package for the live music industry that will ensure the survival of its venues.



"I make a contribution on behalf of The Greens to the debate. The arts and music industries have been smashed by this pandemic, and yet it is sad to see that they have only received a fraction of the Government support that other affected industries such as professional sporting codes, tourism and manufacturing. The scale of the response to this petition shows how passionately the community cares about the live music industry. While the recent announcement to support theatres, arts spaces, festivals, museums and performance companies across New South Wales through a $50 million stimulus package was very welcome, unfortunately the live music sector missed out. I appreciate that the structure of the industry means that responsibility for its support can fall across a range of government departments, but we need to do better. Nearly all musicians are independent sole traders and are therefore not associated with an employer or parent organisation, so they rely purely on music sales and gig fees paid by venues to make a living. But these venues have received virtually no support from the Government during the pandemic, despite the fact that they are vital for the industry, and desperately need investment and support to stay alive during these difficult times.

While the recent changes to the night-time economy laws are welcome and help simplify the law for venues that can afford to pay musicians, times are still tough. Because of the COVID restrictions, bars and music venues cannot operate at full capacity. This means that those packed-out nights when a venue turns the kind of profit that allows them to pay the bills and, most importantly, the artist are not happening. Instead of people pressed up against each to listen to live music, venues are being forced to space patrons four square metres on chairs. That means that venues are operating at around 30 per cent or 50 per cent of their normal maximum capacity.

Save our Stages NSW has been doing vital work to raise awareness of the looming disaster for the live music industry, and over 70 independent venues have banded together to form an emergency association to save the industry. Yesterday it was wonderful to hear the concerns of Emily Collins from MusicNSW and Mark Gerber from the Oxford Art Factory. I recognise local venue legends Kerri Glasscock from Venue 505 and Sam Nardo from Century Venues for their work to highlight issues in the live music industry, something that they have done for many years. Alarmingly, 85 per cent of the music venues they surveyed said that they would be closed by mid‑2021, and these venues will not come back. They will become ugly apartments, unnecessary office blocks or a range of things that this city does not need. What is more, there is currently no register of those venues, so if they are lost then they are gone for good.

The live music industry needs investment. I appreciate the passion shown by the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, and I acknowledge the activities in Newtown as part of the Great Southern Nights initiative, but we need a genuine commitment from Ministers to deliver a stimulus package for the industry that will ensure the survival of its venues. We need to support those in the entertainment community who depend on live music for their existence in order to safeguard the future of the industry.

This petition currently has 27,734 signatures, and it took about 24 hours to gather that many. We need the New South Wales Government to sit down and work with MusicNSW, Save Our Stages NSW and these venues to be able to deliver. I appreciate the member for Tamworth and Minister's passion for live music, but it is not enough for us to glorify the idea of living from paycheque to paycheque, struggling to be able to afford food or a beer. What we need to do is support our musicians, and the Government and Ministers who are in this Chamber can do that right now. I congratulate Save Our Stages and I congratulate the member for Sydney on his good work in bringing this petition to this place. I congratulate the thousands and thousands of musicians, bands, creatives, producers, events teams and venue staff and all music lovers for being so loud when we need them to be loud, singing to the Government to save our stages. I stand with them, the electorate of Newtown stands with them and The Greens stand with them in the struggle to save our stages."

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