The Byron Bay festival – which was scheduled to run from 1st-5th April with the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, The Teskey Brothers and more – was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns for the second year in a row yesterday, with a public health order banning the event from taking place after an outbreak of cases in the region from Queensland.
“We feel deeply for everybody affected, the fans, the artists, and the hard-working Bluesfest team. But in the end, the health of our community must come first,” festival director Peter Noble commented in a statement yesterday evening.
Fresh calls for an industry-specific government insurance scheme have followed, with peak music bodies and Labor MPs stressing the need for a way for organisers to recoup losses in the event of a cancellation. APRA AMCOS, the Australian Festival Association and Live Performance Australia are three of the organisations to have voiced their support of such a scheme, with LPA calling the implementation of a business interruption fund a “matter of urgency.”
Shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy John Graham also called for an insurance scheme, saying “It’s not fair that music heroes like the [Bluesfest] team wear all the risk of COVID outbreaks and health restrictions.”
Shadow Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, echoed Graham’s comments. “The music industry is full of viable profitable businesses unable to function because of public health,” he tweeted. “Govt has a COVID insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently.”
Earlier this year, Noble himself called for the implementation of a business interruption insurance policy, saying it would “incentivise event presenters to put on events and be protected in not going to the wall, should an out break of Covid shut down their businesses at short notice and protect artists, crew and Suppliers [to] get paid should that occur.”
This is devastating for Bluesfest and all the artists, crews, managers, promoters and music industry workers who had critical work coming. It highlights the urgency for government to partner with industry on an insurance scheme to help create some certainty for live music. https://t.co/7HWZXS4LLk
— APRA AMCOS (@APRAAMCOS) March 31, 2021
Our thoughts go out to the organisers, suppliers, vendors, staff, crew & fans who will miss out on Bluesfest tomorrow. We support a Business Interruption Fund to protect festivals from cancellations. Output & FTE was down 86% in 2020…and we haven't event restarted yet. https://t.co/LQuUse9k8g
— Australian Festival Association (@AustFestAssn) March 31, 2021
LPA has been calling for a Business Interruption Fund since last year. This is now a matter of urgency.@GladysB @Dom_Perrottet @BradHazzard @ScottMorrisonMP @JoshFrydenberg @PaulFletcherMP https://t.co/6J9PPFAxqV
— Live Performance Aus (@LivePerfAust) March 31, 2021
After the @bluesfest cancellation we urgently need a government insurance scheme for festivals.
— John Graham (@JohnGrahamALP) March 31, 2021
#bluesfest was meant to mark the return of music festivals. The music industry is full of viable profitable businesses unable to function because of public health. Govt has a COVID insurance system for the film industry. Music needs one too. Urgently. https://t.co/Gtn1k6XXGJ
— Tony Burke (@Tony_Burke) March 31, 2021