Music industry floats COVID-19 bubble idea as major festivals cancelled for second year running

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Musicians fed up with the uncertainty of border closures, venue restrictions and cancelled festivals say the industry should explore an NRL-style COVID-19 bubble.

But industry heavyweights say the NRL situation is different and are instead pitching a vaccine passport idea.

Gympie Music Muster organisers have cancelled for the second year in a row as interstate borders closed amid the growing crisis in Sydney.

North Queensland’s Groovin The Moo has been cancelled twice, the Woodford Folk Festival ran a downsized event in December, Byron Bay’s Bluesfest is warning ticketholders to be prepared for bad news and Splendour in the Grass has been postponed until November.

“This is crippling for the newcomers and the middle tier artists who are a couple of years into their career,” industry veteran Graeme Connors said.

“These are the times you need to get out on the road to create a direct line of contact between yourself and your audience.

“The live touring element, stepping on stages, is the most connectivity you can have.”

William Barton from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music wants the same for artists.

“We’re willing to do that as the sport teams are willing to do it as well,” he said.

“There is millions and millions of dollars being lost due to the lockdowns”

Why not create a bubble?

Officially there is nothing stopping the music industry from copying the NRL playbook, but the logistics are fiendish.

Everyone in the bubble would have to accommodated in quarantine-style rooms, staff would have to be fully vaccinated and around-the-clock security employed.

QMusic chief Kris Stewart said the NRL solution was not going to save Queensland’s live music scene.

“A team of 30 people can be in a hotel for a few months and actually that solves most of the NRL’s problems,” he said.

“But it’s not like we can fix the live music industry by putting 30 musicians into a fantastic resort on the Sunshine Coast.

“What we do need to do is make it easier for musicians to cross borders, we need to find ways for people to be flying out in order to do gigs inside Queensland, but also for Queensland musicians to be able to get into other states.”

Mr Stewart said a fly-in, fly-out solution or “vaccine passport” may be the answer.

It would rely on all artists and crews being fully vaccinated and permitted to cross state lines.

Scaling up

Mr Stewart said the bubble idea could be an option for big music festivals.

The QMusic boss said he had also had discussions about major tour bubbles, where a big travelling act and crew arrive in Australia or from interstate and all of them are contained on a bus or in their hotel rooms.

“The idea of going somewhere that’s regional and waiting for a couple of weeks before they come back into Queensland or a capital city — I think there’s paths forward for that,” he said.

“I think for a tour of scale, that’s probably something that’s quite practical.”

‘Happy to consider’

Queensland Health said in a statement that it had not received an application for any kind of live music bubble, but was open to the idea.

“Bubbles must meet stringent health and safety requirements and are subject to strict compliance, testing and monitoring to ensure they do not put Queenslanders at risk,” the statement read.

“If the live music industry provides a detailed proposal then the Queensland Government would be happy to consider it.”

Arts Minister Leanne Enoch also said there was $79.3 million worth of support available, including a $7m boost to the Live Music Support program.

Justice for all

Mr Stewart said comparisons between live music and the NRL bothered him less than seeing gigs cancelled while people were still able to go shopping or visit the casino.

“I don’t understand what the difference between that and Fortitude [Music] Hall is,” he said.

“The music industry isn’t always tens of thousands of sweaty people moshing in a mosh pit — probably hasn’t been since the ’90s.

“Most of these venues are incredibly well managed.

“People just want to stand, have a great cold beer in their hand and listen to some Australian music.

“The fact that they’re not getting that chance, I think, is bad for audiences, it’s bad for venues and certainly bad for musicians.”

(Original ABC Article)