Live music industry in insurance crisis

·3-min read

Live music venues are in the midst of another crisis as insurance providers rip coverage out from under them.

At least 30 venues around the country are facing problems with their insurance renewals, the Australian Live Music Business Council says.

While some have faced premium hikes of up to 300 per cent because of concerns they're in a high-risk industry, others have tried to renew after years with their provider only to have insurance withdrawn altogether.

The council is working with businesses to find overseas insurers, with Australian providers unable to come up with suitable policies.

The live music industry has been dogged by long-running misconceptions about risks associated with venues, and that's become worse in the wake of COVID-19, the council said.

"We're using the data we've collected from those venues about their claims history to essentially argue the case that it's not a high-risk environment," council general manager Phil Brown told AAP.

"The messaging around the nature of risk in live music wasn't helped at all throughout COVID, but it also goes to this really tired assumption that a live music venue is full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll."

Mr Brown said small to medium venues were the "incubators" of musical talent in Australia.

The owners of the Leadbeater Hotel at Richmond in Melbourne were forced into a weeks-long hunt for a new provider after their insurance company's overseas-based underwriter rejected their renewal in May.

A final shot at a reasonably priced policy was knocked back Friday afternoon leaving them with a premium 10 times the cost of last year's policy.

"(Other companies) will insure us if we agree to just be a pub and not a live music venue, which is a no-go for us," co-owner Joe Downey said.

"And then the other option is to just become a performance venue, and you're only able to operate during the times of ticketed shows."

The problem is not exclusive to the live music industry.

The amusement industry is on the brink of collapse because of skyrocketing insurance premiums, according to Australian Amusement Association vice president Damian De Jong.

The number of insurers willing to cover attractions drastically dwindled through the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Mr De Jong, who owns his own amusement company Action Events Group, already forks out more than 20 per cent of his company's turnover on public liability insurance alone.

A $20,000 insurance premium pre-COVID is now up to $100,000.

"We keep kids active; we keep them running, out having a good time," Mr De Jong said.

"That's not far away from disappearing."

The Insurance Council of Australia said a hard market means underlying capital is more difficult to come by and reinsurance is more expensive.

"This is impacting the availability and affordability of public liability insurance in some markets, including the amusement industry and for some tourism and licensed venue operators," a spokesperson said.

"There is no one silver bullet to fix these issues, and solutions, where they exist, require a concerted effort between insurers, business, and government."

The council and insurers were working with business representatives to improve insurance affordability and availability, they said.

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