Live music scene may die before Covid does, performers fear

·News Reporter
·3-min read

The underground live music scene could soon become a thing of the past, with ongoing, onerous restrictions remaining in NSW.

With repeated lockdowns and ongoing restrictions ripping through the national economy and forcing many small businesses out of operation, the live music industry has been hardest hit after basically two years without full capacity crowds.

On December 15, NSW removed the requirement for proof of vaccination, QR codes and the majority of restrictions from non-essential activities. On Thursday, the state reimposed mask wearing in indoor venues and QR codes after recording almost 6,000 new Covid cases.

People sitting enjoying a live music show.
Nearly two years of cancellations and capacity limits have driven the live underground music scene to the edge. Source: Getty Images

However, the live music industry continues to be affected, with rules applying to indoor events with more than 1000 people and outdoor events with up to 20,000 people.

Organisers of indoor musical festivals, where upwards of 1000 people are attending, "must take reasonable steps" to ensure people check-in, the NSW Government website reads.

But rules differ for attendees who are fully vaccinated and those who aren't double-dosed.

Organisers can also choose if they want patrons to provide proof of vaccination.

Live music promoter Kelly Tee, from Kelly Tee Black Metal Reviews and Slaves to the Underground podcast, says smaller operators are on their last legs with many venues closing during the lockdowns and the remaining restrictions still keeping full capacity crowds away.

“The local music scene has always been pretty strong but we’re really feeling the pinch now,” Ms Tee said.

“We saw the big sporting events come back a lot quicker than the arts and it’s a real shame because while sport is very Australian, so is music, so to cripple this community is pretty detrimental to our way of life.”

With the majority of large streaming services offering musicians a pittance for their music, many of the smaller underground bands rely on live shows to not only make money through ticket and merchandise sales, but also to get their music out to new audiences.

A heavy metal band performs live
The smaller profit margins and limited capacity of underground live music makes it much harder to continue operating under ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Source: Getty Images.

'Music industry taken for granted'

After nearly two years of cancellations and limited capacity shows, Ms Tee says the uncertainty of the Covid-19 environment and with some venues maintaining proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, she believes it may only be a matter of time until the scene dies out.

“We keep getting these different variants of Covid and I can’t see it ending anytime soon. It makes me worry that our scene will end before this does and that’s just too sad to even think about," she said.

Luke Stewart, from Blighttown Records, said large sporting events had been given “almost a free pass to do what they like”, yet the live music industry had been simply “taken for granted”.

“I don’t see the difference between 60,000 people watching the footy and 60,000 people watching bands,” he said.

“They are all still going in out of the same corridors, using the same facilities, catching the same trains.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

“These restrictions do make it tough to run a label… we rely on people being able to experience the band live to sell records, that’s how bands get known, through touring.

“It’s not enough to advertise their music on social media, Spotify, bandcamp et cetera, people want to see the band live and really experience the music before they buy their music, especially in the heavy music scene.”

The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet did not respond to Yahoo News Australia's requests for comment on the restrictions for live music events.

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