I bet most people in our industry can remember exactly where we were on Friday 13th March when the PM announced that our industry was about to be shut down. And most business owners and event producers spent the next week taking cancellations and trying to work out how long this would last.
Of course on that weekend the rugby league matches went ahead as did the Hillsong conference (Scotty wasn’t about to shut either of those down).
JobKeeper was of course a godsend for most event management companies and suppliers. However JobKeeper didn’t pay the rent, the loans, insurance and all the other ongoing business expenses. It also didn’t cover the many thousands of casuals who work across our industry as loaders, riggers, technicians, kitchen and wait staff, FOH staff, drivers, expo installers, stage managers, cleaners, security, etc, etc.
Yes there are some success stories that the pollies like to focus on, but for the most part our industry has been hammered just as hard as the tourism and hospitality sectors. And although tourism is getting some assistance with half price airfares the reality is that the event and entertainment industries have received next to nothing – the Business Events Grants Scheme is very limited in scope and helps only a small portion of the business events sector.
So where are we now?
Local events are coming back. Two weeks ago I worked on the Small Business Champion Awards which saw the biggest gathering at ICC Sydney (900 people) since that Hillsong conference. It was a pleasing experience to see so many industry professionals at work.
Although the SBC Awards is a national event not many finalists took a chance on travelling from outside NSW. And that highlights the biggest issue holding back national events – state premiers (two in particular) who are happy to lock out interstate visitors at the drop of a hat. And why, because they both have elections this year, and they are playing to their home base by demonising southerners or easterners as unfit to visit. So much for Federation and the National Cabinet!
Campaigns were launched in Victoria and NSW to save the events industry and in each state they conducted surveys asking business owners for their thoughts on the rest of the year. The results make for sobering reading.
The Save Victorian Events survey showed that if JobKeeper is not extended 40% of Victorian event industry companies will likely need to close and a further 43% will need to shed their staff.
In addition, 69% of the highly skilled freelancers and contractors that the event industry relies so heavily on will need to leave the industry.
95% of Victorian event industry businesses are currently relying on JobKeeper to be able to keep their staff and to survive.
When Save NSW Events ran the same survey they got almost identical results. With 42% of companies likely to needing to close and 45% needing to let their staff go. And 75% of freelancers and contractors needing to leave the event industry.
And business owners are ropable at the lack of support. Gary Fitz-Roy of Expertise Events said, “It’s a real kick in the guts. The exhibition and event industry represents a major commercial sector that can contribute to rebuilding consumer and business confidence and the vast majority of our sector are family, privately-owned businesses who have sacrificed everything to come through, unlike huge corporate airlines and hotels in the tourism sector, and now we are at the tipping point.”
BECA has issued a response to the announcement from the Federal Government yesterday in relation to the changes to the Business Events Grant Program as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan.
Tiny Good is a well-known member of our community and owner of Showtech Australia. His situation is typical of many industry suppliers. Here are his thoughts from a business and personal level.
We are doing OK, but April is not looking great and, as you know, many will not survive. The tragic thing is that some may not survive personally, not just their businesses.
We have had some work. We have been supporting others, mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally. It is not easy. We have done surveys, written emails and letters, met with people in person and on line, and done whatever we can to keep ourselves and everyone else alive.
PIVOT, RESIZE, REPURPOSE. Words that’s sound good in a sound bite but obviously are not understood by the person saying it! Last year at this time we had 14 full time / part time and 50+ casuals. Now we have 3 full time, 1 part time, and 4 casuals (they get less than 12 hours a week).
Australia is expecting Guns and Roses, KISS, and many big acts in late 2021 and going forward. Crews of 100+ loaders, 30+ riggers, 60+ trailers, security, catering, hotels, ground transport, generators, fencing, toilets, and guest services (punter things). How many will be there to answer the calls.
Whatever we do we need to put a hand up and say “we are here and we matter”, not just put our hand out. We need to give hope to ourselves without dismissing the situation. It is a delicate balance for people better than I.
In closing I must acknowledge the huge contribution Michael Gudinski made to the festivals side of our industry. I met MG once but I attended many festivals and concerts that he was responsible for. I was particularly touched by the guard of honour afforded him by the roadies (Up the Back in Black) at his funeral. These guys and girls have had no gigs for 12 months and for most of them no JobKeeper either. But they turned up to pay respect to someone who not only provided them with work over the decades but also respected the work they did.
This is the first of our new look weekly wraps – I appreciate your feedback and your comments.