Melbourne, Australia – Peter Noble recalled the moment he had to close a few hours before the opening of the festival.

“This is a shock and trauma not only for me, but also for my entire team,” he told Al Jazeera.

Noble is the director of Bluesfest. Bluesfest is an annual Australian music festival where stars such as James Brown, BB King and Norah Jones perform on stage.

The award-winning Bluesfest was held in Byron Bay, a popular coastal tourist destination in northern New South Wales. It attracted approximately 25,000 people into the area and created millions of dollars for the local economy.

However, due to the impact of COVID-19, Australian health authorities closed the festival the night before the opening based on a case in the area.

Peter Noble had to cancel this year’s Blues Festival the night before it was originally scheduled to start [Courtesy of Peter Noble/Bluesfest]

Noble said: “We are ready. We are still discussing until the night before the public health order is cancelled.” “I still shook my head and said:’Is that action plan the only available?’

“Not only did we shut down, but our entire region, which was an hour’s drive away, was shut down. The losses are immeasurable. They are not only the millions of dollars we lost and lost, but also the losses in our region due to inadequate trade. Ten million dollars.”

The 2021 cancellation earlier this year was after the cancellation of last year’s event. In 2020, they received a three-week notice.

The cancellation of music events due to the coronavirus has hit the Australian music industry in an all-round way.

Not only were large music festivals like Bluesfest closed, but small bar performances had to be closed, the tour was cancelled, and even the ability to rehearse and record was restricted due to the continued lockdown.

The economic model of consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia shows that the Australian music industry is worth 1.82 billion Australian dollars (1.36 million U.S. dollars) in 2019-a figure that is expected to fall by 90% in 2020.

Due to the pandemic, you are the backbone of the Australian music industry. I saw that their 32-year parade almost stopped in March 2020.

The band members live in different states in Australia and even had to record their new album remotely due to travel restrictions.

“We just need to adapt,” bassist and manager Andy Kent told Al Jazeera. “When we are not even in the same state, we have managed to set a record in some way.”

The Australian music industry has traditionally relied on touring and live performances to generate revenue and allow artists to gain exposure.

You Am I started to play together in 1989 and understand the importance of live performances to emerging bands.

“If there are 2,000 people in a room, your merchandise [merchandise] Sales will go up,” Kent said. “If you are touring often, a lot of people will interact with you, so your profile will go up and your chances of playing on the radio or record sales will go up. “

You are me who managed to record a new album, even though they are all in different states of Australia and cannot cross borders [Courtesy of You Am I]

Kent told Al Jazeera that although you are lucky to have more than 30 years of experience and a solid loyal fan base, the lack of tour and performance opportunities poses a huge challenge for emerging bands.

“The basic core of playing in front of so many people is very important to the music industry and those touring bands,” he said.

Live live

However, the emerging indigenous soul singer Kee’ahn took up the challenge and released her debut single Better Things in mid-2020.

Since her hometown of Melbourne is under lockdown for months, Kee’ahn feels that now is the right time to release the song.

“I thought, I really want to release this song because I like it and I think it will be helpful at this stage,” Kee’ahn told Al Jazeera.

Since there was no opportunity to perform live or touring performances to support the release of Better Things, the song still attracted radio broadcasts only through online distribution, and even won the 2020 National Indigenous Music Awards.

“Everyone is online [due to the lockdown] So it just exploded like this,” Kee’ahn said.

The singer’s name means “dance, sing and play” in her family’s native Wick language—she said the blockade opened up many online opportunities that musicians might not have considered before.

“Personally, I am really interested [in how] Tik Tok and Instagram have affected music and [how] Artists can use streaming media and start a music career without actually performing any live performances,” she said.

“I really like the online space where Zoom and IG broadcast live. The younger generation can adapt to the online space. I’m not saying that the older generation can’t, but I think it’s easier [for young people]. “

Kee’ahn is keen to explore the opportunities brought by live broadcasts on social media platforms [Ali MC/Al Jazeera]

However, despite the opportunities presented by online participation, Kee’ahn acknowledged that there are limitations.

She said: “It’s not the same to do it online through Zoom.” “But it emphasizes that online music can be more easily available for people who can’t go in person. [still] I think live music is really important. “

Noble still insists that Australia’s live music industry needs to be supported.

“I just don’t want this to be the end of a major live music event in Australia,” he said. “I see people turning to streaming activities, which really worries me.”

Musicians and artists can receive the Australian Government’s Jobkeeper Allowance, a minimum wage benefit program designed to help workers who have lost their jobs due to the effects of COVID-19.

However, the right to use Jobkeeper has now ended, and although the government promised to invest another 135 million Australian dollars (101 million US dollars) to support the industry, this is far below the nearly 2 billion Australian dollars (1.5 billion US dollars) generated each year.

Noble said that live music is particularly important, not only for the audience’s concert experience, but also for the income it brings to musicians.

“Since CD revenue is basically zero and streaming media revenue is zero, the music industry’s revenue depends on live performances,” Noble said.

“And I’m now starting to see streaming events replacing live music events. I can assure you that the payments for artists are not equal to or close to the payments artists get for live performances.”

Noble said that the Australian government should support the music industry as it supports the return of sports.

Although Australia has imposed some of the toughest travel restrictions in the world due to COVID-19, there are still tens of thousands of people who can participate in sports competitions, and an Olympic team has been sent to Tokyo-even citizens cannot participate in returning home.

Peter Noble hopes that Bluesfest will finally continue in October with an all-Australian lineup [File: Torsten Blackwood/AFP]

However, strict social distancing measures have greatly reduced the capacity of live music performance venues and even promulgated laws prohibiting dancing.

“There is a joke in the industry. All musicians should wear football pullovers to run on stage and play against the audience. We will not be cancelled,” Noble said. “But this joke has a lot of truth.”

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Noble is organizing Bluesfest for the third time.

It will now be held in October, with the all-Australian lineup, he said, “It is difficult for us to stand up and get off the mat.”

Music festivals and live music may need further testing.

COVID-19 is back, and Sydney is on lockdown due to a new outbreak caused by the more contagious variant of Delta.


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