Bands, Comedians Still Reeling From Coronavirus Cancellations
Australia's entertainment industry has already suffered a $316-million body blow, with artists saying they're in "a horrible position" after cancelled gigs and no prospect of venues reopening.
With large gatherings banned, and bars and nightclubs ordered to close, many venues have simply been forced to lock their doors and walk away.
Government restrictions to halt the coronavirus spread have already taken a massive toll on owners, bartenders, chefs, wait staff, security and more directly employed by venues. But the rules have also left entertainers without spaces to perform -- effectively leaving bands, comedians and others unemployed overnight.
"It's a huge domino effect. Bans are put in place for gatherings, venues can't have bands, bands can't tour," Gold Coast band Eliza & The Delusionals told 10 daily.
Sydney stand-up comedian Rosie Piper held similar concerns.
"I'm terrified," she said.
Australian music industry project 'I Lost My Gig' has been tallying income lost from cancelled performances in the live event and entertainment industries. Between artists, managers, production staff, booking staff and ticketing outlets, the project estimates $316 million in income has been lost in Australia in only a few weeks.
The industry is hoping for a government bailout or stimulus package to help those left out of work.
"There's a huge long list of all of the different people and jobs and industries that are being affected by the closures that the virus has caused," Eliza & The Delusionals said.
"It's a really sad and scary time for a lot of people who rely on shows for their income."
The band had flown to the United States for a long tour, including playing at the influential South by Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin. The festival was cancelled just days before it was due to start, leaving Eliza & The Delusionals -- and hundreds of other bands, including dozens of Australian acts -- out of pocket.
"Luckily for us, we had a few months of touring before and after SXSW ... But SXSW was a huge mid-way point in making enough money to continue funding the rest of our tour. We were basically living gig-to-gig," the band said.
"The hardest part was the financial strain in the lead up to all of our international touring and having it cut short was a huge disappointment mentally and financially."
The band continued their tour after the SXSW cancellation, but escalating social distancing restrictions in the U.S. forced them to cancel further gigs, then eventually abandon the tour and fly home. They called it a "large financial loss".
Joel Birch is the frontman of Australian hardcore band The Amity Affliction.
The group was set to begin a major headlining tour of the U.S. in mid-April, but that has now been cancelled, due to restrictions and shutdowns. Many costs, like travel, have already been paid, and Birch estimated the band may suffer up to $100,000 in expenses over the cancelled tour.
"Luckily we have just come off from two tours back to back, or we would be in real danger of collapse. As it stands we’re barely okay, so the impact has become very real, very fast," Birch told 10 daily.
"We’ll probably get all of our flights credited, but that doesn’t help much in the interim."
Birch said nearly all of the band's income comes directly from touring, with relatively little from record sales or online streaming. Cancelling gigs is a huge cost, but he said there's also a mental health side to it too.
"Not being able to tour is really driving the knife into our sides, that goes for all bands," Birch said.
"But it has an emotional cost. I’m used to touring and playing in front of people, it’s wrapped into my identity and is also my coping mechanism for bipolar, so that’s the main concern I have.
"Luckily for me I have a stable family situation and an extremely supportive wife, but not everyone will have that, and I fear a great number of musicians will be suffering mentally because of this."
Similar to Eliza & The Delusionals, Birch feared a wider impact on other parts of the industry, not just bands.
"I must stress this, the people who are going to be feeling this even more than us are the crew members around the world who aren’t on a fixed income, and rely on bands touring to make their money," he said.
"We are in a horrible position, but their position is much worse."
Piper was one of hundreds of comedians affected when the Melbourne International Comedy Festival was cancelled. She had already paid thousands of dollars in travel, advertising, printed flyers and venue deposits expenses.
"There’s a room in Melbourne with my whole haul of posters and flyers just sitting there now and they’ll go unused. I hope at least they’re recycled," she told 10 daily.
"I’d sell them as toilet paper at this stage."
Piper performs several nights a week around Sydney, and organises comedy gigs at several city bars. She said comedy is her full-time job, and that the gatherings ban has effectively left her without any income.
"There are so many that rely on live performance and the festival circuit to keep them afloat," she said.
"I hope business as usual resumes sooner than we’re all preparing for, because we need a laugh right now.
"But damn, it’s hard to find one."