Bluesfest report reveals grave economic loss from festival cancellation

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Bluesfest report reveals grave economic loss from festival cancellation

The Aussie music industry has taken a beating this year.

With the Australian bushfires and then the Coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation and postponement of hundreds of concerts, conferences, events and festivals across Australia and the rest of the world, many performers, businesses and contractors have lost vital income.

In assessing just how much the pandemic has derailed the touring industry, a campaign spearheaded by Support Act – I Lost My Gig Australia – the results revealed total income losses of $340M, and that number is only increasing as time goes on.

Music festivals in particular have taken a heavy hit, usually accounting for 4.7% (or $102 million) of the live sector’s $2.2 billion in ticket revenue each year, making up 3.7% of the sector’s total 26 million attendance, according to Live Performance Australia’s industry report in December 2019.

This morning, Bluesfest Byron Bay released its annual economic impact report, which showed the grim impact of its cancelled 2020 event, which was negated just three weeks out because of the pandemic.

Synonymous for Easter Holidays, Bluesfest is Australia’s premier contemporary blues and roots music festival, attracting an audience of over 100,000 year after year who travel to NSW to enjoy over 200 performances across several stages over five days, with five licensed bars and over 100 food and market stalls.

Commissioned by the festival, the report was conducted by Reuben Lawrence Consulting and compares the last two years, clearly denoting the loss of both employment and gross revenue to the Northern Rivers community and the State of NSW.

“The comparisons in employment levels and income as well as gross revenue due to the festival not occurring in 2020 compared to when it did in 2019 are alarming,” says Festival Director, Peter Noble OAM.

In 2019, Bluesfest generated 858 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the Northern Rivers and 1,333 in the state of NSW, while in 2020 it created only 36.2 jobs [FTE] in the Northern Rivers and 46.8 in NSW, due to the fact the festival was ordered not to go ahead three weeks prior to its opening.

In terms of gross revenue, Bluesfest 2019 contributed $163 million to the Northern Rivers and $277 million to NSW. In contrast, in 2020 Bluesfest generated an output of $7.6 million in the Northern Rivers and $10.7 million in NSW. The loss due to the festivals cancellation in 2020 was estimated to be $116.9M for the Northern Rivers and $203.6M for NSW, that resulted in a loss of 745.3 jobs [FTE] in the Northern Rivers and 1,158 jobs [FTE] in NSW.

“The economic impact reports [EIR] we have commissioned clearly demonstrate that because of the COVID-19 pandemic our community is not only culturally poorer but also financially poorer,” says Noble.
“We therefore made the conscious decision to go ahead with Bluesfest 2021, with the awareness that we need to present the festival as a COVID-19 safe event, and we are working with the relevant authorities to ensure that happens, so the public can remain safe and to provide the wealth and jobs in the future that Bluesfest creates.

“We have 1,500 people in the form of production staff, event contractors, bar staff etc. and 500 Artists, working directly on our festival every Easter, who all want to go back to work.”

Bluesfest only recently made good on their promise for the 2021 festival, announcing the largest first artist announcement in Byron Bay Bluesfest’s 32 years earlier this month. The highly anticipated release includes many of the artists intended for this year’s event, including Patti Smith and Her Band, George Benson, John Butler, as well as new additions like international folk-stars Bon Iver, the god of Aussie rock Jimmy Barnes, festival favourite Michael Franti & Spearhead, and none other than one of this country’s fastest rising stars The Teskey Brothers.

A second artist announcement is expected to follow in Spring.

It’s clear that Bluesfest is determined to force ahead with next year’s festival, and with figures like these, it’s almost imperative for the future of Bluesfest to do so – especially as a 100% independent operation.

“When purchasing tickets, you can feel proud that not only are you supporting Bluesfest, you are supporting the Australian live music industry get back to what it does best – to entertain you.”

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.