14 June 2020

Canberra musicians won't be silenced by lack of gigs

| Michael Weaver
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Citizen Kay

“I hope there is that surge of enthusiasm to go to gigs again and really support the local scene,” says Canberra hip hop artist Citizen Kay. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra musicians have lost more than $2.5 million due to the coronavirus lockdown, but next week they’ll play for free on patios, balconies and driveways as part of a global effort to reignite live music.

International Make Music Day next Sunday (21 June) will be held across more than 750 cities in 120 countries around the world. Canberra musicians will use the occasion to highlight the impact of COVID-19 as well as the need for a live entertainment precinct in the capital.

MusicACT director Daniel Ballantyne said while Live in Ya Lounge and the International Make Music Day are positive steps to keep local artists engaged, the ACT Government will need to address liability issues for live music venues to ensure they have their COVID-safe plans and can maintain ongoing restrictions on patron numbers.

“The model that the food and beverage industry has adopted is not a model for live music venues,” Daniel told Region Media.

Like many prominent performers, Canberra artists Citizen Kay and Liv Li have learned to live with the lockdown and are looking forward to re-emerging when live music venues reopen.

“As a punter, I cannot wait to go to gigs again, and I’m very sure that everyone is in the same headspace. Hopefully, this Make Music Day brings some fun and smiles and gives the local industry the push it needs,” Kay said.

“Now that people know what life is like without being able to go to gigs, and even play gigs as artists, I hope there is that surge of enthusiasm to go to gigs again and really support the local scene.”

A hip hop artist who has been nominated for two ARIA awards, Kojo Owusu-Ansah says his alter ego Citizen Kay will keep pushing the ACT Government to develop a live music precinct.

“We need to keep making noise about the entertainment precinct, as there’s not much to do without a place to do it in, so we really depend on these venues staying open to keep all the great music and culture that we have here in Canberra.

“You don’t really know what you’ve got until it’s gone and musicians have had so much taken away from them,” Kay said.

Amber Nichols (Liv Li)

Liv Li performing at the recent launch of RISE Canberra. Photo: Michael Weaver.

Amber Nichols, who performs as Liv Li, said artists have been forced to either bunker down in their day jobs while also writing new music to record and release via online channels.

Musicians are also receiving additional exposure via Live in Ya Lounge, produced by a Canberra audio-visual business which showcases local musicians every weekend via a live stream.

“It’s a really tricky thing when you’re live streaming,” Amber said. “A lot of the platforms are asking to please donate to the artist, which when you’re sitting in your lounge room enjoying something just means so much to us.

“We are forced to go online and we’re not just competing anymore with local artists, it’s like the whole world can now be watching us.

“I think the way that we deliver shows once restrictions are lifted will actually change and we’ll see more of these online shows continue by live streaming out to so many more people. I think the changes will be great for the industry long-term,” she said.

Daniel Ballantyne said the ACT Government could also address the vacant shopfronts in Civic as potential venues for an entertainment precinct.

“We want to see a positive environment for people wanting to open live music venues, especially the smaller venues in our town and city centres, as envisaged in the entertainment action plan where there is an entertainment precinct.

“We also want to see a change in attitude and the government adopt the plan as an economic development measure to encourage what will ultimately be a lot of vacant shopfronts that could be used for live entertainment and music.”

Following the recent closure of the Transit Bar in Civic, Region Media understands the former hub of live music will soon reopen in the Sydney Building in Civic.

Data showing losses from cancelled gigs in Australia

The impact of lost gigs from musicians around Australia. Image: Supplied.

The I Lost My Gig website has also detailed the losses that musicians have faced from coronavirus. In Canberra, 119 musicians responded to their survey that found $2,566,034 had been lost in revenue from cancelled gigs. More than 2300 people have been impacted.

Meanwhile, MusicACT is calling on all the region’s musicians to register to play and sing on their patios, balconies, pavements and driveways for just 20 minutes on 21 June.

“This is our chance to re-energise the ACT Government on its entertainment action plan and hopefully we get the kind of participation that says out loud that there is a live music culture and we need to include it as part of our COVID-19 recovery,” Daniel said.

Further details on how to register for the event are on the Make Music Australia website.

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