The live music scene in Australia is yet to bounce back from the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic with event ticket sales down and major music events and festivals shutting down. 

A 116-page report by Creative Australia titled “SoundCheck” states that the primary sales bracket before COVID consisted of people aged 18 to 24. However, this group’s attendance has significantly declined from a 41 per cent attendance rate pre-COVID to just 27 per cent last year. Some festival organisers are attributing the decline in part to the current cost of living crisis.

MP Brian Mitchell is Chair of an inquiry into the challenges and opportunities within the Australian live music industry expanding on the Revive National Culture Policy published in February 2023. He says festival cancellations are cause for concern. 

The issues facing Australian live music are serious. The Minister has asked my committee to conduct an inquiry that will hopefully get to the bottom of what the problems are, why they are there, and what some solutions might be,” he said. 

Source: ABC

Venues and Festivals Struggling to cope

According to Mr Mitchell, the cost of living crisis and the rising cost of presenting live music are considered the greatest threats to the industry. 

“It’s certainly been put to me informally that the cost of attending some of the bigger music events may be a continuing factor in why festivals are being cancelled,” he said.

Mr Mitchell also said that festival cancellations could also damage the economy of regional communities that rely on tourism created from these events. 

“Regional communities are concerned by the cancellation of big festivals as it means the big crowds don’t arrive for accommodation and hospitality and groceries,” he said.

According to Creative Australia’s ‘Soundcheck’ Report, less than 56 per cent of festivals in the 2022-23 financial year reported making a profit. The report also references a sample survey of festival organisers, 80 per cent of which said that additional funding and grants are a necessary addition to reviving the live music scene. 

In addition, the report said that attracting a wider variety of audiences was an important progression. This comes after 48 per cent of festival goers in 2022-23 were from the local area, with just 19 per cent visiting interstate and only 3 per cent visiting overseas. 


Source: Creative Australia


Echo and Salt director Timothy Park spoke on the effect that declining audience spending habits are having on the industry.

The decline in ticket sales and audience spending, combined with rising costs of legitimately everything makes it difficult to plan and justify tours and events,” he said.

Among issues with festival cancellations, there has also been an epidemic of venue closures all around Australia.

Brian Mitchell said that current venue owners have to understand the great value of live music events. 

“A greater appreciation by venue owners of the importance of live music would be a start. What used to be the cheap inner city dive but terrific music venue is now valuable real estate being snapped up by investors and corporations,” he said.

The difficulties of making it in the current industry

Creative Australia’s report outlines the importance of music festivals as a platform for Australian artists with 80 per cent of acts seen in festivals being Australian and 20 per cent from overseas.

Surf rock band Rum Jungle had recently made their way onto the prestigious Splendour lineup, only to be heartbroken at the festival’s sudden cancellation. Guitarist Josh Giles said that the industry is plummetting but he has hope for a steady return to conditions seen before COVID. 

“It’s tough, especially for the people behind the scenes who put thousands of hours putting those events together, our hearts go out to them and we’re hoping it can turn around soon,” he said.


Source: Creative Australia


Many industry experts believe that genre-specific events or smaller festivals could be key to reigniting the live music industry. Timothy Park of Echo and Salt also said these events could be incredibly beneficial to smaller artists, allowing them to have a live platform to showcase their talents. 

“Smaller events support the community and the grassroots infrastructure, which ultimately forms the foundation of the arts as a whole. Although these events can be incredibly financially risky for promoters, they provide great benefits for artists,” he said.

Guitarist Josh Giles says that the current industry conditions are sad to see and that opportunities for fresh and new bands are becoming more scarce.

“On a personal level, it’s just plain sad to see. The venue that gave us a leg up won’t be there to give other Newcastle bands the same.”