26 Jan 2022

Events industry workers face months without income due to red traffic light setting

10:55 am on 26 January 2022

Many musicians, actors, technicians and crew in the live events industry are facing months without any income because of the move to the red traffic light setting.

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With audiences limited to no more than 100 people, much of the sector simply cannot operate. (File image) Photo: 123rf

The wage subsidy scheme and resurgence payments are no longer offered, leaving those who still are restricted from doing their jobs all on their own.

It has left some in the sector wondering if the government has forgotten about them.

With audiences limited to no more than 100 people, much of the sector simply cannot operate.

"One of the prevailing feelings is of being forgotten. We've heard this line from the government on repeat that 'most businesses can operate'... We literally can't," said Sarin Moddle, a self-employed music tour manager.

Many shows over the next few months were cancelled after the shift to red on Sunday.

Morale is low in the industry, Moddle said, with restrictions likely for some time and people having had a difficult couple of years.

Opera singer Angus Simmons was not suggesting the restrictions on gatherings should not be in place.

"But you can't just disregard a whole industry and not provide them support. Because people's work has disappeared, and they don't know when they'll be able to work again, and they're staring down the barrel of months and months without any income whatsoever," Simmons said.

At the time of writing, 9278 people had signed a petition asking for some sort of payment for people who cannot work because of the red traffic light rules. Most in the industry are contractors too, so if they do not work, they are not paid.

Moddle said being without income during what was normally the sector's most lucrative time of the year was a big financial hit.

"Some of us, like me, are [thinking] 'if you don't laugh, you cry' so we're just pushing through it. But I know there are people who have serious financial obligations, that they don't know how they're going to meet."

One of those worrying about how to pay the bills is Peter Campbell, who owns the Powerstation music venue in Auckland.

"You can only continue to put money into a business for so long before you then turn around and say 'I've lost so much now, and really we have no clear idea of when we may be able to trade. How many more hundreds of thousands [of dollars] do we want to lose?' We're nearly there," Campbell said.

Martin Phillipps of The Chills performs at The Powerstation on May 14, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Powerstation music venue owner Peter Campbell wonders how much longer his business can go on. Photo: Dave Simpson/ WireImage / Getty Images

Technically, a seated and separated concert could go ahead with less than 100 vaccinated people. But with so few attendees, tickets would have to be prohibitively expensive in order to cover costs, depending on the venue. So very few shows are going ahead.

Moddle was poised to make tens of thousands of dollars this summer but now she does not know how much of that she will see.

"Between January 15th and March 31st of this year, I was due to make 45 percent of my income for this financial year. I got one show out of that last weekend."

The government's two event support schemes - basically an insurance scheme for large events - were good and would pay out, Moddle said.

But events up to 5000 people had to be proven to be "committed on or before November 29th 2021". Shows organised after that date, and then cancelled due to the move to red, were not eligible for any money.

Moddle was not expecting full payment of what she would have received had events gone ahead. She said contractors also could not apply for their own fee - they had to rely on the event itself to lodge a claim and then pay them.

Angus Simmons said the government needed to help out.

"The arts and culture and events is a huge business in New Zealand. Therefore, the government needs to take a slightly more nuanced approach to supporting those whose businesses in fact cannot operate as usual."

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