Jimmy Barnes, Jessica Mauboy among 1,000 others calling on Coalition for rescue package

<span>Photograph: Don Arnold/WireImage</span>
Photograph: Don Arnold/WireImage

Jimmy Barnes, Tina Arena, Archie Roach, Michael Gudinski, Peter Garrett, Jessica Mauboy, Savage Garden and John Farnham are among more than 1,000 artists, venues, festivals and music industry professionals who have signed an open letter urging for an immediate federal government rescue package for the music sector.

The Australian music industry “fell off a cliff” when government-mandated shutdowns began on 13 March, said the open letter, which was coordinated by copyright collecting agency and music advocacy body APRA/AMCOS. Other signatories included Julia Jacklin, Reg Mombassa, Tex Perkins, Kate Miller-Heidke, Lindy Morrison and Thelma Plum.

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“From the smallest music venues and festivals in cities, suburbs and towns to the major concerts and events, the Australian music industry is an intricate and complex breeding ground for some of the most acclaimed live talent at home and around the world,” the letter said.

“While much of the economy starts to reopen, the ongoing restrictions on large gatherings means our industry will continue to be held back from returning to work. Without immediate government intervention, the Australian music sector will be hit twice as hard as the rest of the economy and thousands of jobs will be lost within months.”

The industry is calling for a suite of federal measures, including an extension of the jobkeeper program beyond September, and its expansion to gig and contract workers who would otherwise not qualify; a $40m package for music industry recovery; a boost to Australia Council funding with $70m available across art forms; and tax reform for the live performance and recording sector.

The demands are part of a broader proposal by Live Performance Australia for a $345m live performance industry recovery package to see the sector through the next 12 months. The proposal includes funding for theatre, festivals, regional venues and touring as well as live music.

A day earlier, a coalition of Melbourne music venues launched a petition with more than 12,000 signatures calling on the Victorian government to save live music in the state from “the brink of collapse” due to the Covid-19 shutdowns.

Signatories to Melbourne venues’ Save Our Scene petition express similar concerns about the industry’s ability to recover without targeted government intervention.

“Live music means mass gatherings, so it will be many months before our state’s music venues can safely reopen our doors at viable capacities. In the meantime, our venues are being crippled by mounting debt including rent, mortgage payments, bills and insurance. Without government intervention, many of the venues you love will be forced to close their doors permanently,” the petition said.

The moves are part of a sustained campaign for greater support for the arts and entertainment sectors, which were one of the first to suffer the economic shock of the nationwide coronavirus shutdowns, and are expected to be hamstrung for at least as long as social distancing regulations are in force.

The music industry is not alone in calling for greater support for the sector. The National Association for the Visual Arts has called for a $500m recovery fund “accessible to all arts and cultural organisations across all artforms and at all scales”, an extension of jobseeker and jobkeeper, and the doubling of Australia Council grants funding.

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The federal arts minister, Paul Fletcher, has defended the eligibility criteria for jobkeeper and jobseeker payments, despite them being consistently criticised by the arts and entertainment sector as inadequate for those members of its workforce in precarious employment. In an article for the Australian newspaper on Tuesday, Fletcher said there was “no basis for the urban myth that somehow the arts sector has been dudded by jobkeeper”.

The federal government has also blocked attempts by the states to extend and broaden the jobkeeper subsidy. A spokesperson for Fletcher told Guardian Australia last week that the government was “looking closely at a range of sectors – including the arts and entertainment and screen sectors – which might need longer term support”.