Entertainment

West Live: Eskimo Joe calls for Federal Government JobKeeper extension as musicians are 'screwed' by COVID-19

West Live: Eskimo Joe calls for Federal Government JobKeeper extension as musicians are 'screwed' by COVID-19

The lead singer of Eskimo Joe has called on the Federal Government to acknowledge how much the music industry has been “screwed” by COVID restrictions, saying it was time touring musicians were afforded the same travel exemptions given to sports stars.

Kav Temperley and his fellow Eskies were among more than 3500 music industry artists, workers, venues and businesses to sign an open letter yesterday, calling for JobKeeper to be extended or an industry specific rescue package.

Other signatories include Hunters and Collectors, Kate Miller-Heidke, Birds of Tokyo, Josh Pyke, Midnight Oil and Sneaky Sound System.

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“The music industry is the first to go down when COVID lockdowns happen and now it seems like it’ll be the last one to come up,” Temperley told The West Live.

“Sporting events and theme parks are all open for business but you still can’t go to a gig and sing along, and all the people (involved in the music industry) have just been through a really bad year ... where no one has earned any money.”

New data has found the music industry is operating at just 4 per cent of its pre-COVID levels.

Music representatives Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society found that during the 2018-2019 financial year its members submitted reports that showed payment for more than three million performances.

But for the same period after the pandemic hit this fell to just 100,000 performances.

I don’t feel like allowances are there for musicians

Kav Temperley

APRA AMCOS said since March last year there had not been a single national tour by an Australian artist or a festival run at full capacity. The open letter says JobKeeper should be extended or a new special wage subsidy introduced for the music industry.

“This doesn’t just make cultural sense, it makes economic sense. The arts and entertainment sector contributes around $15 billion per year in GDP, employing close to 200,000 highly skilled Australians. We can’t afford to lose the skills and businesses of our industry. The result for Australian music and live entertainment would be catastrophic,” the letter reads.

The Eskies frontman agreed with recent comments by singer Pete Murray that it was time the music industry was given the same level of importance as sport when it came to COVID exemptions.

“I don’t know if this is a popular thing to say, but I feel like sporting groups get a massive exemption because it’s so part of our culture,” he said.

“I don’t feel like allowances are there for musicians.”

The WA band is hopeful the extreme uncertainty around touring will be removed by the time they hit the road — in March next year.

The Eskies are set to embark on a national tour that will see them play their classic albums, Black Fingernails Red Wine and A Song Is A City, back to back.

Temperley said that would involve playing some of the album tracks live for the first time, so the long run-up to the shows provides plenty of practice time.

However, the band will also be using the time to work on new material in the studio, after this week unveiling a rocking new single, 99 Ways, which follows on from the release of another track, Say Something, last year.

“One of the really positive things about the lockdowns and what COVID has done to us ... is it’s forced us to get (into the studio) and get really creative again,” Temperley said.

“At this rate, if we just do one song a year we should have an album in about 12 years.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said JobKeeper will end next month, but flagged continuing support for industries such as tourism.

Count the Eskies among the many thousands in the music industry who hope the Treasurer doesn’t forget about them, too.

“Without the JobKeeper program, which was a lifesaver, everyone (in the music industry) is pretty much screwed,” the singer said.

Eskimo Joe will kick off their tour at Perth’s Fremantle Arts Centre on March 5, 2022, before heading east.

Tickets go on sale to the general public tomorrow at 1pm via oztix.com.au.