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Call to keep Melbourne’s live music alive

The value of Melbourne’s live music scene to Victoria’s economy needs to recognised so it can help with the next phase of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry expert says.

Sam Whiting said it was vital the state government developed policies that encouraged the sector to restart.

Research conducted by Dr Whiting at the University of South Australia has focused on the cultural and economic value of Melbourne’s small live music venues.

It comes ahead of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement to ease restrictions on Sunday.

Related: The 30 best songs made in and by Melburnians in the past 30 years

“The live music industry is a precarious network that depends heavily on small-to-medium venues and other SMEs, like publicists, promoters, local radio, record labels. If these small businesses fail, the ecosystem collapses,” Dr Whiting said.

“Talent is nurtured in small venues, feeding the value-chain of venues and festivals that, prior to COVID-19, contributed approximately $1.5 billion dollars to the Victorian economy and attracted 18 million patrons annually.”

Melbourne has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world, according to the Melbourne Live Music Census Report 2017.

Those venues generated about $6 million on an average Saturday night before the pandemic.

Dr Whiting said it was possible the venues would not survive without financial support and restrictions in place.

“With the industry now at breaking point, funding support cannot be administered via a top-down approach. Small venues need to pay their bills immediately if they are to survive, let alone drive positive economic impact and incubate the next generation of talent.

“It is vital that the government looks at alternative options to support the industry, including outdoor events, which are being trialled in other parts of the country.”

Well-known bands formed in Melbourne include Crowded House, The Living End, The Temper Trap and The Cat Empire.

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