Seymour says Melbourne music is dead without government help
The coronavirus shutdown has hit hard for some of the biggest names in Australian music, with veteran rocker Mark Seymour revealing that work has all but dried up for the foreseeable future.
The revered singer-songwriter went from playing in front of thousands with Hunters and Collectors during the Red Hot Summer outdoors festival, which was cancelled mid-tour when mass gatherings were banned in March, to a live-streamed gig for an audience of just 20 people last night in St Kilda.
Seymour, who is used to playing gigs most weekends, was also forced to postpone his shows with friend James Reyne in support of his new album Slow Dawn until this time next year due to the uncertainty about when venues would be able to operate at a financially viable capacity.
"Fortunately I banked a lot of money and I am living on savings," Seymour said. "We are planning a year away but we're not assuming - it's up to the government essentially."
Fellow rocker Ross Wilson, of Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock fame, echoed Seymour's sentiments, saying: "I'm fortunate that I have songwriting income otherwise we'd be stuffed - no gigs in the foreseeable future; I'm used to playing two or three shows per week."
Seymour said he also feared for the next generation of the Melbourne bands and technicians unless the State Government steps in to help out the local music industry.
"It would be great for this Government to step in for the short term to preserve the infrastructure that we have," he said. "I am talking about people who work in the industry on that real street level and young kids too, the 18-25s who are just stepping into the business."
Live music venues and pubs were among the hardest hit when Victoria went into COVID-19 lockdown and will be among the last to return to operating at a capacity to be financially viable.
And with many venues under threat of closing for good, Seymour is worried that the live music pubs like the ones where Hunters and Collectors got their start in the 1980s won't be around to help the next wave of Melbourne bands, and the technicians that surrounded them, learn the ropes.
A recent survey of small to medium sized venues revealed that 42 per cent thought they would have to shut down by the end of the year without government help.
"My beginnings and Hunters and Collectors was exactly that," Seymour said. "It was boots on the ground, building boxes, plugging things in and just learning stage craft. And it was all self-taught."
Seymour is one of a group of prominent local musicians including Grammy-winner Courtney Barnett and recent chart-toppers The Teskey Brothers to lend their names to the Save Our Scene petition which has already been signed by more than 15,000 people and is calling on the State Government to provide financial support to venues and the people who work in and around the live music scene, as well as providing a clear set of markers for reopening.
SOS spokesperson Simone Ubaldi said figures from the 2017 Live Music Census showed that live music injected $1.47 billion into the Victorian economy, demonstrating that while Melbourne had one of the most robust scenes in the world, it needed to be protected.
"It takes decades to build the kind of culture that we have in Melbourne," Ms Ubaldi said. "Some people might just go 'well who are the big stars?' - your Courtney Barnetts and Paul Kellys and Mark Seymours who have emerged out of it. But those people worked and got their chops in small bars playing to tiny crowds. They learned how to be professional and how to be great at what they do in these grassroots venues that they are trying to protect."
Originally published as Seymour says Melbourne music is dead without government help