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Live music industry pleads for state intervention on cover 

Music Victoria has called for urgent action on public liability insurance problems that are causing venues to close despite steps to reduce risk and encourage more underwriters to provide cover. 

The organisation, which represents often small dedicated live music venues, has called on the State Government to provide assistance through the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA). The Greens have also picked up the issue and last week launched a petition pushing for action. 

Music Victoria CEO Simone Schinkel says the sector has introduced measures in conjunction with the Australian Live Music Business Council to improve risk management, and has worked with the Insurance Council of Australia’s Business Advisory Council.  

“We really have made genuine and substantial efforts to resolve this predicament, but without success to date, and we don’t call on the VMIA lightly,” Ms Schinkel told  

“Unfortunately, the strategies that we have explored and already implemented will all take significant time before they start to make an impact, and even then it is not guaranteed.” 

Ms Schinkel says small venues with a focus on live music are not being differentiated from large clubs and hotels, and there has been a “one size fits all” approach despite the differences. 

Clauses have been introduced to policies saying there should be no drinking on dance floors, which leaves uncertainties around whether claims would be paid in a range of scenarios. 

“What’s the definition of drinking, what’s the definition of dancing,” she said. “If someone is swaying, does that mean dancing?” 

Greens arts spokesperson Gabrielle de Vietri says cheaper cover could be offered through the VMIA, which the Government directed during the covid crisis to offer cancellation insurance for live music and community events. 

The State Government has highlighted grants programs it launched for music festivals and gigs, and says it doesn’t have powers to set or cap premiums. It says insurance industry regulation is a federal responsibility and public liability cover costs and availability are national issues, particularly for small to medium venues. 

“While we do recognise that it is a national issue, and that the Federal Government is responsible for regulation, what the Victorian Government risks by not stepping in to support local live music venues is huge – they are closing down now,” Ms Schinkel said. 

The Australian Festival Association last week pressed for federal action on insurance.  

Chair Adelle Robinson told a Senate committee in Canberra that festival premiums “are sometimes 10 times more than they were pre-2022”, on top of rising operational costs, extreme weather events and cost-of-living impacts on people wanting to attend festivals.  

“From a federal perspective, we need a government-run or backed insurance scheme,” she said. “We have been asking for this since the end of covid. I advised the Government to look at the Victorian Government post-covid insurance scheme as a potential model and way to move forward.”