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Insurance a bum note for gig organisers, inquiry finds

Access to affordable insurance is a critical factor in easing the strain on Australia’s live music scene, according to an interim report from a Senate inquiry into the National Cultural Policy.   

The report flags the federal government’s role in “leading co-ordination with the festivals sector and insurance industry to reduce premiums for festivals and investigate options for ensuring ... insurance is available to small and medium operators”. 

The inquiry found a “changing risk appetite [among] insurers and rising insurance premiums”, with some live music organisers reporting a tenfold cost increase.    

That “dramatic increase” in costs comes as the live music industry struggles to recover from pandemic-related losses.    

“Festivals are currently experiencing a crisis that is from a culmination of issues all occurring at once to create what we see as a perfect storm,” Australian Festival Association chair Adelle Robinson told the Senate inquiry committee.   

The inquiry, which began reporting early last year, also heard from event organisers who said they had to move venues to secure insurance and who expressed weariness over climate risks.    

“I don’t know if any insurer in their right mind would have insured us,” Yours and Owls festival director Adam Smith said. “Either it would have been an enormous cost – we didn’t actually get a quote for it – or it would have just not been covered.”   

The report notes the potential for a government-backed insurance scheme, as industry groups call for more financial support, including an extension to the Live Music Australia grant program. 

“This is one area where government can make a meaningful difference to some of the cost pressures affecting our arts and music festivals,” Live Performance Australia CEO Evelyn Richardson said.   

“The federal government should be leading this work in consultation with states and territories, our industry and insurers to develop a sustainable solution.”   

The committee has recommended the government “consider, as a matter of priority, the provision of immediate funding support to the festivals sector”.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts is also holding an inquiry into “challenges and opportunities within the Australian live music industry” following the cancellation of several high-profile events in recent months.