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Jessica Ducrou, co-founder of Splendour in the Grass.

Jessica Ducrou, co-founder of Splendour in the Grass.

“I think any increase in costs, whether it’s through insurance through extra management that you have to put in place or that you are being asked to by key stakeholders or government agencies, all of those costs end up contributing to what the ticket price ends up being,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Ducrou is hopeful for the future and was confident fans would support local acts in all-Australian line-ups.

“There are some Australian acts that outsell some international artists,” she said. “Australian artists sell tickets. But I think the issue we might have is if every event is relying on Australian talent it will become difficult to sell to an audience … because it will reach a point where people will want to see variety.

“The challenge in the longer term is if everyone ends up repeating the same line-up in some way, shape or form.”

Some promoters are considering all-Australian lineups for their festivals even beyond summer.

Speaking at an online roundtable of live music industry leaders, convened by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last week, veteran promoter Michael Chugg said country music festival CMC Rocks in March would also likely stay local.

“We’re planning and working on a total Australian lineup for March 2021 because we just can’t take the risks that they’re going to open the borders. We’ll have no internationals next year at CMC Rocks,” he said.

Ducrou and her business partner Paul Piticco cancelled this year’s Splendour in the Grass festival earlier this month, and have committed to an all-Australian Falls Festival lineup in December and January.

“The challenge for Falls will be around social distancing. Assuming COVID is in a manageable place then we are hoping to see Falls operating in its usual timeslot.”

The lack of certainty around borders reopening and when social distancing measures will be relaxed has made some promoters reluctant to commit to events in the future.

“None of our companies will put a show on sale hoping that something changes,” Mushroom Group’s Michael Gudinski said. “If it’s 200 people and we decide to do two shows in one night, so be it, but we will not attempt to be Nostradamus and predict anything.”


On Friday the national cabinet tasked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee with developing a roadmap for the live entertainment industry’s reopening. Outgoing Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy indicated outdoor festivals were still a conundrum for health experts.

“The principle really is to make sure [we know] who is there so that … you can contact people and, at least initially, whilst we’re getting confidence, that people are seated and are able to distance,” he said.

“At the moment many states are already planning to have live music events in outdoor stadiums where you can put people in seats.

“The sort of festivals where people crowd together in an uncontrolled fashion are more risky and they’re probably a bit later down the track.”

Representatives from the music industry have asked the government to consider arrangements for international artists and creatives to enter the country without quarantine, however no plans have been announced.

Nathanael Cooper is a senior culture writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age with a focus on music.

Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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