Many of Melbourne’s live music venues are in a world of hurt. Here’s how you can help

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Many of Melbourne’s live music venues are in a world of hurt. Here’s how you can help

Image by Dan Soderstrom
Words by Tom Parker

There are a few ways music lovers can help Melbourne’s hurting live music venues.

When the Victorian government announced another ‘easing’ of restrictions for entertainment venues on Friday April 9, initial reactions were joyous – ‘Yay, looks like a bunch of live music venues can return to 100% capacity.’


As has been the case for a while now, government messaging relating to this aspect of the arts has been convoluted and unclear, and it was only upon the second read – when the initial euphoria had faded – that the real truth of the announcement became clear.

Keep up to date with all the latest music interviews, news and reviews here.

After looking a little deeper, there were two major findings relating to non-seated live music venues that stood out:

  • While seated venues up to 1,000 capacity (per space) have been given the green light to return to 100% capacity, non-seated venues within this bracket still have to abide by the one person per two square metre rule, which equates to them operating at about 30% given the space of their venue.
  • Venues who can host more than 1,000 patrons (per space) must go through a separate approval process under what is called the Public Events Framework – the passage for events organisers and venues who wish to put on a gig or event beyond the restrictions in place.

So what’s the concern? Well, regarding the first dot point, for a venue to operate at around 30% means they can only turn over 30% of their potential revenue. For venues that have both current and owed rent, insurance and utilities to pay, as well as taxes, staff wages and other intricacies, this is not sustainable.

As to the second point, according to Music Victoria, some of the organisation’s members have voiced concerns, saying the Public Events Framework has been a very drawn out process, while its eligibility criteria is also still not fully understood.

On April 16, Music Victoria issued an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and events sectors, which clearly outlined the current implications impinging Victoria’s live music industry, while also providing their own recommendations on how to move forward.


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The wheels are in motion higher up but that doesn’t mean music lovers can’t play their part too. There are some specific ways in which you can support the cause, and we’ve put together a guide to help you.

Continue attending gigs

It goes without saying that the most organic approach to supporting the live music industry is to keep attending shows. While it’s great to see many gigs are selling out around town, in many cases, this is because of restricted venue caps. Let’s keep selling them out and ensuring that every resource the venue has put into a particular gig or event is utilised.

If you attempt to buy tickets to a performance and it’s already sold out, there’s probably a good chance another show going down in Melbourne that night will pique your interest. If you’re in need of some assistance, check out our gig guide where you can tailor your search to a particular genre.

Buy venue merch

Last year, we outlined a bunch of live music venues and clubs you could support, purely by buying their merch. Since writing the feature, I bought one of Northcote Social Club’s wise ‘Northcote Social Distancing Club’ tees and the compliments keep coming in 😉

Wine and dine

Many live music venues double as pubs and restaurants, and will offer you a fantastic meal before your show. If you’re hitting a gig at a venue such as this, be sure to grab a bite prior. The likes of The Curtin (Sonny’s Fried Chicken & Burgers), Howler, The Tote (Polly’s) and the Northcote Social Club immediately come to mind as the live music venues that also offer splendid food.

Speak to local members

One of the most effective ways to make noise can be to contact your local member directly and share your experiences and concerns about a current issue. Contact details are easily accessible via the Parliament of Victoria website. Make sure to choose your local electorate in the dropdown and away you go.

Communicate with Music Victoria

Music Victoria is the state’s peak body for contemporary music and the primary point of advocacy for industry professionals and music lovers. The organisation encourages punters to get in touch with their experiences and concerns, which they will then pass onto the government. It’s a team effort, guys!

Donate to Support Act

In Music Victoria’s recent inquiry, the importance of Support Act was reiterated. According to findings, since the end of JobKeeper, Support Act has received close to 500 applications for assistance – a 500% increase on the numbers they were experiencing before the end of JobKeeper. The charity is currently distributing $200k a week in grant payments.

To put it simply, Support Act is a paramount operation and the need for donations should never be taken for granted. If you are in a position where you can donate to Support Act, head here.