2020 was a terrible year for musicians – especially those who make a living from playing live. So far, 2021 hasn’t been a great deal better, as evidenced by the cancellation of Bluesfest last week. Our hearts go out to all our AIM alumni doing it tough in these terrible times. If you don’t already know about it, we need to tell you about Support Act – a charity that was specifically established to provide resources and crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers as a result of ill health, injury, a mental health problem, or some other crisis that impacts on their ability to work in music. Support Act has recently received millions of dollars of Federal Government funding, so they are well resourced to help those in need.
Support Act is run by Clive Miller, a former band manager with a deep understanding of the problems facing musicians and crew. We caught up with Clive to discuss how Support Act will be using their new funding to support the industry, his inspiring work and lots more.
APPLY FOR SUPPORT ACT’S NEW
MUSICKEEPER AND CREWKEEPER GRANTS HERE.
Before Support Act, “there was no support mechanism in place to help artists,” Clive explains. “Maybe they’d had some kind of success, and then that success had diminished … people were left to their own devices, trying to work out how to move forward, how to survive and how to establish or maintain [their] identity. Something needed to be done,” he says. Support Act also has a heavy emphasis on supporting the entire music ecosystem – from roadies to lighting techs and tour managers.
NEW GRANTS FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY POST-JOBKEEPER
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of music businesses – including venues, studios and smaller operators – were able to keep paying staff via the JobKeeper scheme. But with JobKeeper now ended, there’s a fear that many businesses will be forced to close, and many more people will be left unemployed. A recent study by the Australian Live Music Business Council (ALMBC) revealed that many of the live music businesses surveyed had seen their revenue drop by 75% to 100%. 77% of these businesses said they’d only survive the six months if things dramatically change.
With all this in mind, the government has just committed $125 million to the Arts, with $10 million of that funding provided to Support Act. “The bulk of that funding will go to new grants that we have just announced called MusicKeeper and CrewKeeper grants. They’re going to be cash grants of $2,000 for individuals and $2,700 for families with dependents,” Clive says. They’re designed to provide a fast lifeline to pay bills, bridge the gap and cushion the blow while the welfare payments stop suddenly. Support Act has changed their delivery mechanism so grants can be processed more quickly. Music professionals can apply for these grants here.
SUPPORT ACT VS. THE PANDEMIC
“Its been the best of times and the worst of times, if I can paraphrase somebody very badly,” Clive says ruefully. “On the plus side, we’ve seen some incredible activity, the community coming together to support Support Act and a great deal of appreciation,” he says. “There has been some incredible examples of fundraising activities that have really benefited us. We’ve received support from music lovers as well.”
But the snap border closers and dramatically reduced capacity restrictions have been a death blow to Australian music venues and promoters across the country. “Everyone’s just hoping that once everybody’s vaccinated, we can all go back to going to gigs and for those gigs to be profitable. For people to be able to continue to make their livings out of doing the things that they love,” he ruminates.
MUSIC’S UNIQUE MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES
Much has been written in recent years about the unique challenge of mental health in music industry. If it isn’t hard enough being a creative artist, there’s also the realities of inconsistent income, the perils of social media and heavy competition for attention.
“There’s always been the myth of the tortured artist. There are examples of that, but there are also many environmental factors that contribute to mental ill health [in the industry].” Clive says.
“One of the key drivers [in initiating mental health issues] is not getting paid. It severely impacts people’s mental health and wellbeing when they don’t know how they’re going to pay the rent, or how they’re going to survive, or how they’re going to manage their old age,” Clive explains. Being away from home without a support network, eating and sleeping poorly also contribute.
“On the creative side, there was also a sense of the exposure [that comes with] putting themselves out there in a major way,” Clive continues. “It can be quite confronting and quite human.” As Jon Toogood from Shihad says, “We’re in the business of putting our ideas and our innermost thoughts and feelings into something and sticking it out there for people to like or hate intensely. Most people don’t have to do that.”
Managing your mental health in the Australian music industry “requires a kind of mental discipline that can be developed and acquired,” Clive says. “A lot of the Support Act programmes that we have, whether it’s our Mental Health First Aid training or On Our Mind (our open webinar series) or the Tuneups series that we’re running at the moment … through to mindfulness and those sorts of things [are designed to support this]. Also, understanding creativity and how it works and how you can enhance that.”