When clubs and bars are forced to close their doors, it's not just avid partygoers who have nowhere to turn.
Hundreds of local musicians, audio engineers and lighting technicians are once again indefinitely out of work with no financial compensation, following Monday's Victorian government announcement to reduce density limits and close indoor dancefloors.
The most recent tightening of restrictions is just another blow to the already scrambling arts industry.
I Lost My Gig Australia (ILMG), an initiative of the Australian Festivals Association (AFA) and the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN), began tracking losses from the music industry across the nation during the pandemic.
The initiative estimates that 32,000 gigs have been cancelled since July 2021, equating to $94M of lost income of which 99% had no income protection or event cancellation insurance.
The X-Factor winner and local singer songwriter Reece Mastin said that the pandemic has had devastating effects for the music industry.
I don't think the arts community has ever been taken seriously as a proper part of the economy.- Reece Mastin
"You have to pay for all these things upfront, band members, accommodation, lighting, sound and tour crew in the hopes that things don't get canned," he said.
"Then when they do get canned there's no compensation anymore."
Mr Mastin said that throughout the pandemic there has been a lack of acknowledgement in policymaking of the economic benefits of the Australian arts industry.
"The government needs to actually investigate what the impact of some of the legislations they're putting in place are," he said.
"It's like they put out new restrictions and say 'don't worry it won't really affect anyone' - and they are forgetting about the arts industry.
"I don't think the arts community has ever been taken seriously as a proper part of the economy."
The ARIA award-winner said that he has had to take on other employment in order to make ends meet due to the amount of lost income.
"I've been working on farms and doing labouring in the last year just trying to earn some money to put back into the house," Mr Mastin said, "that's a job that I know I can get a paycheck out of."
As well as local musicians, technical companies are also having to let staff go or find alternative employment just to try to keep their heads above water.
Bendigo's Dewars Audio Systems provide sound, lighting and audio for entertainment venues across the region.
Owner Suzie Dewar says she's unsure whether her business will recover.
"David and I have both had to gain two new positions each just to try and keep our heads above water," she said.
"It is extremely scary to think about having to go through it again this year. I'm not really sure what that will mean for us."
The ABS reported that in February 2021 the arts and entertainment industry employed approximately 228,000 people.
More people were working in the arts and entertainment sector than the entire electricity, gas, water and waste industries (151,000).
However, a July 2021 report from the Australia Institute found that federal funding for the arts had declined almost 19% between 2008 and 2018.
In June 2020, more than two months after lockdowns were in place, the federal government announced a $250 million support package for the industry.
However, the Australia Institute report found that less than half of the federal support ($75 million), was available directly for financial support for workers in the industry.
The remaining 65 percent were loan based programs which required cash-strapped arts businesses to launch risky projects during the pandemic and eventually return borrowed funding back to the commonwealth.
The federal government should have in place targeted income support for arts and entertainment workers for these types of situations.- MEAA
Restrictive eligibility criteria for JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments also saw thousands of casual employees excluded from the welfare support.
Now, as the industry faces another uncertain year, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is pushing for some desperate funding for the industry.
"New government restrictions on venue capacities will again see many musicians, crew, performers and other entertainment workers going without any income, reinforcing the lack of job and income security in this sector which has been among the worst hit by the pandemic," said a MEEA spokesperson.
"The federal government should have in place targeted income support for arts and entertainment workers for these types of situations, at least until there is complete certainty that events and venues can operate at full capacity with no disruptions."
Reece Mastin believes this is a turning point in the industry, and that if the arts don't start being further financially supported, young musicians and arts workers are going to turn to other employment.
"These kids that are coming through now that are as passionate about music as the rest of us, are looking at it and thinking they can only do it as a hobby or a side hustle," Mr Mastin said.
"They're afraid because they can see that musicians and arts workers are being worked against by the government.
"Throughout history when there's been big tragedies around the world, the art and music that has come out of that has been pretty revolutionary, so we have to make sure we don't miss out on some great Aussie talent because of this."
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