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May 19, 2020

Did the State Government just turn its live music industry grants up to 11?

The State Government recently announced the delivery of a $1 million support package for South Australia's live music industry. CityMag took a look at just how much it "amped up" its triannual grants scheme.

  • Words and main image: Angela Skujins


State Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni dropped the news on Saturday that the State Government has allocated $1 million in financial support for the live music industry, including a “targeted support” package of $300,000 for live music venue The Governor Hindmarsh – more than a quarter of the total amount – set to be delivered “in stages.”

Last month, The Gov co-owner Brian Tonkin told InDaily, without government assistance the venue faced risk of permanent closure in a matter of months.

“This announcement by the State Government is the most exciting thing to happen in the Adelaide music scene for a very long time,” co-owner Melissa Tonkin said in a statement after receiving the grant.

“Keeping venues and music organisations alive through these difficult times guarantees musicians a place to play into the future,” Melissa said.

I’ve got no fucking idea [if it’s enough] to be honest with you – Symon Jarowyj

The funding has come at an opportune time for an industry deeply impacted by the coronavirus.

The $1 million package aims to keep alive South Australia’s music scene, which contributed $375 million to the economy in 2015/16 financial year, according to research cited in the Music Development Office’s South Australian Music Industry Strategy.

The $700,000 that remains of the package has already been awarded to up to 70 applicants, the names of which will be made public by the end of the financial year, and no new applications will be taken. The grants are awarded three times a year: April, August and October.

Through the funding scheme, musicians looking to further their creative development were eligible for $5,000, and music businesses looking to implement new strategies were eligible for $20,000. Industry-wide initiatives could also have applied for the latter sum.

State Government grants to support musicians have been in place since 2002, despite this allocation of funds being labelled a “new grant program” in a media release titled ‘Marshall Government amps up support for live music’.

These grants were originally funnelled through Arts SA, but the program has evolved over its 18 years in order to support the industry’s developing needs. It also led to the founding of the Music Development Office in 2014, which was created to support not only artists but the music industry more broadly.

Lisa Bishop

Music SA general manager Lisa Bishop says the MDO grant program usually dishes out $100,000 to developing musicians, but this was ramped up to $200,000 because of COVID-19. Due to the an oversubscription of entries in this round, Lisa says the Minister supplied an additional $800,000 to meet demand.

Lisa says this is the most significant amount of grant money given by the State Government in many years, but the arts sector in general needs more sustained funding to survive the pandemic.

“APRA AMCOS have stepped up with some great grants, and so have the City of Adelaide, and what we’ve tried to do at Music SA is list all the available grants that people can apply for. You can kind of add them up and and it’s looking good, but generally speaking, our art funding is not in a good place right now,” Lisa says.

“The economic impact of the arts and of live music is significant. And what we’re dealing with is a cultural bias towards sports and sports funding.

“This is a shame because more people in Australia, if you look at the… research, more people in Australia buy tickets to live music than they do sporting events.”

In 2018, more than 26 million tickets were issued to live performance events, according to Live Performance Australia’s latest ticket attendance report. The report states this is more than accumulated audiences from Australian football, rugby league, cricket, soccer, basketball, rugby union, tennis, netball and baseball.

The plush Grace Emily Hotel bar


Grace Emily Hotel on Waymouth Street was awarded $20,000 through the scheme last week, which co-owner Symon Jarowyj will use to help keep his pokies-free pub from shuttering.

The pub was also awarded $10,000 in the government’s earlier Emergency Cash Grants for Small Businesses, which is still open for applications until 1 June 2020.

The $20,000 injection will allow Symon to book interstate bands for future dates (once social distancing measures are relaxed), and his aim is to offer “majority free-entry shows.”

“This is because the people that drink at the pub aren’t your young professionals that have lots of money,” Symon says.

“We’re just going to try and make live music as accessible as possible for everyone.”

As for whether the accumulated funding will be enough for the long-term, Symon says he’ll wait and see.

“I’ve got no fucking idea [if it’s enough] to be honest with you… but for now it will definitely take the edge off.”

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