Lion Arts Factory

In Parliament, Motions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:23): I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges the profound impact COVID-19 has had and will continue to have on the entertainment industry;

2. Recognises the work and unique positions of Five Four Entertainment, Plus One Co., and Lion Arts Factory as a collective of some of South Australia’s most notable music and event businesses;

3. Notes that prior to COVID-19 these businesses collectively delivered to South Australia 24 full-time equivalent staff, $6 million in tourism impact, and a total yearly economic impact of $35 million;

4. Recognises that if Five Four Entertainment and the Lion Arts Factory are allowed to fail it will come at not just a significant economic cost, but at a great cultural cost as well, particularly for younger South Australians;

5. Calls on the Marshall Liberal government to grant such vital businesses in South Australia’s entertainment industry funding so that they can continue to operate; and

6. Calls on the Marshall Liberal government to provide certainty and clarity regarding a lease extension for Lion Arts Factory.

I rise today to speak in strong support of Five Four Entertainment, Plus One Co., and Lion Arts Factory, a collective of unique and creative South Australian businesses that bring so much rich variety to our music and events scene.

We all know that the pandemic has had a serious and profound effect on the arts industry around the world, in Australia and particularly in this state. We have seen devastating effects in this state. Despite us being the Festival State, things sure are not looking particularly festive for the entertainment industry. We are at serious risk of losing some of our vital arts infrastructure, businesses and talent.

Five Four Entertainment is predominantly a festival and concert promoter that is responsible for delivering two of the state’s major music festivals—that is, the Spin Off Festival and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. The Lion Arts Factory is an award-winning 600-capacity music venue located on North Terrace, Adelaide, just a few blocks from here. Plus One Co., is a club night promoter responsible for some of the country’s most well-known touring club nights, operating across Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Prior to COVID, these businesses collectively delivered to South Australia 24 full-time equivalent staff, $35 million in yearly economic impact and a tourism impact of some $6 million per annum. Since COVID hit, and particularly from March 2020, these businesses have been severely affected, with trading levels plummeting to between 0 and 10 per cent of their normal operations over the last 18 or so months.

During this really difficult time, these businesses have tried everything. They have pivoted so much they should be prima ballerinas. Five Four, in fact, in this time, however, did host the country’s first COVID-safe music festival, Summer Sounds Festival. Certainly, I attended, back in January-February 2021, and I hope other members of this parliament did to understand the great work that these organisations do. That was presented alongside Groove Events and Secret Sounds. Despite being publicly hailed as a success outside the organisation and selling some 30,000 tickets, this still did not prove to be financially viable as a business model.

Further, the Lion Arts Factory have tried every format of event and capacity they can think of under the health rules to keep their business running—that is, from reduced club nights and gigs, attempting to run the venue at a 45 per cent capacity, to quiz nights and even an indoor plant market. But without some serious support, all this effort will still not be enough. No matter how many such events and formats were trialled, these businesses simply cannot be sustainable with the current level of state-based health restrictions—and we understand why they are there—and the capacities and the level of government funding available.

At this moment in time, two of these businesses, Five Four Entertainment and Lion Arts Factory, are six months or less away from bankruptcy and closing. Plus One Co., has managed to survive by running events in other states that have more favourable health restrictions, such as WA, Tasmania and Queensland.

To make matters harder, however, the Lion Arts Factory’s lease, which is a government lease, is set to expire in December this year. They had a three-year lease, and little did we know that almost two years of that would be consumed by COVID. They made a major investment when they took on that three-year lease, but nobody could have foreseen what was to happen in terms of the impact on this industry. So far, inexplicably, they have not had any answers from our Marshall Liberal government regarding their requested lease extension to give them certainty, despite having discussion after discussion with staff at the Department of the Premier and Cabinet over the past 18 months.

The lease for that building was first secured in late 2018, and there was a verbal understanding with Arts SA at that time that if over the three-year period of that lease the venture was a success, additional leases were likely. Significant renovations of the building were then undertaken in good faith, and they proceeded to host over 150 live music events in 2019. I fondly remember the Archie Roach gig that was put on in that venue, amongst many others.

The Factory’s first and only year of full trade was that 2019 year, with some 150 or so live music events, clearly a major contributor to the scene in South Australia. Yet following this success they had to close for the majority of 2020 due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and the small amount of trade that they have been able to undertake since has not been in a manner that is viable or sustainable for their business. Even since early this year (2021), when restrictions have somewhat lifted, they have only been able to trade at best between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of capacity.

Despite this, they are required to pay full rent, full tote odds, by the Marshall Liberal government, even though they are incurring all their usual fixed costs without being able to operate at a capacity to meet those costs. I have seen—in fact I have received, after reaching out on behalf of Five Four Entertainment—the lacklustre correspondence received from the Premier in his capacity as the Minister for Arts and, of course, the correspondence from Minister Pisoni. That response has been deeply disheartening, failing to address their concerns and telling these businesses to engage with the Music Development Office to try to get support.

The funding available from the Music Development Office is minuscule compared to the funding needed to get this set of iconic music businesses back on their feet. Indeed, Five Four Entertainment followed up with the Music Development Office and were informed that, in fact, no additional funding is being made available at this time. What are we supposed to do? Let this significant music and events business go under after all the joy and benefits, the positive economic impacts, they have brought to our state?

I think this council, and our community, knows better than the Marshall government. That is why some 11,475 people have currently signed a petition—which is on change.org—that calls for support for these businesses to continue into the future and not be lost to the South Australian community. As the landlord of these businesses, simply giving them some relief on their rent would be a small token that would go a long way.

The audience for these events is a particular youth audience. They are engaged and passionate about live music in our state, and their needs are not met by other companies; they are not met by the WOMADelaides and the other festivals. To cut off these particular businesses that support younger South Australians and their interests in the music industry will be indeed to cut off entire generations and to show entire generations that this government simply does not support their interests.

These companies have fought tooth and nail to stay afloat during the pandemic. They have sunk in increasingly, trying to pivot, trying to stay afloat, without even the courtesy from the Marshall government of letting them know whether or not their lease will be extended. There is enormous personal investment in these businesses.

What I want to draw council’s attention to is the fact that in other states support for the music and entertainment industry has been far different. In New South Wales, music industry specific funding of some $75 million has been made available, and there are currently regular weekly payments of significant amounts to businesses and staff during their extended lockdown. In Victoria, there is music industry specific funding of some $20 million plus a package that was announced recently to pay regular weekly payments of significant amounts to businesses and staff during their extended lockdown.

In WA, which of course has not had the same restrictions, there has been music industry specific funding of some $15 million, plus restrictions on music venues and festivals has been minor compared to what we have had here. The sector there is currently trading at 100 per cent capacity and without restrictions on dancing. In Queensland there is music industry specific funding of some $10 million, plus restrictions relating to capacity, dancing and festivals are far more favourable than those we see in South Australia.

In South Australia we have had music industry specific funding of $3 million, which is an absolute pittance in terms of what is needed and what is reflected around the rest of the country. I cannot see how we can proudly call ourselves the Festival State when we are investing—foolishly, I think—in festivals that seemingly no-one much wishes to attend, and letting those that have been proven successes—the Laneways Festivals are one of the most outstanding youth-oriented music festivals in our nation—fail, while we throw good money after bad with things like the Bloom experiment.

I urge the council to support this motion to show that we stand with those members of the community, those younger South Australians in particular, or those younger minded South Australians, in that these sort of music industry businesses and events are the ones we wish to see continue to flourish in South Australia, as they did before the pandemic. These talents, this expertise, this part of the industry is too important not to throw that investment in now before they are lost to us forever.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.G.E. Hood.