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Support Act Offers Crisis Support to Musicians and Crew

The COVID-19 pandemic has created intense financial hardship for music workers throughout the country.

Many were the first to lose their jobs and their income, and our sector could well be the last to recover.

With funding from the Australian Government through the Office for the Arts, Support Act has expanded its services to offer Crisis Relief grants to musicians, crew and music workers who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

To be eligible, you must:

· be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
· prove that you have been working in the music industry for five years
· provide names and details of two professional referees
· have household expenses which are greater than your household income.

There is no deadline to apply, however, we encourage anyone experiencing hardship to submit an application as soon as possible.

Our social workers aim to process applications within 21 days of receipt, but delays may be experienced from time to time due to high demand.

If you, or someone you know, would like to apply for a Support Act COVID-19 Crisis Relief grant, please visit the Get Help page on our website.

Best wishes,

The Support Act Team

MAKE MUSIC DAY – A GIFT TO OUR INDUSTRY

AMA Members can be pivotal to the success of Make Music Day June 21 2020. In 2020 our apple cart has been upset by
Covid-19 but it has given us all sorts of new and innovative ways to participate online as well as out in the stores. Music Retailers all over the world have benfitted by the growth of Make Music Day.
The AMA is committed to Joining the Celebration of Making Music Around the World on June 21.

We are working with NAMM Foundation and countries all over the world as a member of the Make Music Alliance to join over 1000 cities and places globally celebrating Make Music Day Australia.
How can our industry be involved in promoting it, and benefitting from the extra activity it will bring this year and into the future?

Checkout the 2020 DIGITAL GUIDE and the GENERAL ACTIVITIES GUIDE and this one sheet containing suggestions and ideas on how to be involved – MakeMusicDay2020 Activities Guide

AMA Announces VIRTUAL 2020 Make Music Day Australia

We Imagined Something Like This for Australia – WATCH THE SHORT VIDEO!

We did this last year CLICK HERE for the 2019 program CLICK HERE for a highlights video and lots of other info. And in 2020 we were getting closer to our objective and along comes COVID19. So,

In 2020 by necessity Make Music Day 2020 is Going Virtual

Make Music Day is a global celebration of music making that takes place on June 21 every year in over 1000 places in 120 countries. Unlike traditional music festivals Make Music Day is an open invitation for everyone to make music anywhere and anywhere and register their events, so that they are part of a giant global program. In this COVID19 Year we go online.

It is a DIY music festival. And Australia because of time zones can lead the world on June 21.
We’re encouraging any one and all to come up with innovative ways to make music online and share it from home or any place they can film themselves doing it. Register their performance on the website and add the Tags #makemusicdayoz and #makemusicday and we start the build of a giant database of music from around the world.

We had spent a year organising 2020 Make Music Day only to be stopped in our tracks like the rest of the music industry – but we can go online and that’s what our brothers (including the US, UK, Germany, China, Brazil, Italy, and others, ) in the global Make Music Alliance agreed. Let’s do it together.

We have CreateNSW right behind us to lead NSW in this endeavour, and many other councils and organisations all over Australia and we are calling on our Music Stores to get involved too. It’s been quiet in stores, use the isolation to create a music performance by you and/or your staff – filming themselves and posting – there’d be Australian Musicians all over the world, promoted and exposed. Australia can lead the global event.

In a 24-hour Make Music Day across the world, Australia is first in the program. We are reaching out to present a virtual Melbourne Guitar Show too on Make Music Day and promote Support Act.

And our overall activities are targeted at raising Support Act awareness.
With the NAMM Foundation’s support we have partnered with the Live Music Office and APRA/AMCOS to deliver the event nationally and partner in developing the event globally.

This is an event initiated by our music products industry – it is about anyone making music and being part of a huge global event.

 

An Up and Down March and April During COVID19 Restrictions

Recent data released by illion would suggest that discretionary spending has trended upward alongside the announcement of the government stimulus packages and continued on a steeper curve than essentials, through March but has eased back during April, with spending on essentials being mostly driving retail figures.
Sales of musical instruments have carried on strongly for some through April following a huge March.
For music products retail it’s been business ‘unusual’ but brisk all the same for many retailers, depending on the category. Some categories faring better than others in the circumstances.
Preliminary figures from the Bureau of Statistics show retail turnover had its biggest monthly rise on record in March. Supermarket and grocery store sales rose 22.4 per cent, while sales of alcohol and home office supplies were also strong. This continued in April, but discretionary spending pulled back.
Economists expect a pullback in retail sales as stockpiling subsides and major retailers including Myer extend shutdowns.
Those who were set up well for e-commerce pre-Covid-19 are flourishing, those who lagged behind are learning quickly to get their online services up to scratch to deal with demand and the new trading conditions.
Australian Musician online has reported about music retail being open and doing business, and letting the consumer know. There’s plenty of positive messages coming out of the article from our member retailers. March was akin to Christmas for many retailers we have spoken to and April has continued on that way. Many dealers are naturally giving their focus to their online channels.
When posing the question of “what impacts do you think Self-isolation and social distancing will have on you?” Some interesting responses, were reported by illion too.
More time to do what I enjoy – 36% |Beneficial impacts from reading, creative pursuits, etc – 32% |
Increased opportunity to learn – 26% | all into these music making sits pretty well.
Acoustic piano specialist stores, while seeing more than double their usual digital piano sales, have seen un unprecedented drop-off in floor traffic. On her ABC interview Jenny Ko of Gospel Pianos said she was seeing only a couple of customers during the week at the moment. Online business in digitals had more than doubled, but not close to making up for lost acoustic sales.
Michael Cleves told us that his group of stores, which includes the Australian Piano Warehouses has seen a similar rush for home, with loads of digital pianos selling to go with some softness in the mid range upright acoustic piano market with Grand pianos holding up. “As always with acoustic pianos, you’ve got to do the extra.” “In general MI, entry level gear has been huge in March, we’ve been very busy at Billy Hydes (Vic) and Winston Music (SA) as well as in the Dale Cleves stores. “we are seeing a lot of product sold to new customers during this period, and that’s a positive”
It’s a similar story with Bernies Musicland in Ringwood, Victoria. “Acoustics are quieter but digital pianos are quite busy and portable organs too, the little Hammonds, we’ve been busy with those,” says store owner Bernie Capicchiano. “Most are looking for home entertainment, so we are getting comments like … we always wanted to have the time to play, now we do or we are locked up and need our music.”
Acoustics have seen significant disruption, which is traditional during times of uncertainty. Brass and woodwind sales have also hit the wall, with schools disrupted and complicated by the fact that these instruments cannot be tried out instore by those wanting to trade up or get themselves a better instrument. Fine Music’s Michael Jongebloed saying there was not much selling in his world, besides accessories and print. Michael was enthused however by the online Bands Festival he was doing online as reported last week.
Fears that people are bringing forward purchases they were planning to make down the track were countered with the numbers of new customers taking up music. One supplier saying “we up 300% on entry level guitars, drum kits are up too”. Entry level guitar and amp packs are also struggling to keep up with demand.
Some suppliers and retailers have seen drops in business levels sufficient to apply for JobKeeper wage subsidies despite all the talk of boom times. Although welcome, businesses have been burdened with a cash flow crisis as the lag time between receiving the credits and paying staff salaries widens.
Those dealers that have been working in the online space for while have been able to capitalise.
Macron Music invested its time wisely by improving its online service, not just for the current conditions for into the future. Anthony Ursino said. “Because it has been less busy instore, we have been able to catch up on things that we were putting in place anyway with our online service.”
So, with restrictions at Stage 3, retail has been able to operate. As have logistics. Supplying musical instruments has been somewhat of an essential service during a ‘lock down period’ judging by the level of business. We appear to be in a similar situation with the emergency as New Zealand with its businesses only opening again this week. It has been in complete shut down, but fortunately for our industry, we have been able to continue to trade.
Retailers report that the people issues are a big challenge, the safety of customers and staff. But those with well-developed online infrastructure prospered and so did stores with not such a good online infrastructure! They found ways. Home deliveries, kerb side click and collect, uber, etc!
Marcello Grassi, co-owner at Eastgate Music in Kew is taking the health advice very seriously.
Despite the increased measures to produce a safe environment for customers to shop in, almost universally people are shopping via phone or online and stores are doing whatever it takes to deliver the goods and keep their loyal lientele satisfied. “We do encourage online sales,” says Eastgate’s Marcello. “You are very welcome to call us and we can greet you outside, we can load your car. We can do whatever you want that is required. If you want us to wear mask and gloves, not a problem.”
Suppliers are now experiencing stock shortages, and retailers may be wondering where their sales may come from in the months to come, while supply gets back to normal. But to the end of April suppliers were reporting a big couple of months as people got their music needs stocked up.
“It wasn’t exactly panic buying” said Concept Music’s Graham Hoskins, but [there has been] a huge increase in demand for instruments like keyboards and guitars, even drums, where people are looking for something that’s going to help them get through the situation,” he said.
Craig Johnston too (Keyboard Corner/KC’s Rock Shop) has been one of those to be surprisingly busy and profitable over the March – April months. “Business in acoustic pianos was almost nothing for March but the last 3 weeks we have seen a return to normal sales levels, everywhere else has been way up” Craig said. “What I anticipated could have been the end of many businesses in the industry, mine included, has turned out to be a once in a lifetime opportunity”.
We can only trust that as schools return to some normal and protocols for contact and use of instruments that pent up demand returns in categories like band and orchestral.
The AMA is conducting industry surveys to establish a benchmark for the industry as of now and another in the coming months. Rob Walker said “without a lot of foresight in the current situation, if we take out temperature at the end of April and do it again in three months, we can get a perspective of what the impact has been and is likely to be in the future”.

A Note from the AMA President

First and foremost, we hope you and your loved ones are safe and well at this time.

As a community we have made great strides in combatting the threat of Covid19 and economically we hope that a total shut down will not be necessary, as it has been in other countries.

To this point, our industry has been able to trade and provide musical instruments to a market and community hungry for either home entertainment, home based education or simply a distraction in a world of isolation. Our businesses have been faced with unprecedented challenges, but have adapted to continue to serve customers, and in the case of March purchases/sales it was like Christmas trading from years ago for many MI businesses.

Music making is indeed important at this time, particularly for health and education. We have promoted that the industry is open and operating via our consumer online channels, and we’ve reported on how some members are doing.

A few weeks ago we sent with our best wishes the sentiment, that we as a committee would be a sounding board for the industry during this pandemic. Gladly, it seems that many have been too busy to be needing much guidance in addition to what has been provided. We hope it remains the case.

We have distributed our Covid-19 resources and information pack to both members and non-members. We will continue to seek to find ways of supporting the industry during these challenging times. This week a JobKeeper Guide was sourced from the AMA’s auditors and is on our website.

The Melbourne Guitar Show was postponed to from August to October 2020 and we now have contingency dates reserved depending on the lay of the land for March 2021. We are leaning towards March timing as factory production gets back to full strength and exhibitors will hopefully be on a stronger financial footing.

We’ve used our work from home time to develop the next funding application to continue our NAMM Foundation partnership with the Make Music Alliance and the staging of Make Music Day here in Australia joining others around the world in the development of an event that celebrates music making.

The 2019 Market Report is about to be laid out with the 2019 numbers available on the website, demonstrating a healthy growth in our industry of some 9% over the previous year and 14% over the year before.

Whilst the AMA is operating on the smell of an oily rag and we’ve minimised our activities during the pandemic, we want to be in a position to continue to serve our industry both now and when better times return.

 

Michael Shade

AMA President

ATO Releases JobKeeper Requirements

The ATO has now released the requirements in respect of registration, reporting and payment obligations under the JobKeeper Scheme. There are many variables to accommodate specific employee and employer circumstances, but the information pack explains how it will work for most.

The association’s Auditor, Page Harrison & Co has made available the a compehensive COVID 19 Stimulus and Support Measures  information package.

The online application process will be available from Monday 20 April 2020 via the Tax Agent and Business Portals. https://www.ato.gov.au/general/jobkeeper-payment/employers/enrol-and-apply-for-the-jobkeeper-payment/#ApplyfortheJobKeeperpaymentearlyMay2020

If you’re not already using the Business Portal the following link provides instructions on how to create your myGovID and attach it to the Business ABN. Please note that a myGovID is different to a myGov account.

https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Online-services/Accessing-online-services-with-myGovID-and-RAM/

Prior to registering for the Scheme the following steps should be undertaken:

  1. Determine employer eligibility – the business needs to satisfy the decline in turnover test of at least 30% once to be eligible for the scheme however the ATO will require confirmation and details of eligible employees and turnover to be provided on a monthly declaration. Exact details required by the ATO have not yet been released but it would be prudent to maintain up to date accounting records. Please refer to the Employer Eligibility Checklists for qualification criteria.

Employer Eligibility Checklists can be downloaded here

  1. Ensure you have met the wage condition for each eligible employee – the Government payment is a reimbursement and therefore the employer must have already paid these amounts to the employee to qualify. The ATO has made an allowance for the month of April only whereby the employer can make a top-up payment to eligible employees who have been paid less than the minimum of $1,500 less applicable tax per fortnight by the end of April.
  2. Provide each employee with a JobKeeper Employee Nomination Notice to complete and return to the employer prior to 30 April 2020. A copy of this form is attached for your convenience. You must retain electronic or physical signed copies of these forms.  Prior to sending to staff please complete the Employer Section A of the form.

JobKeeper Employee Nomination Notice

After registration every employee must be notified that they have been nominated in writing within 7 days. See attachment titled “Confirmation of JobKeeper Nomination”.

The ATO has advised that the consequence of claiming Scheme benefits when the business was not eligible or improper use of the scheme may result in repayment of the amounts received plus interest and penalties

A Week is a long time in Covid Land

Monday 30th March

The week that was….

The industry is in a form of lockdown with stores sparsely attended by sales staff, no browsing policies, and limits of those allowed to enter. April fools day came and went with not much to prank or much to laugh about.

On Monday, the federal cabinet banned gatherings of more than two people. According to the ABC News, shops and shopping centres are excluded from the two-person rule, excepting that one must not gather in the shop in groups of more than two.

Several key wholesalers we have spoken to are 100% operating from home, most staff are ‘still’ employed’. There were a few exceptions where wholesalers were forced to layoff some of their workforce.  Music schools largely employing casual teachers are not operating across the country, while others are developing online teaching resources to meet demand. We are still selling, picking, packing, dispatching to our dealers.

In MI, it’s clear that whilst retailers can still operate, with the support of logistics, online MI stores will flourish. We’ve had reports of good online business to March 31. And in fact good business levels all round, as people stock up.

Manufacturers like Cole Clark and Maton are pushing on through and shipping guitars and not yet affected by any halt on their activities and the same. Maton too, continue production.

Retailers were reporting strong ‘Christmas like’ sales levels right through the week on top of a pretty good month. Operations have adapted with daily developments.

Banks will allow commercial landlords with loans of up to $10 million to delay their loan repayments by up to six months, on the condition tenants are not evicted due to the coronavirus crisis was another key announcement of the week. Banks are working with customers to help navigate difficult financial waters. Who’d a thought?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $130 billion package to support the wages of up to 6 million Australians throughout the coronavirus crisis.

The “Jobkeeper” subsidy will be worth $1500 a fortnight. The government will pay employers to pay their employees,” he said.

“Our goal is to protect lives and livelihoods of Australians to protect and preserve the economy that we depend on and to get to the other side as well.” The PM said according to the media this afternoon.

This was great news for workers and allowed businesses to keep operating in a lot of cases.

Australia’s peak retail body will raise casuals’ eligibility for the new jobkeeper payment with the government after unions, Labor and the Greens raised concerns that those with less than 12 months of service are excluded from the $1,500 fortnightly payment.

The Australian Retail Association’s executive director, Russell Zimmerman, Tuesday told Guardian Australia (Tuesday) that casuals’ eligibility was an “area of concern” and the government should consider exceptions for people with less than 12 months’ service but a likely “continuation of their role” after Covid-19 shutdowns.

Overall, businesses could continue to trade, observing strict rules and restructuring their focus. What the next week will be interesting as every day brings something new.

Provided expected ‘shut downs’ will allow online and deliveries music retail can continue to operate.

Music Retail is Open! March 27

Music Retail is still open for the time being as of March 27, 2020,

There is much uncertainty for music retailers about how long they will be able to service the needs of its customers, who, we understand might have their focus on other needs at the moment.  But for the musicians who have needs in order they can continue their practice, learning and recording our industry wants to be there for you.

While your local music store may be open & desperately appreciates your support, now is not the time to be casually browsing in any shop for half an hour because you’re bored. Go to the store. We advise in the interest of all our safety, that you make your purchase and leave as soon as possible.

We feel learning an instrument & playing music is going to play an important part in sustaining your mental health & the mental health of the community. NOW is the perfect time to take up that instrument you’ve always thought you would like to but haven’t had time.  There are many teaching resources online. For example check out this offer from Fender

Logistics is still an essential service so stock can still be shipped from suppliers to retail, and retailers can arrange deliveries. By online or by phone.

Some retailers may be shutting their doors and serving customers via Online only. But for those that keep a shop front open, there is a lot of effort going into keeping the store environment safe for staff and customers.

General Info

Music retailers have been advised to follow World Health Organisation procedures on personal hygiene and proximity to customers. Retailers encourage customers to phone or email enquiries to save trips to the stores. The stores must know the square metreage available and therefore using the 4m2 per person, calculate how many people are allowed in the store at once.

For the time being, most stores are maintaining their regular opening hours and they are offering the same friendly service but are cutting down on contact (sorry, no handshakes or hugs for now). Stores should regularly disinfect their demo gear. Hand sanitiser is being made available and most stores encourage payment via card rather than cash.

Should customers feel unwell (fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache or shortness of breath) or have recently returned from overseas, our stores ask that you refrain from visiting in store in order to ensure the safety of all customers and our team. In many cases, stores can look after you just as well if you browse our website, give them a call or email instead.

Q: Are retailers taking cash?

If they are, we have advised that The W.H.O. is advising everyone to wash their hands after using cash money, especially if handling or eating food.

To be safe, we encourage use of card machines and ideally contactless and to have a sanitiser close for team members who may handle cash. We have suggested retailers restrict cash handling to a single till in the store.

Please don’t take offence if a staff member reminds you about the protocols surrounding sneezing or coughing, especially into your hands.

Our stores would make hand sanitiser available and staff have been advised to keep a reasonable distance from customers; 1-2 metres where possible in line with government advice.

Q: What about wanting to try an instrument instore?

Many stores have implemented a No Blow policy for all brass, woodwind, harmonicas etc. You may see signs like this in store – please respect them.

You might see signs on ‘condition of entry’ that if you plan on trying an instrument you need to use the hand sanitiser provided at the entrance.

If you wish to try a guitar for example, customers should be asked to use the hand sanitiser that the store is making available.  Our advice to retailers is that all customers must use hand sanitiser BEFORE they touch an instrument.

Note, when practicing your own measures, Hand sanitizer is 60+% percent alcohol which can cause clouding in lacquer finishes.

Don’t use sanitizer or wipes with alcohol directly on the guitar.  But a person should use it on their hands.

Q: What actions have retailers been taking in their stores?
A: Retailers would be thoroughly cleaning doors, counters, computers, and areas where customers may touch. Instruments, especially wind, are being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Observing social distancing.

Retailers are printing advice to customers and posting it around the store.

Sanitising their POS equipment. EFT keypad pads etc after use.

Providing hand sanitiser on counters in clear view and encourage customers to use it, as well as staff after they have dealt with a customer.

Keeping the customer informed of the policies in their store at this time.

Q: What about Online?
Retailers are noticing an increase in phone and email enquiries and while restrictions are in place. Online is the best and safest way to purchase during these times.

Contact the stores for product advice by phone and email.

We know as musicians that Customers who are concerned about being at home for a prolonged period maybe looking to making music to relieve stress and anxiety in these times, start that recording project or online learning course or just get some practice in.

We want to be here to help with your needs. While our stores are allowed to open, so is their Online store.

Stores are aware of best practice in packing and dispatching.
At present, most stores’ online ordering services are running as usual with their team working in their online orders department, ready for your enquiries. Some are waiving their dollar minimum purchase for free delivery and are encouraging their customers to use online so as to limit, as much as possible, the spread of the virus.

Logistics is still regarded as an essential service. Therefore, for the time being deliveries will continue. We cannot control what deliverers do, but we are confident that at the store end the goods will leave after being wiped down and sanitised before it is packed and leaves the store.

 

COVID-19 Update March 25 from Federal Government

On Tuesday evening Scott Morrison outlined a further set of restrictions on businesses and individual behaviours to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Here is an updated list of the federal government’s measures, which will take effect from midnight on Wednesday if they were not already in place.

Banned or closed

  • Registered and licensed clubs, licensed premises in hotels and pubs, casinos and night clubs.
  • Cinemas and entertainment venues
  • Auctions and open house inspections.
  • Personal services such as beauty therapy, tanning, massage and tattoo parlours (but not physiotherapy).
  • Outdoor and indoor markets, although “major food markets” (the prime minister cited Sydney’s Flemington market as an example) will be addressed by states and territories.
  • Amusement parks and arcades, and indoor and outdoor play centres.
  • Galleries, museums, libraries and swimming pools.
  • Gyms and indoor sport venues.
  • Overseas travel, with some exceptions such as aid workers and compassionate travel.

Restricted

  • Hairdressers and barbers can continue but must strictly manage social distancing and restrict the amount of time a patron can be in the premises to no more than 30 minutes.
  • Boot camps and personal training must be limited to 10 peoeple.
  • Restaurants and cafes can offer delivery and takeaway only. Food courts in shopping centres may also only offer takeaway.
  • Weddings restricted to five people – the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses.
  • Funerals limited to no more than 10 people.
  • Visits to houses should be kept to a very small number of people, including for family barbecues and birthday parties. States may choose to legislate to restrict house parties.

Remaining open

  • Shopping centres and other shops not specifically told to close, including bottle shops.
  • Medical centres.
  • Pharmacies.

Schools

The federal government’s advice is that it is safe to send children to school up to the end of the term, but some pupil-free days will be needed to plan distance learning.

Schools will reopen after the term break with a mix of distance learning and in-school learning for all “essential workers”, defined by the prime minister as anyone with a job.

There are differences in how each state and territory is managing schools.

NSW: Schools remain open but it is up to parents to decide whether to send children to school, and parents have been advised to keep children home unless they need to work.

Queensland: Schools remain open but it is up to parents to decide whether to send children to school.

Victoria: Schools closed for school holidays. Due to return on 13 April.

ACT: Schools are pupil-free until the school holidays, but open to students who absolutely need to attend, such as those whose parents must attend work and cannot care for their children at home, as well as vulnerable children and those with additional needs. No child will be turned away.

Tasmania: Schools remain open but up to parents to decide whether to send children.

NT: Schools to remain open but optional for parents to send children.

SA: Schools remain open but premier Steven Marshall recognises parents will take children out of school, allowing for increased social distancing.

WA: Schools remain open but laws relaxed so it’s not compulsory.

All states and territories are working towards re-opening in term 2, depending on how the situation changes over the next few weeks.

Beaches

There are no outright bans, although people are advised not to go and some Sydney beaches have been fenced off.

It is up to the councils to enforce the outdoor restrictions on social distancing.

Interstate travel

NSW, the ACT and Victoria are the only states and territory to not implement restrictions on interstate travel. In the other states and territory anyone visiting will be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival, unless they are in sectors deemed essential. Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland have all closed their borders to a greater or lesser extent. Tasmania has said it will turn around visitors from interstate who do not have an essential purpose to their trip.

Remote communities

The restrictions in the Northern Territory do not apply to the remote communities because of the strong restrictions already in place in those communities.

Source: The Guardian March 25, 2020