Melbourne music venues struggle with sky-high insurance costs

What are the solutions being worked out to help this industry?

Melbourne music venues struggle with sky-high insurance costs

Insurance News

By Jonalyn Cueto

In the vibrant city of Melbourne, renowned for its lively music culture, a concerning trend threatens the very essence of its famed live music venues. Spiraling insurance costs are casting a shadow over these cherished establishments, prompting desperate measures and risking the closure of some iconic spaces.

Venue owners, grappling with staggering increases in insurance expenses – some up to tenfold – are confronted with difficult decisions to keep their businesses afloat. The Old Bar in Fitzroy stands as a poignant example, where owner Liam Matthews had to implement stringent rules, including a ban on dancing while drinking, to comply with his insurer’s demands.

Matthews noted he initially faced an outright prohibition on drinking in the band room, which he vigorously contested. “Imagine not being able to have a beer watching a gig?” Matthews said. “I kicked up a massive stink about it.”

The demands, however, did not end there. Matthews, along with other venue proprietors, experienced a drastic surge in liability insurance costs, with his annual bill skyrocketing from $10,000 to $60,000. Invoices obtained by The Age confirm this substantial jump, leaving business owners like Matthews and his partners no choice but to take pay cuts to cover the escalating expenses.

Unfortunately, The Old Bar is not alone in this struggle. Whole Lotta Love, an East Brunswick live music venue, faced a similar difficulty, with owner Sasha Janssen witnessing her liability insurance surge from under $3,000 to almost $30,000. The reasons behind such exorbitant increases remain unclear, leaving venue owners perplexed and financially burdened.

Seeking solutions to pressing situation

Venue owners are rallying for government intervention and legislative reform amid confronting soaring insurance bills. They argue that live music venues deserve their own policies, contending the categorization they describe to be unjust and impacting their insurance costs.

Music Victoria, a non-profit organization representing the state’s contemporary music scene, echoes these concerns. General manager Dale Packard emphasizes that rising insurance premiums are the top grievance among live music venues, surpassing issues like show fee increases and staffing shortages.

Insurance expert Andrew Bassingthwaighte also sits on a music council board, namely the Australian Live Music Business Council. He said there are several factors contributing to these rising costs, including insurance policies being previously undervalued and international underwriters having to handle these policies.

The Insurance Council of Australia acknowledges the complexities of the issue and has said it is working alongside the live music sector to improve affordability.

Acting Minister for Creative Industries Natalie Hutchins has expressed the state government’s commitment to supporting the live music venue. She said the government has allocated $34 million to support 10,000 gigs at local music venues across metro and regional Victoria in the last budget.

The future of Melbourne’s cherished live music venues hangs in the balance as key industry associations, state government, and businesses continue to review solutions and opportunities.

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