NOT HAPPY: Bluesfest director said events such as Vivid Sydney will have an unfair advantage over festivals organised locally.
NOT HAPPY: Bluesfest director said events such as Vivid Sydney will have an unfair advantage over festivals organised locally. CONTRIBUTED

Bluesfest director not happy with costs for touring artists

CHANGES in the cost of visas for international touring artists, set to kick in next month, will include an exemption to government-owned festivals that is unfair towards privately run events, according to music industry representatives and local festival organisers.

On November 19, the Department of Immigration and Border Control will change the way it processes visas for touring artists coming into Australia and the pricing of those visas.

Currently, festival organisers and event promoters pay a flat fee of $7,200 for a bulk visa application of 20 people or more.

Under the new plan, expected to kick in on November 19, the cost of the touring visa is expected to go up to $2,075 per person.

Those changes are expected to impact ticket prices or the number of international artists coming to future events.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble AOM, said the changes do not offer a level playing field for music event operators across the country.

"The government, by the way, has been awarded a complete zero payment for their events. Yes,they pay nothing for their visas for artists they bring to Australia (under this new scheme)," he said.

"Events like the Sydney Festival, Vivid, Adelaide Arts Festival and so on, receive a major financial advantage over independent companies who now have to pay up to 600% more under the new proposed visa charges.

"You have to ask, is this fair?" he added.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed a fee concession to government events is part of the new scheme.

"The changes will also incorporate a fee concession arrangements for charitable and government-funded organisations (to be defined by Legislative Instrument)," the spokesperson said.

The government representative was unable to provide further details.

Subject to the approval of the Governor-General, the Entertainment visa cohort will be incorporated into the new Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) that will be introduced by the government on November 19 as part of the Skilled Migration and Temporary Activity review.

Department of Immigration declined to further comment about the amount of public information regarding this change the input promoters, festival organisers and industry organisations had on this, and details of the new online application system that will be implemented on November 19.

Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival organisers have been unavailable to comment about the changes.

Shadow Minister for Arts

The Shadow Minister for Arts, Labor MP Tony Burke, said he is concerned about the upcoming changes.

"I'm deeply concerned about anything that amounts to a further restriction on live music in Australia," he said.

"Music festivals have become an important performance opportunity for Australian bands and musicians.

"At the same time that streaming is hitting the incomes of many artists.

"The government needs to come clean on what consultation took place with music festival organisers, what impact the government expects there to be on tourism and what impacts the government expects there to be on artists," the MP said.