American rhythm & blues band Vintage Trouble at Bluesfest 2016.
American rhythm & blues band Vintage Trouble at Bluesfest 2016. Lyn McCarthy

Music festival ticket prices set to soar

UPDATE 1pm: THE Federal Government has confirmed it is in the process of updating its visa procedure and costs for international performing artists coming to Australia, a move that will increase costs for the industry and music lovers.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed the details of the decision and said smaller productions were subsidising bigger events.

"Subject to the approval of the Governor-General, the Entertainment visa cohort will be incorporated into the new Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) on 19 November 2016 as part of the delivery of the first tranche of the Skilled Migration and Temporary Activity review," the spokesperson said.

"At present, production companies which apply for more than 10 visas receive a bulk discount.  This means that smaller productions (i.e. those applying for less than 10 visas) effectively subsidise larger productions." 

"Removing the bulk discount provides for a fairer fee structure and provides scope for the visa application fee to be reduced.  Upon commencement of the changes the fee will be reduced from $380 to $275."

ORIGINAL STORY: INCREASED ticket prices and a reduction of international artists coming to perform in music festivals is forecast by industry leaders if changes to the cost of visas to touring performers go ahead next month.

Currently, festival organisers and event promoters pay a flat fee of $7200 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 $2075 per person.

Evelyn Richardson, Chief Executive of Live Performance Australia, the peak body for Australia's live performance industry, denounced the move as a revenue grabbing exercise by the Federal Government.

"Visa processing fees are being increased by up to 600% which could stop touring artists from coming to Australia altogether," Ms Richardson said.

"This is a massive money grab by the government, which is being introduced under the guise of a new online visa processing system that is supposed to cut red tape and streamline visa approvals," she added.

In a public statement, LPA highlighted the impact this measure could have on local music festivals.

"The world-renowned Bluesfest held each year at Byron Bay attracts a strong contingent of international performers. In addition to the festival event, many of the touring acts also do side shows in capital cities or regional areas. Under the new charges, the visa processing fee for the organisers of Bluesfest have soared by 600% to $55,000. Other festivals such as Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Festival face visa fee increases of more than 200% for their international artists."

Bluesfest's reaction

Bluesfest director Peter Noble OAM confirmed the government's move will affect the Australian music industry and music fans.

"The bottom line is: someone must pay. Is it going to be the public through increased ticket prices? Or will touring artists accept lower guarantees? Will younger, emerging type artists have less opportunities to tour?" he said.

"The truth is there has been zero studies made of the potential effect and industry approaches to Peter Dutton, the immigration minister, to discuss the increased charges have received a complete shut out from him. A zero response.

"Our industry, the live music industry, is reeling from lockout laws, from grants to arts and cultural organisations being wound back to levels where arts presenters are unable to function. We are seeing brilliant arts groups shut their doors."

"This is a bad decision. It should be reviewed, it should be withdrawn," Mr Noble said.

Mullum Music Festival

Mullum Music Festival director, Glenn Wright, agreed that the measure will affect all musical events with international guests.

"It will affect all levels of touring, from the biggest acts to the emerging acts," he said.

"It's going to affect Mullum Music Festival directly and indirectly. The festival itself will book less touring acts and promoters, who present artists each year, will cut back on touring acts. It just means more pressure on ticket prices for all festivals".

Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival organisers, plus the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been contacted for comment.