In an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month, musician Alex Lahey said Australia’s in danger of losing “a generation’s worth of live performance talent and crew” without increased funding for artists, performers and crew members impacted by the pandemic.

“I think the response to my letter has demonstrated to me, but more importantly to government and the powers that be, that there is a unified voice calling for this very sort of thing for our industry,” Lahey tells Broadsheet. “I think it’s time the federal government steps up and promises a more proactive scheme to help protect Australian culture.”

Lahey’s letter called for a roadmap for providing support to the entertainment industry – including a government-led insurance scheme and wage subsidies program for artists, crew and others impacted by lockdowns and cancelled shows.

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“Although my business profits have been dramatically slashed by live touring not being available, and also not being able to travel overseas, it’s for people who are working contract to contract that are deeply affected by this,” she says. “Along with grassroots artists who aren’t getting sufficient royalty cheques.

“The thing that prompted me to write this letter wasn’t so much my own personal situation as it was from talking to my peers and my friends and my colleagues, who are finding themselves in positions where they don’t know how they’re going to continue – and I’m not talking about how they’re going to continue in the industry, I’m talking about how they’re going to continue paying rent, how they’re going to continue paying bills, how they’re going to continue their livelihood and maintain their mental health.

“I’ve seen so many talented people – both on and off the stage – have to turn their back on this industry because there’s not the support in place to keep them there.”

Electronic artist Alice Ivy (Annika Schmarsel) tells Broadsheet she’s struggled to stay motivated due to repeated lockdowns in Victoria. “My main source of income has completely disappeared, which is touring,” she says. “Having constant border closures and lockdowns prevents us from being able to shoot music videos or work with photographers or videographers to get music content ready to be released. It’s incredibly frustrating.

“I’m a very collaborative artist; I love writing with other artists in the studio. Second to that is Zoom – I’m grateful for it being there as a tool but I’ve found people don’t want to do that anymore because they’re over it.”

In Sydney, Polish Club’s frontman David Novak says the way Australia is treating its arts and entertainment industry is broken. “In other countries where there’s more government attachment to the arts, [it’s] seen as a real career. The notion of do it for the love of it and don’t expect to make any money is perpetuated at every level of the Aus music industry,” he says.

Because artists get minimal payments from streaming sites – Spotify pays an average $0.00437 per stream to a musician, Apple Music pays $0.00783 – “Artists are having to resort to Patreon, Twitch channels and other more direct subscription services to find ways to survive. It’s inconsistent and confusing, and that’s how broken the arts are in Australia.”

So how can music fans ensure their favourite artists are still in the industry when the time comes to enjoy full-capacity gigs and festivals?

“I feel like right now, number one, is to pre-purchase shows that are happening in the future – committing that money is the number one sense of security for an artist if they’re going on tour,” says Alice Ivy. “Secondly, buy merch off their website.” But also, share their music. “Even if it’s just a DM with a story of how that song they wrote was meaningful to you – that kind of stuff is amazing and totally morale boosting.”

Lahey’s letter says “tens of thousands of gigs are cancelled with every month that passes”. If you have unused gig money burning a hole in your pocket, Sydney-based singer MAY-A (Maya Cumming) says you could use it to stock up on your favourite artist’s merchandise.

“If there’s an act you really love, you can support them by buying some of their merch,” she says. “[Or,] sharing Aussie music that you love, and encouraging your mates to do the same. This doesn’t sound like a lot but this kind of support can go a long way.”

If you don’t have the dollars to spare, you have more power than you realise. “Fans have so much more power than you think,” says singer-producer Kučka. “Interact with an artist’s socials, talk to other fans, let the artist know how much their art has impacted your life. Band together to ask your favourite artist what area they need help with right now,” she says.

R’n’B and future soul singer-songwriter Ngaiire agrees. She says, “When there’s the opportunity to be in tune with organisations or people who are actively trying to lobby the government to take care of artists, find out what you can do to support that push to get more government support, not just for artists but industry workers as well.”

Initiatives like I Lost My Gig Australia (ILMG) has been capturing the impact of Covid-19 on the local music industry since March 2020. It estimates $84 million of income has been lost since July 1 2021. It’s tallying the lost work, but it also offers resources such as template letters to send to MPs (aimed at artists). It’s a good place to start if you want to offer your support as a fan. As Novak suggests, “Ask the artists directly.”

“Long term, we need to vote for people who recognise the arts and the over $111 billion it contributes to the economy,” he says. “Petitions won’t do it. Use your vote (and convince others).”

“If you found a band in the last 18 months that really speaks to you, tell everyone about it,” says Lahey. “Let them know people are listening and spread the word. That’s the stuff I think right now is incredibly meaningful and is really, really effective in building audiences for bands and artists who are unable to play in a more [audience]-facing way.”