By Tatiana Carter
Music courses through Clare Bowditch’s veins just as water flows through a river. Positioned on her raft, flowing gently downstream, she never expected to end up in the rapids.
In March 2020, troubled waters arrived with a call from her manager.
Bowditch says the message was short and devastating: “He said you’ve lost your job… sorry.”
Speaking at a Women in Media event at the National Press Club in Canberra, she described the seismic impact on the live music industry as COVID-19 restrictions shut down the country.
“Eighty-five per cent of our income comes from live music gigs and they’ve all been cancelled because of very necessary restrictions that save lives and we understand that,” she explained.
While she and her family worried about how they would pay their bills, their thoughts went to others.
“When 85 per cent of my income goes, I can’t pay the people who need a job too, people who are driving trucks to support our industry, the people who do our publicity, the community radio stations who need that revenue for their ads, my band you know, about 100 people every time a gig of mine gets cancelled, they lose income,” Bowditch said.
She said the flow-on effect was immeasurable with the industry experiencing a 90 per cent drop in revenue and many workers being forced to leave the industry.
“That is the soil that we grow our industry, so that is devastating to us,” she said.
She believes the first step in healing the music industry is speeding up Australia’s vaccine rollout and getting musicians travelling and performing again.
“When, when, when is this country going to be vaccinated, because until it is, we can’t get our jobs back,” she said.
Bowditch said that would open more venues to greater numbers and allow for international travel, which was also essential for the industry to thrive.
While some venues are now allowed 100 per cent capacity, many others are under tighter restrictions set early in the pandemic.
“We need consistency in those rules and we beg you please, could we relook at that research again?” she said.
In addition to vaccinations, Bowditch wants more conversations about the creative arts and the contributions the industry makes beyond entertainment including in therapies, palliative care, and prison reform.
“It’s a tender conversation and relationship in some ways because we don’t hear our name mentioned in the future of Australian business,” Bowditch said.
“We’re ready, let’s have that conversation.”
Through her work, Bowditch is joining a call for help to get the Australian music industry back on its feet and people back into jobs.
While it’s not the kind of live gig she’s used to doing, it may be one of the most important of her career – working to restore the livelihoods of musicians and artists across Australia.
Women in Media ACT
‘Caroline Jones Women in Media Young Journalist’s Award’: Supported by Women in Media and the National Press Club of Australia.
At a time when Australia’s rural and regional media landscape is under unprecedented pressure, Women in Media ACT and Women in Media Australia are proud to shine a light on outstanding reportage coming from female journalists working across our regions.
This award seeks to foster commitment and passion for journalism among young women practitioners in rural and regional Australia.
Elly Bradfield of ABC Toowoomba was recognised as the 2020 winner at this event.
About Clare Bowditch
Clare Bowditch is a musician, broadcaster, sometimes actor, speaker, entrepreneur, and just recently became a top-10, best-selling author.
Check out her book, a partial memoir entitled Your Own Kind of Girl here.