Aussie’s $60k nightmare after JobKeeper
Nancy Hillary is $60,000 in debt and has let all her staff go but with the end of JobKeeper she isn't sure how she is going to keep her struggling entertainment business afloat.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shuttering venues around Australia and slamming borders shut, her company All Things Entertainment was on track for a turnover of $1 million. Now, she is facing bankruptcy.
With tribute bands, rockumentaries and comedians a large part of her business, some of her performers went from earning $150,000 a year to not being able to pay their mortgage and were forced to learn a new trade, she revealed.
The Sydneysider said that as soon as the virus hit Australia, the entertainment industry just "collapsed" buckling her seven-year-old business. She said she was forced to refund the price of hundreds of tickets and essentially cancel a year's worth of bookings, while also losing out on the money she had invested in advertising and in some cases room hire.
"I've been on JobKeeper and it's a third of what I used to earn. It's only just covered my rent and doesn't cover food or electricity and I've had to keep my company alive on that as well," she told news.com.au.
"Then you are not able to shut the company down as it helps you stay alive as you earn JobKeeper so it's this crazy cycle as you have to do 20 hours of work and it's 20 hours of soul destroying work as you are calling people and they can't do anything."
Restrictions eased but barriers still exist
While the NSW government announced dancefloors and other entertainment opening up this week, Ms Hillary said it doesn't mean everything is fixed in an instant.
"You don't just click your fingers and have a concert organised," she explained. "You've got to spend time, money, effort and advertising. The quickest we can turn around a concert for 300 people is eight months. You can't just change restrictions and everyone is back again."
JobKeeper payments hit a peak of 3.6 million employees - subsidising the wages of 29 per cent of the Aussie workforce - but as eligibility rules tightened in the past six months, it has dropped to 1.1 million workers.
Entertainment was one of the high risk sectors identified by the Commonwealth Bank as more likely to suffer from the end of JobKeeper. In December 2020, there were 77,000 people from the arts and recreation industries being paid by the scheme.
Treasury has estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 JobKeeper recipients may lose their jobs, while University of Melbourne Professor Jeff Borland projected numbers of between 125,000 and 250,000. Experts are predicting thousands of businesses could go under too.
For Ms Hillary, another hurdle of getting her business back on track is many of the venues used in the past have shut down or auditoriums have been transformed into pokie machine rooms, she said.
"Then venues have lost so much money in COVID that they can't afford entertainment and a large percentage of older musicians have just retired and given up so that collapses a whole series of shows that I used to promote and then you have venues that can't afford shows anymore," she added.
The Federal Government recently announced funding of $125 million for its RISE program, which provides grants to artists, tour promoters and festivals to help them stage events, which have been largely shut down since March 2020. But Ms Hillary said it won't help her business.
"It doesn't help a tribute band or concert show at a RSL as the grant money is strictly for original acts only, so if you're in a cover band you don't get picked up by government support, which is not helpful," she said.
"In NSW people really like tribute bands and cover bands and for the hotel and RSLs those are the acts that are pulling people in. It just means you are refusing to support a path a large majority of musicians out there use to perform and make a living."
According to Ms Hillary, her business is currently running at 4 per cent of its normal capacity and she couldn't keep on four contractors, describing herself as the "last man standing".
"I'm farming myself out as a telesales operator to other entertainment companies on a retainer just to bring some money into my company as I can't work with no income or shows," she said.
"I had one show and one band and one soloist booking and it got flooded out and I had to refund tickets."
Meanwhile, the bills continue to pile up with everything from insurance to electricity to rent, said Ms Hillary.
The Federal Government announced a loan scheme for small and medium businesses, but Ms Hillary isn't sure it's worth it.
"At the end of day, it's hard to justify to myself that I now need to take a loan and to cover a debt that I didn't create but happened because of circumstances outside of my control," she said.
Originally published as Aussie's $60k nightmare after JobKeeper