The Melbourne Live Music Scene Needs Our Help, So Here’s What We Can Do


If you’re from Melbourne, we don’t need to school you on just how much live music means to us in this state. I mean, it’s everything.

When I first moved to Melbourne, I had no idea of the underground arts culture that existed here, with countless small, independently run venues that host events almost every night of the week. Things like poetry open mic nights, band residencies, public Latin dance classes and live music events are always happening somewhere in Melbourne, you’ve just got to be paying attention.

This culture is really what makes Melbourne, the creative and cultural hub that it is. It’s what drags us out of our houses every night, it’s what keeps us curious and inspired and adventurous.

Melbourne has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. The 700 music venues across Victoria host approximately 100,000 gigs a year, with an estimated economic impact of $1.42 billion generated from live music, clubs and festivals. Melbourne’s live music venues have an audience of 112,000 every Saturday night — more than an AFL grand final. 

But unfortunately, live music venues across Melbourne haven’t been catered for in the Victorian Government’s roadmap to re-opening post-lockdowns.

We’re set to emerge from our sixth lockdown in Melbourne at midnight tonight. Safe to say, it’s beyond exciting. But although the excitement is real, there will still be so many things that aren’t the same… one huge one, being live music venues. And they need our help.

Basically, the Victorian Government have lumped all Melbourne live music venues in with other large venues, like theatres and concert halls, without any consideration for the diverse ways that each venue operates.

In simple terms, the roadmap for entertainment venues is as follows: from this Friday, October 22, outdoor entertainment venues will be able to host a maximum of 50 fully vaccinated people.

Under the next step, due early November, indoor venues can host up to 150 people, subject to a one-person-per-four-square-metre density limit. This would leave most smaller venues in Melbourne’s suburbs at not even a third full.

Beyond these two steps, there are no set indications of when or how the rules will change, leaving many venue owners unsure of their future. After an already shitty two years for the live music scene, this is a pretty devastating reality for everyone, tbh.

“It’s based off an assumption, which comes from not understanding the industry,” says Sasha Janssen, owner and manager of Whole Lotta Love, a beloved small-scale venue in East Brunswick.

“There are so many different ways we can operate our businesses, every venue is different and the roadmaps simple don’t describe live music venues in the dynamic way in which they operate.

“It shows an overall lack of understanding of our industry, which is really disheartening.”

Sasha says that it’s tough to describe the emotions she’s been through in the past 19 months.

“It’s been like a full grieving process. I’ve felt denial, anger, acceptance, helplessness… all of it.” She tells Thrillist AU.


“Live music huge part of our night-time culture here in Melbourne, but it’s also a huge factor for everyone’s mental health, all musicians, venue owners and loves of live music. We honestly feel left out and forgotten about.”

But Melbourne being Melbourne, and the music scene and artistic communities of Melbourne being the tight-knit, inspiring crew that they are, have rallied together to help save the live music industry and get the answers they deserve.

Starting up back in May of 2020, Save Our Scene (SOS) is a venue run initiative, calling on support for the Victorian live music scene. It sees venues band together, to put an open letter out to the Victorian Government and reach out to us for support of their requests.

Basically, they just want live music to come back ASAP and so do we. So listen up, on how you can help.

Save Our Scene have written an open letter to the Vic government on what needs to happen for venues to re-open. They’re asking for:

  1. A staged roadmap to reopening music venues at 100% capacity
  2. Ongoing, scaled financial support for music venues until we return to 100% capacity
  3. Ongoing, scaled financial support for music industry businesses and professionals until we return to 100% capacity
  4. Direct consultation with music venues in planning for the recovery of the sector

If you agree with these requests, they have a petition that you can sign here.

You can also send an email of support to your Vic government representatives on the matter here.

You can buy merch, which not only helps to financially support venues across Australia but also gets the word out about the initiative here.

You can follow them on Instagram and spread the word online here.

This help is necessary and needs to happen right away if we want our live music scene in Melbourne to recover from what has been a truly gruelling few years.

Many bookers, managers and owners of venues, like Sasha, are not able to book any upcoming gigs, due to the uncertainty of future restrictions.

“I haven’t even looked at booking bands again,” Sasha says.

“Scheduling, rescheduling, cancelling… it’s all just too much to do that again, not just on a financial and business level, but it’s also taken such a toll on my mental health.

“I’m not going to press the button and start again until I know exactly what I can and can’t do. I don’t want to put anyone through having to cancel a show again.”

Not only is it a logistical nightmare, but the actual industry itself is losing talented people, due to the negative impact on people’s mental health and their constant unemployment.

“We need a roadmap that gives us 100% clarity and we need ongoing financial assistance. There are so many people that go into putting a show together; sound and lighting engineers, talent, bar staff… there’s so much to take into consideration.

“We just need to be recognised.”

“Music is an international thing, it impacts you and we all need it. We as a society, can’t afford to lose seeing live music, it’s such a huge part of mental well-being and creativity.”

It goes without saying that we all need to join forces and help Save Our Scene to get the government support they need.

You can assist in any of the ways above, by visiting their website here.

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