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December 2, 2023

More than a missed gig: cancelled Bluesfest 2021 equivalent to nearly 900 job losses

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Bluesfest Director Peter Noble says data analysis shows this year’s last-minute festival cancelation due to pandemic public health orders cost the Australian economy more than $225 million.

The NSW government ordered festival organisers to cancel Bluesfest 2021 one day before the event was supposed to start on the first of April.

Reuben Lawrence Consulting [RLC] this week released an economic impact report on the cancelation showing losses to the Australian economy of $225.4 million.

Mr Noble said via a medi release he would ‘never believe’ Bluesfest 2021 should have been cancelled ‘due to one positive case of COVID-19 from a non-festival ticket buyer who lives 35 mins drive time away from the event’.

The consultants’ figure was based on indirect losses of $181.2 million in tourism spending plus an estimated 897 full-time equivalent [FTE] job losses totalling $44.2 million.

Bluesfest 2021 income generation valued at $7.2 million

The RLC report said Bluesfest 2021 still managed to deliver a national economic output of $33.8 million as well as income and wages valued at around $7.2 million.

‘We lost so much when Bluesfest was cancelled less than 24 hours out by NSW Public Health Order,’ Mr Noble said, ’our entire industry was traumatised, yet we picked up the pieces, put ourselves back together, paid our bills, including significant payments to the cancelled artists and still delivered major numbers to the economy of NSW in economic output and job creation’.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble OAM.

Bluesfest 2021 Byron jobs breakdown: 33.4

The report showed Bluesfest directly invested $1.2 million in 17 FTE jobs in the financial year ending June 2021, all in the Byron Shire.

The festival was indirectly responsible for the equivalent of 16.4 full-time jobs valued at around $1 million in ‘other industries’ or via increased household consumption in the shire.

More than twenty full-time equivalent jobs reported in the Byron Shire were in the ‘arts and recreation services’ while ‘rental, hiring and real estate services’ accounted for the next highest proportion of more than three jobs.

Other local work was sourced in seventeen industries ranging from retail to accommodation, media and admin.

Bluesfest 2021 creates ‘scores of jobs’, says director

Consultants advised caution when interpreting consumption impacts, saying they were ‘generally expected to overestimate the actual impact’, but went on to say Bluesfest 2021’s total income expenditure accounted for the equivalent of another 70 full-time jobs outside the Byron Shire valued at more than $5 million.

More than 51 of those estimated jobs were created in NSW, the report said, including 20.2 in the broader Northern Rivers region, although consultants noted a ‘short-term response to increased demand might be for employers to ask existing staff to work overtime’.

‘This short-term scenario is particularly true where the demand stimulus is seen as temporary’, the consultants said.

All up, the report showed Bluesfest 2021 contributed more than $2.1 million towards incomes in the Byron Shire, $1.1 million towards incomes elsewhere on the Northern Rivers, another $2.5 million towards incomes outside the region but still within NSW and an extra $1.5 million on incomes outside the state.

‘You may cancel us – but you cannot stop us from bringing millions of dollars into NSW and creating scores of jobs!’ Mr Noble wrote in his media release.

Back in 2019 when there were 1,550 Bluesfest jobs boasted

Melody Angel at Bluesfest 2019. Photo Tree Faerie.

The consultants compared this year’s estimated Bluesfest income contributions to those reported in 2019, pre-pandemic, when the festival was allowed to happen.

Event organisers two years ago sold more than 37,000 tickets, more than in 2018 but fewer than the 40,000 plus tickets sold in 2016 when Brian Wilson, Tom Jones, Melissa Etheridge, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Kendrick Lamar and UB40 headlined among other big names.

Tom Jones headlined at Bluesfest 2016

Bluesfest 2019 led to the creation of more than 1,550 full-time equivalent jobs, the earlier RLC report said, 921 of them on the Northern Rivers.

The festival was subsequently cancelled two years in a row culminating in missed tourism income for nearly 900 FTE jobs in 2021, 259 of them in the Byron Shire.

More than $25 million in lost Byron Shire GRP

Consultants said more than 28,000 bought tickets to the all-Aussie Bluesfest 2021, and valued lost Gross Regional Product [GRP] to the shire from the missing boost to the tourism sector at more than $25 million.

GRP was defined as ‘the addition of consumption, investment and government expenditure, plus exports of goods and services, minus imports of goods and services for a region’.

‘The GRP impacts are the preferred measure for the assessment and contribution of a stimulus to the economy,’ RLC said.

Bluesfest director keen to ‘move on’ after $10 million investment

Mr Noble said hundreds of workers were already on a ‘fully operational’ festival site and 500 campers had checked in when the NSW government cancelled Bluesfest 2021.

‘We move on,’ the festival director said, ‘because we believe our industry, the live music industry, will come back stronger than ever’.

The latest Bluesfest economic impacts report said Bluesfest Group spent about $10.2 million in the financial year ending June 2021, including $3.3 million in the Byron Shire, with figures inclusive of artist tours affiliated with but not directly costed into the festival budget.









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  1. WELL !….what a great story,
    Somebody took the lives of festival goers and local communities to be more important than massive profits for Peter Noble.
    It was a success even if it only saved one life and no harm was done.
    Sure music festivals are entertaining, but totally inappropriate and optional in the foreseeable future.
    Cheers G”)

  2. Yep, not one case of covid walked through the gates and was able to spread this virus to all corners of the country. Peter, were you certain than not one of your ticket holders, coming from who knows where, were carrying the virus?
    Honestly, I seriously feel for the artists, staff, traders amd everyone this thing is affecting, but if I hear one more %*^*&^ say something along the lines of “these health experts have no idea, theres no cases nearby”, I’ll gladly stuff my used mask down their throat!


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