Luke Udorovic has fingers in many musical pies – as a co-owner of one of the Melbourne CBD’s largest and longest-running live venues, as an agency manager, and as a promoter of live and dance music festivals under the Lucky banner. Even so, things are getting tough – so tough that he was moved to post a message to the industry support site ilostmygig.net.au on the weekend pleading for help.
“We have lost all of our shows due to the virus and saw a massive downturn in numbers during the fires,” the co-owner of 170 Russell and Billboard wrote.
“We are staring down the barrel of losing everything we have built over the last 15 years. The potential of not only losing my business, but my home is a very real prospect … We def need help.”
The site launched on Saturday afternoon, and reported on Monday that it had received 2000 accounts from artists and venues of lost income totalling $47 million and counting.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Udorovic said summer had been incredibly difficult because of the bushfires.
“We ran a bunch of festivals, both live music and dance music, that ended in the negative. Finally, in March, we came out of the bushfire period and we thought, ‘at last, a bit of fresh air’. But in the last three days alone we’ve lost something like 45 shows. Every hour there’s another act pulling out.”
The cause of this latest wave of grief is, of course, coronavirus. First the international acts didn’t much feel like travelling. Now, since Sunday’s travel bans, they couldn’t even if they wanted to.
It’s not just business for Mr Udorovic, though of course it is that too. The 35-year-old has been working at the venue, which opened in 1965, since he was 18. It used to be his father’s, and he bought the business off him when he retired.
“It’s my entire world,” he says. “A family legacy if you will.”
He will sit down with the building’s owner later this week to try to nut out a deal over rent, though that is just one of the many costs he faces.
For now, it should be just about possible to muddle through with club nights and a restricted capacity of 500 patrons. That’s if the patrons come.
But if that capacity is further restricted – as seems likely under the government’s approach of a “scalable response” to the developing public health crisis – it could be different.
“Then it’s doomsday,” he says. “There’s no revenue, 100-odd staff that will be benched, it would be a very sad time and I don’t know how we will manage that.”
Like many others in the entertainment industry, Mr Udorovic is especially perplexed by what he sees as a lack of clarity around the duration of the 500-person cap, and the possibility of a total shutdown, which makes contingency planning extremely difficult.
“We are completely exposed,” he says. “There’s a lack of clarity about the length of time this is going to take. We may be restricted to 500 for the next fortnight, but then it may be shutdown – and for how long is that going to be?
“I’m not blaming anyone, it’s just the nature of the beast,” he adds. “But if this continues for six months, losing my home is a real prospect. I don’t know anyone who could shut up their business for six months and survive.”