Vaccinations for two outback music festivals as live music navigates its way out of a pandemic

25 August 2021 | 4:28 pm | Mallory Arbour

Earlier this week, organisers of the Birdsville Big Red Bash and Broken Hill Mundi Mundi Bash announced its new ‘no jab, no jive’ vaccination policy in 2022.

While the Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Music Muster, BIGSOUND Festival, Leaps and Bounds and countless artist tours have cancelled their 2021 plans, others are implementing vaccination policies as they look ahead to 2022.

Earlier this week, organisers of the Birdsville Big Red Bash and Broken Hill Mundi Mundi Bash announced its new ‘no jab, no jive’ policy, requiring ticket holders, artists, crew, volunteers and vendors over the age of 16 to be fully vaccinated to attend the events in 2022.

Outback Music Festival Group managing director Greg Donovan said, "This will offer all in attendance the best available protection against COVID-19. It will also ensure that remote communities are protected as much as possible from our patrons travelling through and visiting these towns and communities.”

Although this decision received mostly a positive response, not all punters have welcomed the news. The announcement on the Big Red Bash Facebook page was met with close to 400 angry emojis, representing around 20% of the responses, with many people expressing their outrage, saying they will no longer attend the event and causing heated debate among fans. The Mundi Mundi Facebook post also received a similar response.

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The Mundi Mundi Bash was postponed for a second time earlier this year, and is now scheduled for April 21-23, 2022 with Paul Kelly, Ian Moss, John Williamson, Russell Morris and more to perform. Despite COVID-19 restrictions locking some people out of the state, the 2021 Big Red Bash saw record attendance of around 10,000 people across the three-day event. The festival also set a new World Record for the Largest Nutbush Dance. The 2022 festival is scheduled for July 5-7.

While this vaccination rule is a first for the event industry in Australia, similar policies are being regularly implemented in the United States. Earlier in August, AEG Presents implemented a new mandatory vaccine policy to take effect on October 1, with all of their 48 clubs and theatres required to follow the new guidelines. The policy also applies to all AEG live music events such as Coachella and Firefly. Up until October 1st, attendees are permitted to enter venues with proof of a negative COVID test.

AEG Presents General Counsel Shawn Trell said, “Certain states’ regulations may override our mandate, or a few artists may not want to immediately get on board with the plan, but we know that using our platform to take a strong position on vaccinations can make an impact. The message we want to send is simple and clear: the only way to be as safe as possible is to require everyone to be vaccinated. And we’re confident that others who haven’t been ready to make this full commitment yet will follow our lead.”

Jay Marciano, COO of AEG and Chairman and CEO, AEG Presents added, “Just a few weeks ago, we were optimistic about where our business, and country, were heading. The Delta variant, combined with vaccine hesitancy, is pushing us in the wrong direction again. We realise that some people might look at this as a dramatic step, but it’s the right one. We also are aware that there might be some initial pushback, but I’m confident and hopeful that, at the end of the day, we will be on the right side of history and doing what’s best for artists, fans, and live event workers.”

Days following AEG’s announcement, Live Nation US unveiled a similar policy, requiring all employees and attendees to be vaccinated to enter its venues or offices beginning on October 4th.

After taking to social media to tout the impact of Lollapalooza’s COVID-19 vaccine and negative-test requirements, Live Nation head Michael Rapino said in a statement, “Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of October 4th we will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals everywhere possible in the US.”

Multiple venues in Nashville, Tennessee have implemented COVID-19 vaccine and negative-test requirements for fans, meanwhile, Jason Isbell announced all attendees to his upcoming concerts will be required to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative test prior to entry. The 14th annual ACM Honors, which recognise ACM Awards winners in non-televised categories, along with their ACM Party for a Cause also required proof of full vaccination (with documentation showing at least two weeks post-second dose) or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of venue entry for all attendees.

Despite the push for mandatory vaccinations to allow the music and entertainment industries to return to some degree of normality, artists like Garth Brooks and Florida Georgia Line are instead choosing to cancel their upcoming tours amid fears of the new wave of the COVID-19 virus. Brooks' upcoming dive bar shows will only be open to those fully vaccinated.

Artists are being dragged into the debate which can split opinion and fan bases.

American singer-songwriter and actor, Travis Tritt recently issued an official statement about vaccine discrimination, saying he felt compelled to make it due to mask mandates and other policies.

The statement reads,

I have always been a huge defender of basic human rights and liberty for all. No government, employer, or private entity should ever be allowed to infringe on those rights and liberties. I’m also very much against discrimination of any kind. All forms of discrimination need to be called out and condemned in the strongest terms possible.

For these reasons, let me say that I fully support anyone who is willing to publicly stand against discrimination and the squelching of any specific freedoms and basic human rights around the world. If you agree that any form of discrimination should be condemned and that basic human rights are worth defending, I urge you to stand up with me and let your voices be heard.

The only way these injustices can be defeated is with a unified front against them. Use your voice to stand for what is right and against what is wrong. Long live freedom!

We note, however, that Tritt doesn’t specifically make his own opinion on vaccines known. 

Carrie Underwood also recently came under fire for liking a tweet shared by conservative Matt Walsh, which contains video footage of a Nashville school board meeting, where, during his speech, Walsh argues mask mandates are akin to muzzling children like rabid dogs, calling it a form of child abuse. Note, Underwood herself has not acknowledged the controversy as it has brewed on Twitter.

Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Andrew Swift, Hayley Jensen, Troy Cassar-Daley, Kaitlyn Thomas, Imogen Clark, Maren Morris, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Kelsea Ballerini, Willie Nelson and more country music artists have shown support to get vaccinated.

With Australia in talks to implement vaccine passports that could see greater freedom of movement granted to vaccinated residents such as entry to restaurants, bars, sporting matches and travel, it appears those who choose not to get vaccinated may well be the last to return to live music.

As the world grapples with its COVID-19 response, the music industry is inadvertently on the front line of a debate nobody wanted as artists battle to get back to work.

For more information about the Big Red Bash and Mundi Mundi policy, go here.
For more information on Australia's vaccine rollout, go here.

For more breaking news from CountryTown, check out here.
Image: via Facebook