Touring aussie artists turn to tech

The arts and entertainment industry was one of the first to be affected when the pandemic hit. Many artists and performers lost their income overnight.

For The Wiggles, Circa Contemporary Circus and Sounds Australia, travel restrictions meant no live performances and an uncertain future. So these organisations and performers got creative, harnessing technology to continue sharing Australian art and culture with the world.

Turning problems into opportunities

Live performances have been at the heart of The Wiggles’ success for 30 years. In a normal year, the iconic children’s entertainers are on tour for up to nine months a year, entertaining around 400,000 people through 400 shows. These shows earn about 80% of the organisation’s annual income.

But all that changed when the pandemic hit. So the team behind The Wiggles looked for new ways to connect with audiences.

“As an independent production house, with our own recording facilities (Hot Potato Studio), we took the opportunity to get back into the studio and create new content, series, specials and albums that could be broadcast or streamed across various platforms,” says Red Wiggle Simon Pryce. “Our ability to quickly review the business and refocus on pillars other than touring has been ultimately positive. It has identified holes within the business, facets that needed attention, and opportunities that would not normally be pursued.”

Melbourne, Australia- July 31: Players of Australia pose for a team photo prior to the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group B match between Canada and Australia at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on July 31, 2023 in Melbourne / Naarm, Australia. (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Reframing obstacles as adventures

Circa Contemporary Circus took a similar approach, switching the focus from problem to solution. Circa is a global leader in contemporary circus and physical theatre. The Brisbane-based company has toured to 40 countries and performed to more than 1.5 million people over the past 16 years. 

Circa lost revenue and future tour bookings due to travel restrictions. But instead of going into hibernation, Circa went digital. In 2020, the team launched an exciting new show in Austria by conducting auditions, development and rehearsals via web conferencing from Brisbane direct to Graz in Austria.

“Circa’s response to the COVID-19 restrictions has been to work with new and shifting parameters and continually explore the art of the possible,” says Shaun Comerford, Executive Director. “The COVID world is about adaptability.”

The power of partnership

For Circa, collaboration has also been critical to success during this tough time. Its new production – a unique art installation and performance series that worked within health regulations – was a result of a partnership with Queensland-based Urban Art Projects and Austria’s Graz Opera House.

“Our focus on partnerships and deep collaboration has meant that when many other arts companies were in hibernation and highly risk averse, Circa was able to stay operational, maintain contact with our global markets and keep our staff employed and working,” says Shaun.

“Our advice to Australian businesses is to develop and maintain key partnerships to support and pivot your business.”

Collaboration over competition

Collaboration was also at the core of Sounds Australia’s response to the pandemic. Sounds Australia is a government–industry partnership that promotes Australian musicians globally and helps musicians to export their talents.

Unable to hold its showcase events that expose Aussie musicians to global decision-makers and influencers, Sounds Australia turned to social media.

The organisation spearheaded the creation of Global Music Match. This is a world-first collaborative project involving 13 other export organisations worldwide. It uses social media and peer-to-peer collaboration to grow networks, audiences and exposure for export-ready artists.

“Digital platforms can help you effectively export without having to travel,” says Dom Alessio, Digital Export Producer.

The project increased artists’ followings, gave them new skills in social media marketing, and opened them up to new markets.

“While one could look at these organisations we worked with as competitors, this program would not have been as successful and rewarding if we had not all worked together for a common goal,” says Millie Millgate, Executive Producer.

Keeping arts and entertainment alive

In the midst of a global pandemic, these three arts and entertainment organisations unleashed fresh creativity and new ways of entertaining audiences by:

  • harnessing technology
  • reframing challenges as opportunities
  • working collaboratively with other organisations

For The Wiggles, it’s meant that their 30th year in business may just be one of their best.

“This year The Wiggles will be busier than ever before,” says Simon. “Live show performances, in a COVID-safe environment, will take place. However, we will now have a greater balance within the business. 2021 will be a huge year for The Wiggles – a year-long celebration of 30 years of achievements.”

Related stories