Live music matters

For many years Sydney enjoyed a reputation for extraordinary live performers and bands but now venues are under increasing pressure. The industry has been hit hard by regulatory and legislative changes that have led to fewer venues for live music

Poker machines and large sports screens in pubs, increased costs and increased competition from other forms of entertainment - have all put pressure on live venues. Many venues have replaced band rooms with poker machines, while others simply closed down.

Now out of 2,200 venues with liquor licenses in Sydney, only 143 of them, just six per cent, have a live music license.

One of my major objectives for supporting small bars - along with John Wardle, chair of our Taskforce as well as co-director of the National Live Music Office - was a renaissance of our live music scene.

Over the past decade, there has also been a dramatic increase in residential living in parts of the city that were traditionally home to live entertainment.

As a council, we need to balance everyone's needs.

Earlier today I released the Live Music and Performance Taskforce action plan. The action plan is the work of an 11-member Taskforce set up by the City in December 2012. They looked into regulatory barriers, the availability of space to rehearse and perform, the development of new audiences and opportunities for young people to enjoy and play live music.

Their recommendations aim to open up for all types of music from string quartets to pub rock. And not just live music, but other types of live performance as well - comedy, cabaret, poetry readings, small scale theatre. That's because many of the issues they face are the same.

The panel has now come back with more than 50 recommendations on how to support Sydney's live music and performance scene. Some of these are actions the City can take right away, and others will need all levels of government to work together.

Some of the recommendations in the action plan include:

  • Simplifying the approval process for low impact live music and performances;
  • Providing financial help for infrastructure and capital costs to encourage new and existing venues to present live music and performance;
  • Using indoor and outdoor City properties as live music and performance venues by improving sound, lighting and seating;
  • Making City-owned community properties available as rehearsal space;
  • Working with neighbouring councils and the NSW Government to establish a new major outdoor event space for the Sydney area;
  • Creating a City of Sydney live music and performance liaison officer;
  • Exploring changes to the liquor freeze for venues that have live music and entertainment as their primary purpose;
  • Setting new sound proofing standards for new residential developments;
  • Amending parking rules so musicians and performers can unload equipment regardless of vehicle type;
  • Meeting the increased demand from young people for live music by increasing the frequency of all ages events;
  • Finding better ways to deal with complaints from neighbours including mediation.

We know people in Sydney want more opportunities to listen to live music and watch live performances. We spoke to thousands of people as part of the development of our late night economy policy and soon to be released cultural policy and one of the main things people said they wanted was more live music venues in Sydney.

Now, we are asking the community what they think of the recommendations made by our panel of experts.

Councillors will discuss the Action Plan at next week's Committee meeting before it is placed on public exhibition. If you think live music matters - please come along and have your say next Monday afternoon.

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