Taskforce blueprint is music to the ears

In a first for NSW, an action plan to encourage more live music has just been released. The plan follows an exhaustive investigation into why live music and performance is under increasing pressure in Sydney.

The plan aims to create new opportunities for musicians and performers and overcome obstacles to live music and performance. It tackles issues such as regulatory barriers, the availability of space to rehearse and perform, developing new audiences and providing opportunities for young people to enjoy and play live music.

The Live Music Matters action plan is the work of an 11-member Live Music and Performance Taskforce set up in December 2012 by the City of Sydney to revive Sydney's live music and performance scene.

Taskforce chair and Co-Director of the National Live Music Office, John Wardle, said the plan was the most thorough attempt yet made to resolve issues around live music.

"The work undertaken by this Taskforce is nationally significant," he said.

"A cultural planning policy that addresses both regulation and development of the live music and performance sector has never been undertaken on this level before. Cities plan for infrastructure, transport and the major performing arts, and this report shows how Sydney can plan for live music and local performance."

The work done by the City's Taskforce is at the forefront of regional and national efforts to encourage more live music according to Ianto Ware, the other Co-Director of the National Live Music Office and a member of the City of Sydney's Live Music and Performance Taskforce.

"Our cities are driven by creative people and small businesses, and this is one of the first honest attempts to clear the bureaucratic minefield that's held us back for so long," Dr Ware said.

"It's the first serious attempt to actually fix the labyrinth of red tape affecting music and arts venues."

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said research showed that four times more people across the country watch live music than go to arts festivals or performing arts shows.

"For many years Sydney enjoyed a reputation for extraordinary live performers and bands but this went into decline in the 1990s. Venues started facing pressure for a variety of reasons and several venues replaced band rooms with poker machines, while others simply closed down," the Lord Mayor said.

"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 the reasons I championed the introduction of small bars in Sydney was to encourage more live music venues but as this plan highlights we need to make further changes or live music in Sydney will die.

"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 wanted was more live music venues in Sydney.

"We need to discuss the complex problems highlighted in this plan to revive live music in Sydney while looking after the needs of everyone involved, including local residents."

Some of the recommendations in the Live Music and Performance 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.

The report recommends the City plan for the future of live music and performance by supporting traditional areas for live music and performance and identifying new areas where live music and performance can be encouraged.

The Taskforce includes a range of musicians, academics, a representative from the Australian Hotels Association and an expert from Brisbane City Council who helped develop the Fortitude Valley Harmony Plan for that entertainment precinct.

Sydney City Councillors will discuss the Action Plan at their next Council meeting before it is placed on public exhibition for a period of 60 days.

For Lord Mayor interviews, contact Shehana Teixeira 0418 238 373 or steixeira@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au