27th March, 2013

Leichhardt Council Unanimously Votes for Live Music & Cultural Precinct Investigation

Leichhardt Council have unanimously voted for an investigation to go ahead for the proposed Live Music & Cultural Precinct on Parramatta Road. The vote was held during a public council meeting at Leichhardt Town Hall, which was attended by many prominent music industry representatives and stakeholders. The proposal for the Precinct was initiated by Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne after the news of the financial issues faced by The Annandale, one of Sydney’s most iconic live music venues. Byrne’s proposal is that the stretch of Parramatta Road between Sydney Uni and Taverners Hill will be transformed into a late night cultural point built around live music, comedy and small bars. MusicNSW Executive Officer Kirsty Brown was also in attendance, representing NSW artists and broader industry. See below for a copy of her speech made at the council meeting last night. Please feel free to share your own thoughts on the proposed Live Music & Cultural Precinct with us on Twitter!

“Hi All,

My name is Kirsty Brown. I am the executive officer of MusicNSW, and we are the peak body for contemporary music in the state – our role is to ensure the creative and economic sustainability of the music industry. We do this in several ways, and today we are here to support and advocate for Mayor Darcy Byrne and Council to implement both the Good Neighbour Policy and the creation of Sydney’s first Live Music and Cultural precinct on Parramatta Rd.

Many of you here will already appreciate the value and contribution that live music adds to Sydney’s cultural fabric.

Just yesterday, the City of Sydney released figures that demonstrate that 1.1 million Sydneysiders got out to see contemporary live music last year– that’s nearly a quarter of our city’s population, and double the amount of people who experienced classical forms of music performance. Additionally, we know that the live music economy in this country is worth $1.2 billion dollars annually. This week, the city of Melbourne – a city which does live music better than most – released a study demonstrating that on a typical Saturday night nearly 5,000 musicians and industry professionals are employed by live music events, and that more people attend music gigs annually than the AFL. And yet here we are, arguing about the relevance and place of live music venues in our cities and suburbs.

At some point in Sydney’s past, culture and entertainment has been sidelined – we have forgotten about the importance of hearing our own songs, sung in our own accents.

In doing so, and as a result of outdated and overzealous legislation, catastrophically expensive legal action and prohibitive compliance issues, we are pushing Sydney’s music venues out of operation.

The Annandale, one of our most iconic venues, is but one example of this, the closures of dozens more paint a picture of a live music scene in crisis. Let’s be clear – these venue closures are not a failing of their business model in a free market, but a direct effect of the unfair and overregulated compliance points they are subjected to.

Councils, such as Leichhardt here before me, have prosecuted their own cultural institutions in stark contrast to the facts that were at hand, and even against sentiments within your own Community and Cultural policy document, which identifies that nearly 27% of citizens in this LGA participate in the arts, music and drama category.

We strongly believe that the establishment of a live music and cultural precinct is an opportunity for Leichhardt Council. Not only are the economic, employment and cultural benefits of creating such a zone obvious, but it provides an opportunity to get live music right – and to avoid those lingering issues I mentioned earlier.

Voting to support the Good Neighbour Policy is the first step to doing this, as it removes many of the barriers upfront.

Secondly, this is a lovely neighborhood and I’m sure you want it to stay that way. It is important to acknowledge the falsity that there is a link between alcohol related violence and live music. There is no link – we are not to confuse correlation with causation, simply because live music venues are often zoned in Entertainment precincts where alcohol related issues are obvious and prevalent. Parramatta Rd does not need to become Kings Cross if we do this right.

Again, the creation of a cultural and live music precinct on Parramatta Road is a chance for this Council and its residents to create opportunities in a way that works for residents, music punters and venues.

In conclusion, MusicNSW believes that:

  • Council acknowledges the cultural significance of contemporary live music as a valid art form within this LGA.
  • Councils must adjust their policy on prosecuting venues, while taking steps to ensure the process around noise-complaints is fair and equitable to both residents and the venue itself, without being outrageously cost-prohibitive.
  • Developers should have the burden of responsibility to protect new buildings from sound, as they are the agent of change.
  • Council should advocate and find ways to support small, independent venues above the creation of beer-barns.
  • Council should advocate for venues where under 18s can both perform and attend safely
  • Council must recognise that longstanding venues such as the Annandale have cultural significance and should be protected from of overzealous legislation resulting in costly legal battles.

See below for relevant links:

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/parramatta-road-revamp-passes-first-audition-20130327-2gtda.html
http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2013/03/27/council-agrees-to-sydney-live-music-precinct-darcy-bryne/
http://polaroidsofandroids.com/news/leichhardt-council-unanimously-votes-for-investiga/7131.html
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-27/parramatta-road-to-become-rock-n-roll-central/4596694