Live music task force to meet this Friday - MusicNSW

Last October, Sydney Lord Major Clover Moore called for a task force of musical experts to come together in order to research the current state of  Sydney’s live music scene.

This was in an attempt to understand what the Government can do to help artists, venue owners, bookers and those involved in the Sydney music industry.

This Friday the task force will meet! MusicNSW will keep you posted on any updates from the live music task force, so watch this space.

See below for a full transcript by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore from the original proposal from October 15, 2012.

Live music is a vital part of the cultural life of Sydney. Its influence is timeless and its importance to successive generations in Sydney is indisputable. The economic and employment benefits of the live music scene are substantial – a 2011 Ernst & Young report estimated its contribution to the Australian economy at $1.21 billion, with NSW as the largest contributor (32 per cent) and representing the highest level of industry employment.

The report also validates the importance of live music to our community; it is still our community’s most popular live performance activity – boasting nearly 48 million attendances across the country in the 2009/10 financial year, four times more than the contribution of Australia’s major performing arts companies and major arts festivals.

Addressing a 2010 Save Live Australian Music rally, Australian musician Paul Kelly spoke about the value to him of small venues, many of which have since closed: “You don’t learn how to write a song in school. You can’t do a TAFE course on how to play in front of an audience. These places were my universities…. Some of these places are gone but their legacy lives on in the venues under threat today.”

Despite its enduring value, the venues that promote and support live music and small to medium scale live performance face challenges resulting from the combined impact of legislative and regulatory changes, including the introduction of poker machines and large sports screens into pubs in the early 1990s, increased costs, changing tastes, increased competition from other forms of entertainment and changed demographics.

Pubs have converted performance spaces into gaming rooms or restaurants, while others committed to live music have been caught up in disputes often involving lengthy and expensive litigation. The cost of renovating venues so they can continue to provide live entertainment has also been prohibitive for some venues. Many of Sydney’s remaining live venues only operate intermittently. Increasingly, venues are being established in not-for profit venues, such as bowling clubs or in performer established initiatives such as 505 in Surry Hills or the Red Rattler in Marrickville. Not all are in the City of Sydney area.

The dramatic increase of residential living in many areas that have traditionally been home to live entertainment venues has presented governments at all levels with the challenge of balancing different interests.

Community consultation for the City’s late night economic strategy, along with early feedback on our first cultural policy, demonstrate that regulatory reform is sorely needed.

To encourage the growth of live music and performance in Sydney, I propose that the City bring together relevant experts in a Taskforce to advise Council on what action is needed to bolster Sydney’s live music and live performance scene. As part of its work, the Taskforce should consider initiatives that include helping venue operators negotiate the approvals process and manage impacts of noise on surrounding areas; reducing red tape to enable under-used and unconventional spaces to be used for live performance events and rehearsal spaces; and supporting entrepreneurs, performers, musicians and theatre groups with the logistics of staging live events.

The Taskforce should also examine actions taken elsewhere. Brisbane City Council has developed a range of protections for Fortitude Valley, an incubator of its live music scene as well as sophisticated web-based tools which allow visitors and prospective residents to better understand and experience the noise levels of various streets in the area before they commit to purchasing or renting.

In Western Australia, the Government has developed tools to help residents and venues manage disputes over noise. Its Sound Attenuation Support Program offers matching grants to assist live music venues improve sound management.

The Taskforce’s recommendations will become the basis of a draft Live Music and Live Performance Action Plan that identifies short, medium and long-term actions for Council to consider.

Many of the challenges to developing, supporting, encouraging and maintaining our seedbeds of culture are common to inner urban areas and meeting several of these challenges requires action by the State or Federal Government. The Action Plan should look at opportunities for the City to co-ordinate and co-operate with other levels of government and advocate for reform at the national level through the Council of Capital Lord Mayors.

The City has helped transform Sydney’s cultural life in the last few years with the emergence of small bars, many of which could be suitable venues not only for the whole gamut of live music, but cabaret, comedy, theatre, literary evenings and fiery debates.

I am confident that with the same level of focused energy and a committed partnership with our community’s live music and live performance providers that we can help bolster live music and live performance in Sydney.


It is resolved that Council request the Chief Executive Officer to:

(A) establish a Taskforce of experts on the issues facing live music and small to medium scale live performance in Sydney to inform the City of priority actions and best practice models of support;

(B) develop a draft Live Music and Live Performance Action Plan, including short, medium and long-term actions that address current barriers for live music and live performance providers and propose programs and policies that support the sustainability and vibrancy of this sector; and

(C) present the draft Live Music and Live Performance Action Plan to Council for its consideration.”