Protecting Live Music - MusicNSW

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Current News

On Friday October 22 in a joint announcement between Planning Minister Kristina Keneally and Virginia Judge, the Minister assisting the Premier on the Arts, the NSW State government revealed changes to legislation that would enable and encourage live music across every hospitality venue in NSW, coming into effect on Monday October 26.

The changes mean that the Places Of Public Entertainment (POPE) licence is completely and absolutely irrelevant for venues. So much so that it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter what size, capacity or licence a venue holds – live music is now part of normal activities for pubs, clubs, cafés, restaurants – any premises within the hospitality industry is now a live music venue.

The new system, means that live music is pitched on the same level as any other entertainment and has the opportunity to thrive in pockets of NSW its never even had a stage in. This is still relevant for venues who host live music under a POPE as they no longer need pay the licence, taking away that little bit more red tape and making live music more accessible to publicans, restaurateurs, club managers and barristers.

There are still issues effecting live music that need our attention, but the potential that this deregulation opens up is exciting and signals a cultural shift and institutionalised recognition of the value of music in NSW. This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in music in NSW and these opportunities have been made possible thanks to the tireless work of staff from the Department of Planning, Arts NSW and Liquor Gaming and Racing.  It is now up to venues, the artists and the music community to realise the potential.

The new system, in operation from 26 October 2009, will work like this:

  • Place of Public Entertainment (POPE) licences are no longer needed – venues can have live entertainment as part of their main business without the need for separate approval
  • Entertainment is now defined as part of normal activities at pubs, restaurants and clubs during the week and on weekends.
  • For new venues, live entertainment matters will be considered as part of the development application
  • There will be a range of measures to protect neighbourhood amenity, which are administered by the police, councils and the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.


The move to start protecting our live music venues began with an inquiry spearheaded by the Musicians Union.

This report caught the interest of The NSW Ministry for the Arts who in 2001, combined with The Australia Council to commission Prof. Bruce Johnson from University of NSW and Dr. Shane Homan to develop a report, now known as The Vanishing Acts Report 2002.

In 2003 as a response to The Vanishing Acts Report, the NSW Premiers Department established The Vanishing Acts Industry Forum. The industry representatives present at the forums discussed the issues that brought about the decline in the number of live venues and developed what is known as The Issues Paper, published by The Premiers Department in 2005.

The Issues paper outlines Licensing – POPE and Liquor, Planning and Noise Regulations, Support for Live Venues and Education as the main issues that require addressing.

The Premiers Department identified relevant Government agencies to participate in a steering committee created to address these issues.

In April 2006 the Premiers Department appointed Arts NSW as lead agency responsible for convening the steering committee addressing issues raised in the Issues paper (POPE and Liquor, Planning and Noise Regulations, Support for Live Venues and Education as the main issues that require addressing).


May 2008:  With respect to delivering strategies created to address the Issues articulated in the The Premier’s Department’s Issues Paper, significant progress has been made with changes to Legislation removing barriers to live music programming as regulated by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EP&A Act)

The regulation of places of public entertainment (POPES) was transferred to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act from the Local Government Act in October 2007, with Entertainment activities governed by The State Environmental Planning Policy (Temporary Structures and Places of Public Entertainment) 2007 (the POPES SEPP) this policy and the associated provisions in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 relating to public entertainment are currently being reviewed, with an expected public announcement to take place late October 2009.

A comprehensive communication strategy is expected to be launched once this review is completed outlining the new system for regulating entertainment venues. The new system will focus on a risk-based approach that takes into account recently implemented changes to the Liquor Act 2007 and removes over regulation whilst ensuring the continued protection of public safety and community amenity.

February 2008: Places Of Public Entertainment (POPE) Legislation, Gaming machine revenue helping the arts, the Liqour Bill & more

Gaming machine revenue helps the arts

New Community Development Support Expenditure (CDSE) Guidelines

New guidelines were recently issued for the distribution of gaming machine revenue under the Community Development and Support Expenditure scheme (CDSE) which now allow Category 2 expenditure for not-for-profit performing arts and visual arts activities and programs.

The CDSE scheme provides registered clubs with tax rebates (up to 1.5% of gaming machine income) when they spend an equivalent amount on community support and expenditure. The round for the distribution of funds runs from 1 September to 31 August each year. Clubs allocate Category 2 funding and while some clubs set deadlines, most accept and consider Category 2 applications year-round. Applicants should contact the individual clubs for more information.

The relevant section 2.2.5 of the revised guidelines states that: “Category 2 expenditure may be provided for non-profit cultural activities, or non-profit visual and performing art activities and programs”.

More information from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing or Clubs NSW

December 2007: Liquor Bill 2007

On 5 December 2007 new liquor laws were passed by the NSW Parliament. The following aspects of the Liquor Bill 2007 are relevant to the creative industries in NSW:

The objects of the new laws recognise the social and cultural role played by responsible alcohol use. The objects also recognise that the liquor laws should “contribute to the responsible development of related industries such as the live music, entertainment, tourism and hospitality industries”.

There will be a new on-premises liquor licence where the primary product or service is the provision of entertainment to patrons. It will apply to cinemas, theatres and premises where the “primary business or activity is the provision of entertainment to members of the public by a person who is physically present on the premises and is actually providing the entertainment”.

The Director of Liquor and Gaming is required to consider the order of occupancy between the licensed premises and the complainant in dealing with a complaint about undue disturbance of the neighbourhood (i.e. a noise complaint).

Minors will be able to perform in a show or other live entertainment performance held in a hotel or club bar area without committing an offence, so long as the minor is in the company of a responsible adult.

There will be a new special type of hotel licence for bars that do not operate gaming machines or make takeaway sales, with the cost expected to be significantly less than current levels.

Restaurants will be able to serve alcohol without a meal by making a simple application where only a small processing fee will apply. The current Dine-or-Drink Authority will be abolished.

Regulations will be prepared in the first half of 2008 with the commencement of the new laws expected in the second half of 2008. Fees and certain licence conditions will be included in the Regulations and there will be consultation with stakeholders and the community before the regulations are finalised.

For more information including a factsheet on the new laws, visit the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.

October 2007: New Place of Public Entertainment Legislation for NSW

On 26 October 2007 new entertainment laws for NSW commenced, this included the new State Environmental Planning Policy (Temporary Structures and Places of Public Entertainment) 2007.

These new regulations will benefit live music and theatre venues, as well as

cinemas, festivals, community events and country shows.

Read the Ministers media release.

Read the legislation.

For more information contact:

Department of Planning Information Centre

(02) 9228 6333

October 2007: Liquor Legislation

Your members of parliament are currently talking Liquor Legislation and considering the newly created bill. As it stands, this bill opens up the opportunities for the putting on of more live music.

The draft bill seen 12 months ago included the order of occupancy clause, and a positive simplified, cheaper framework for obtaining a licence.

With continued discussions and pressure from many parts of the industry, our State Government has included in this framework the Live Entertainment Licence for venues where the primary purpose of business is the supply of Live Entertainment.

Now is the time to be telling your local members how important Live Music is to you and your local community and the cultural and economic benefits it brings to your area.

Find details of who your local members are here.

Also check out the Raise the Bar site and send a drink to you local MP here.

October 2007: Changes to the regulation of temporary structures & places of publice entertainment

From 26 October 2007, regulation of the erection of temporary structures and the use of buildings or temporary structures as places of public entertainment (POPEs) will be transferred to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) from the Local Government Act 1993 (LG Act).

The legislative changes streamline the approval requirements for these types of development while continuing to provide for public safety. The changes will promote opportunities for live entertainment and make it easier to stage some private functions and community events where temporary structures are to be erected.

View the fact sheet for more details.

June 2007: Issues Paper Update

The two big issues on the table from the Issues Paper are the Liquor bill and the POPE certificates. Significant steps forward have been made with the POPE legislation and progression on the liquor bill is continuing.

Liquor Bill

The NSW Government is currently finalising the proposed liquor law reforms, with the expectation that they will be progressed in the second half of this year. Although this is a proposed timeframe and it has not been approved by Government at this stage we are expecting the bill to go to the spring sitting of parliament.

The Premier has publicly stated that the proposed new liquor laws will include a separate licence suitable for music and entertainment venues. The Liquor Bill is being finalised on that basis. Original expectation were that this was going to be a stand alone licence it is now looking like it will sit as a subcategory of the On Premises Licence.


The transfer from the LGA act to Department of Planning has taken place. This transfer will ensure state wide consistency of the legislation as called for by the industry in the forums held in 2003 and picked up in the Issues Paper.

Department of Planning are currently drafting the State Environmental Planning Policy (Temporary Structure and Place of Public Entertainment) and had the draft open for public exhibition in June. The Policy document specifies rules relating to building codes, fire safety measurers, length of permissions, audience capacities and local amentity issues.

The Positives

The transfer and articulation of these rules means a more streamlined approval process for places wishing to put on live music. The creation of an exempt category that covers the use of ground level of a public hall and use of single tent as part of a community event. The creation of a complying development category, which allows ground floor premises inc. licensened venues with a simpler application process – This will be a tick a box system with a lesser fee. The POPES will now be development consents and will therefore apply to the land and will no longer need to be sought if the land changes hands.

Before these are signed off on we would like to see greater consent periods i.e 5 years would be reasonable. MusicNSW believes building a live music scene requires stability and consistency over extended periods, such stability would allow for audience and program development.

The interpretation of the policies will still fall in the hands of local council compliance officers and therefore work is to be done ensuring that the intent of the policies are articulated and adopted by compliance officers and that the cultural value of live music is acknowledged at the Local Government level.

June 2006: Protecting Live Issues Update

ArtsNSW has been assigned by The Premier to lead the Government Agency Steering Committee addressing the issues raised in the Issues Paper – see the MusicNSW website if you need background This is a big step forward as it puts the actions back on everyone’s agendas

Issue 1 – Legislation

Liquor Bill Update

As some of us may have realised, The Liquor Bill didn’t make it into the last sitting of Parliament. They are now on their winter break.

The Department of Gaming and Racing however did get rather a few submissions from the Music Industry – Yay to us! and where some of us had issues with the Bill the department is considering, and Ministers have been talking, and a redraft is currently happening.

It will be the redraft that goes to Parliament and at this stage it is expected to go come up in late August.

Following the sign off in cabinet, The DGR will begin developing the regs and Social Impact Assessment requirements, I have been ensured that we will be heavily consulted throughout this process. MusicNSW believes this is where the most impact of the new legislation will be felt.

POPE Update

Department of Planning are waiting to implement the transfer of POPE approvals from Local Government to Department of Planning. Since the legislation was passed for the transfer it has not been a priority for DOP and we therefore have been working on encouraging the planning Minister to identify this as a priority. Ministers have been talking and we are hopeful a step forward will be taken.

Issue 2 Planning and Noise Regs

Noise Guide For Local Gvt

Dep of Planning has released a Noise Guide for Local Government to manage Noise issues. I’m currently sifting through this document (it covers everything from lawnmowers to dogs barking to music) to see in real terms how it effects us. – If anyone cares to log onto the site have a look at it and shoot any comments thru to me I’m happy to hear.

Precincts and Local Government Cultural Plans

There is a big push for precincts similar to The Valley in Brisbane. – It’s very early days and we at MusicNSW want to see this one get up, in addition to working with local Governments to ensure that their cultural plan includes initiatives to promote live music.

Issue 3. Support for Live Venues

Thru investigation by ArtsNSW The Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing has agreed to extend the Community Development and Support Expenditure Scheme to include not for profit arts and cultural activities under category 2. In real terms if you are a musician working in a community based activity the money could possibly support you involvement.

Issue 4. Education and Information

We are talking to Dep of Ed to see if we can get more Aus Music into the curriculum.

2006: Liquor Licence Legislation

A Consultation Draft of the Liquor Bill was drawn up late 2005 and through The Department of Gaming and Racing, stakeholders were able to submit comments on the Bill prior to it being discussed in Parliament.

The Draft Bill

Suggested that the administration of licences move away from the Liquor Board to an administrative structure with decreased costs for licensees.

Re-Structured the framework and types of Liquor Licences which in most cases would have a positive benefit for the Music Industry.

Recommended that The Director consider The Order of Occupancy in managing quiet and Good Order complaints.

In the MusicNSW submission to the Department of Gaming and Racing in addition to supporting the above amendments, we:

  • requested that an appeal process be considered if a licence application was denied.
  • suggested that Night Club Licences be included with On Licence Premises instead of Hotels as their primary function is entertainment not the supply of liquor.
  • proposed that the Social Impact Statement should consider, and give weight to, the cultural and social value of live music
  • requested the inclusion of a cultural justification to extend licences.
  • requested that the regulations developed to consider special event licences considers the scope of the event.
  • proposed that The Order Of Occupancy Clause clause should go further and to articulate what a licensee’s existing rights as a prior occupier are.  In particular, Music NSW proposes that a licensee carrying on a musical activity will, in a decision making process, have his/her/its existing rights upheld.
  • suggested that the clause would be more effective if The Department worked with Local Government on creating Local precincts in their planning processes.
  • suggested that the clause would be more effective if The Department worked with Department of Fair Trading to implement Buyer Beware legislation for purchase of housing around existing Live Music Venues.
  • proposed that The Director considers a venue’s “good reputation” with its local neighbourhood in making decisions.
  • proposed ( this needs to be requested) that we are given the opportunity to comment on content and format of the Social Impact Assessment document during it’s drafting and the drafting of other regulations.

The current Draft Liquor Bill responds to one of the issues raised the The Issues Paper, and is a part of a much larger process and campaign to protect and nurture live music venues in NSW.  MusicNSW plans to continue supporting this bill through the current session and will be starting the next phase of addressing the other issues that were raised in The Issues Paper.

Media Releases

NSW Department of Planning Dec 08 Entertainment in Pubs

Premier Media Release Nov 2007 on _Liquor_Bill

NSW Department of Planning OCT 07 POPE REFORM

Legislation, Papers and Reports

Issues Paper – Live Music Industry in NSW

Vanishing Acts Report

Entertainment Liquor Licence OLGR Fact Sheet

MusicNSW Submissions and External Fact Sheets

MusicNSW Response to State Environmental Planning Policy 2007

MusicNSW Response to Liquor Act