While TMN yesterday reported on the first Newcastle Live Music Roundtable setting up a taskforce to protect the city’s live music venues from urban development, another initiative has also been discussed in recent times.

The Newcastle Tourism Industry Group (NTIG) is interested in a broader initiative to see Newcastle as a music destination.

The idea is spearheaded by Michael Starkey, the owner of The Stag and Hunter venue in Mayfield.

Starkey’s big picture is that Newcastle can be seen as a city like Nashville, Austin and New Orleans where musicians can play, record and study, and where music tourists and investors will follow into Newcastle.

It would mean Newcastle promoting itself as a place where music and the arts thrive, but one where its young talent is developed and nurtured.

“It’s still very early days, and it will be a slow burn” Sharkey tells TMN.

“This will require a long term plan and strategy, as well as co-operation from government on all levels.

“But it is viable, because the infrastructure is already here.

“We have the talent, we have the venues and we have the recording studios. It’s a small scene but it could be a strong one.

“The ultimate aim is for the musicians and artists to be recognised around Australia and the world, where they are recognised what they have, and that young talent will have start up opportunities and can develop sustainable careers.

“We need to get away from the negative media that the city has that it’s a rough bloodbath, and promote the city as a creative place – and that should come from the moment that visitors arrive at the airport.”

Starkey points out to TMN that Newcastle’s nightlife is valued at $1.4 billion – second only to the coal industry.

The national Australian National Night Time Economy 2009—14 study reported that in this period, Newcastle’s grew by 18.4%, which was exceeded only by the growth in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne’s Port Phillip.

The Newcastle Tourism Industry Group (NTIG) has thrown its support behind the vision.

Its general manager Gus Maher states, “Tourism and the Visitor Economy comes in many different guises, and this is a perfect example of the diversity that Newcastle as a city can create.

“Both young and more mature travellers participate in the arts, which live music typifies.

“They will stay overnight, eat drink and spend in local venues – all of which contributes to local economic development and jobs.”

“Michael and many others like him in Newcastle have this passion, and we see it as our role to assist in harnessing this energy and attracting increased greater visitation into Newcastle.”

The next step is to set up a working committee that will include the music industry, the nightlife sector, businesses and government.

“To start off with, we want to work with Newcastle Council to ensure that they understand what we are trying to achieve.”

The Council’s After Dark report from 2015 looked at encouraging entertainment as music, poetry, theatre and street art in venues as late night cafes and bookstores where alcohol is not an option.

It looked at more integration of public transport timetables with venue closures, more small bars, and encouraging day traders to keep their businesses open until 7pm.

Other ideas include workshops for night time small businesses, and more pop up events and activities.

Starkey also wants to work closely with the taskforce that emerged from the Live Music Roundtable, at which he was also a participant.