News November 15, 2021

‘We have damaged our venues so much’: NSW Opposition pushes to revitalise state’s music scene

‘We have damaged our venues so much’: NSW Opposition pushes to revitalise state’s music scene

The NSW Opposition is continuing its public push for more support for the local live music scene.

Last week, the Labor Opposition decried the ‘war on music’ in the state, and said it would seek to redress the issue via the Customer Service Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. 

Its amendments include allowing musicians to use loading zones and expanding late trading provisions for dedicated music venues beyond the City of Sydney. In addition, it wants to change language relating to the Music Festivals Act 2019 about “high risk” music festivals.

The reforms passed the Legislative Council (Upper House) late last week, and will return to the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) this week.

Shadow minister for music and the night time economy, John Graham, said the aim of its live music agenda was to create a state with music at its core, which would have both cultural and economic benefits.

“When we talk about the arts, music is far and away the biggest of any arts sector. It stands a chance of being a major export for New South Wales. There are only three countries that export music: the US, the UK and Sweden. We want Australia and New Zealand to be among those jurisdictions. That is our vision, but it requires turning around the liquor and planning systems that drive change,” he said.

To get to this point, three things need to happen, he said.

The first, he said, is a reversal in the fortunes of the state’s “beaten-down broken-down” venues “which have copped it every which way”.

“After the lockouts and the lockdown, they are really suffering. Now is the chance for them to open up. We want to provide whatever regulatory assistance we can to those heroes of the city and the state, the entrepreneurs who have kept the doors open and the music going. A lot of venues are economically marginal. They largely rely at the moment on gaming or alcohol revenue. We want to create another economic stream for them through entertainment, through music, so that they can keep the doors open and thrive,” he said.

The other pillar is the festival sector, which is larger by comparison because “we have damaged our venues so much”.

He took aim at South Australia which claims to be the “festival hub” of Australia, saying NSW actually offers bigger festivals, despite the hit the state’s live sector has taken.

The third pillar the changes will rely on is positioning Sydney and New South Wales as the place where successful Australian musicians really take off and then export their product to the world.

“The Melbourne music scene is fantastic; the grassroots venues are great. But 65% or 70% of the industry is in New South Wales, often in Sydney. If someone wants to make it big in music, Sydney is where it really happens. This is where they take off. Half of the award‑winning songwriters are here in New South Wales. This is the song‑writing capital of the country. This is where the industry is, and that is a huge advantage as we pursue the overall goal of becoming an exporter of music and putting music at the core of the city or the state,” he said.

The Opposition acknowledged the Live Music Office, APRA AMCOS, Music NSW. the Australian Festivals Association and the City of Sydney for their continued advocacy and work on these issues.

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