Law reforms hasten Sydney’s road back as global music city
Law reforms passed through the NSW Legislative Council last week (November 12) has the music industry excited about Sydney’s return to recognition as a global music city.
“There’s definitely a shift in NSW Government and a real optimism in the music community about the future,” MusicNSW managing director Emily Collins tells TMN.
“Sydney already is a world-class music city in that it’s got the right components. It has people who love going out to see live music, incredibly talented artists and performers, and a dedicated and resilient live music industry.
“What’s changed is that the government is recognizing the incredible resources to live out its true possibility as a music city. That’s really exciting.”
APRA AMCOS chief executive Dean Ormston says that unnecessary and complex regulations on live music have long put a rein on the global success of Sydney’s musical talents.
Having worked on these reforms alongside the Live Music Office, he comments, “For decades, regulations in NSW have had a stranglehold on live music and cultural activity.
“The changes will support small businesses, live music and cultural venues to get back up on their feet once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“Crucially, the objective of the liquor act will now include the need to consider employment opportunities for live music, arts and cultural activity.”
John Wardle from the Live Music Office sees an important component of the negotiations.
“The bipartisan support for the changes represents a new and vital collaboration between the government, opposition, cross-bench MPs and industry to once and for all get behind local music and cultural activity that also balance community expectations.
“These monumental changes represent the best opportunity for the NSW government to pursue statewide place-making strategies through the Department of Planning and the 24-hour economy strategy of Treasury and Global NSW.”
The effectiveness of the new landscape comes as a result of coordinated changes to the Liquor Act, Planning Act, Local Government Act, the Building Code as well as emergency COVID-19 placemaking for food, drink and entertainment activation.
Key changes in the Liquor Amendment (24-Hour Economy) Bill 2020, effective December 1, are designed to kickstart the city’s 24-hour economy and ensure they are safe and vibrant.
They remove outdated restrictions, simplify licensing processes, and create new incentives and sanctions that rewards licensed venues that do the right thing with fee discounts.
A streamlined process will enable the creation of small bars and live music and small arts spaces, and low impact live entertainment will be classified as exempt development under planning regulations.
Gone will be 600 restrictions which include telling venues on the kind of bands they can book, how many they can have in the lineup, what instruments they can feature, and even how they face the audience.
Venues can now hang up mirrorballs without being forced to apply for nightclub licenses, while venues in the City of Sydney get an extra half hour of trade, while new zones will also be set up.
These zones, APRA AMCOS’ Ormston explains, will “encourage live music and cultural activity in city centres and regions throughout NSW.
“From the City of Sydney to local governments across metropolitan and regional NSW, councils will be able to unlock the potential of local economic areas.
“All these changes will help support small businesses and drive an economic recovery across the state, and importantly, getting musicians back to work.”
While Melbourne and Adelaide may lay claim to being Australia’s live music capital, MusicNSW’s Collins argues Sydney is “the natural home of live music” in Australia.
She points out the majority of the music industry’s commercial entities are based in the Harbour City, and the city, as a result, plays an integral role in international and East Coast touring.
“There’s a natural gravitation to us as a music city. I’m not into saying that one city is better than the other. Every city has its own flavour.
“I love Melbourne as a music city and I love Sydney as a music city.
“But I don’t think this one-upmanship between cities helps anybody because the Australian music industry needs Melbourne to be thriving and for Sydney to be thriving.
“Each is important to the national ecosystem and we all have a role to play.”