News November 13, 2017

City of Sydney takes further action to bolster live music scene

Peter Tuskan
Charts & New Music Editor

Live music and performance venues in Sydney will receive grant funding and streamlined planning services under the City’s Live Music and Performance Action Plan adopted in 2014.  

The measures will encourage more venues to host performances, while giving locals more options for a night out. The new initiatives will be presented to the Council later this year for consideration. 

The grant funding programs are primarily intended for new and existing live music and performance venues, live music programming, night time venue safety initiatives and other related projects.

Expert planners and professionals will also be available to venues to streamline the planning process of introducing or increasing their live music output.   

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore emphasised her commitment to the Action Plan and helping local artists thrive in challenging times.

“Live music is hugely important to Sydney, with recent research commissioned by the City identifying its value to the community at $353 million during last year alone,” she said.

“We’re using every lever at our disposal to encourage more live music and performance, reduce unnecessary red tape and advocate for the regulatory reform needed for a strong and successful live music and performance sector.”

The Mayor added: “We’re committed to supporting this important sector by working directly with venues and industry organisations, and delivering on the commitments we made in our Live Music and Performance Action Plan.”

In light of recent noise-related incidents around prominent Sydney venues, the City is encouraging more conversation between representatives from the industry and the local community.  

It will develop and release an open discussion paper as a forum to provide feedback on proposed changes to venue planning controls, as well as exploring new ways in which Sydney manages noise complaints.

Just last week, The Opera House was served a $15,000 fine by the NSW Planning & Environment Department over one of English band Florence & The Machine’s four forecourt performances in November 2015.

Residents at the nearby “Toaster” building in Circular Quay issued complaints about the “excessive” noise, despite the venue gaining approval for a DA to raise its sound levels by five decibels.   

Hideaway Bar in Enmore faced a similar situation when a noise complaint was issued concerning the venue’s activity at 7:00pm on Saturday January 28. Since then, Hideaway has set up a GoFundMe initiative to cover the costs of installing an airtight soundproof door to avoid further complaints and increase compliance. The fund has already exceeded its goal of $5000. 

And in January, the Harold Park Hotel, also in Sydney’s inner west, had its regular Sunday afternoon live sets shut down after a single noise complaint from a new neighbour. While the sessions were technically flouting council rules, as the venue did not have permission to stage outdoor performances, it was the first and only noise complaint in the five years since the largely acoustic sessions had begun. Concerned community members saw the incident as the latest in a years-long pattern of newcomers moving to vibrant inner-city areas only to put pressure on existing venues.

While Sydney has felt the brunt of increased regulation around late-night safety in the past, a number of industry reps have weighed in positively on the proposed new measures. They cite the increasing endorsement and support from City’s decision makers as key factors that are affecting the resurgence of live entertainment.

Kerri Glasscock, Sydney practitioner and Festival Director and CEO of the Sydney Fringe Festival, said, “[I]n spite of the tough conditions faced by Sydney’s cultural community, there remains a vibrant, talented and exciting scene that stands strong, who are looking forward to feeling the pressure ease with a number of the projects the City of Sydney has been working on.”

Managing Director of MusicNSW, Emily Collins, shared a similar stance: “MusicNSW is leading the establishment of an industry-led Chamber of Commerce for music businesses in Sydney and we’ll be launching this project soon. The City of Sydney’s support has been instrumental in this process.”

So far, the Live Music and Performance Action Plan has implemented 29 actions, investing $2.77 million in small grants directly to live music and performance projects. 20 more initiatives are currently in progress.

 The Music Network and City of Sydney have partnered on a series of interviews and essays discussing the future of Sydney music and the industry that supports it.

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