Protesters at the "Don't Kill Live Music Rally" in Hyde Park. Photo: Vanessa Lim

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BY VANESSA LIM

Singers, musicians and music lovers voiced their united outrage towards the NSW state government’s new music festival regulations.

The new regulations that were implemented on 1 March 2018 has left the music community unsure of its future owing to a high-priced fee festivals will have to pay for safety at their events.

An Australian Festivals Association Board Member and Fuzzy events director Adelle Robinson assured the crowd that their safety was the most important consideration for her at music festivals.

Ms Robinson said, “I’ve certainly never run an event without developing a comprehensive safety management plan. Safety is always at the forefront of my mind.

Festivals care about safety

“Festivals care deeply about safety, but what the government is trying to do is not about safety; it’s about trying to control an industry through the Liquor Act.

“I support best practice. In fact, I support raising the bar for best practice, but in NSW, the music festival license is not doing that.”

John Graham, Labor’s recently appointed Shadow Minister for Music, expressed support.

He said, “Tonight’s rally is important because it’s the City of Sydney coming out to say that we don’t want to kill live music. It’s of major importance to the city. It’s important to us and it’s an important part of our community.”

Lead singer David Novak of the local band Polish Club, which performed at the rally, also weighed in on the importance music has for him.

He said, “It’s an issue close to our hearts, and being a Sydney band, we would not have been able to get anywhere near the state we are in right now without the help of venues putting on shows and having small festivals.

“That’s being crippled by the NSW government so it’s kinda a no brainer for us to be involved with this.”

The lack of definition given by the NSW government in the new music festival regulations has worried festival owners concerned about whether they will be deemed fit to hold a festival.

Ben Tillman of the event company Yours and Owls, and the owner of the “Farmer and the Owl” Festival, is unsure of his future in the music industry.

“There’s just so much uncertainty. It completely changes the processes we have to go through. It opens it up for the government to have the legal ability to just have a discretionary model where they can tell us what to do without having any written down policy to back it up.”

“This makes it impossible for us to do our budgets and potentially that means events won’t go ahead because they’re slapped with last-minute extra costs that we won’t be able to afford.”

Mr Graham said, “There is no definition at the moment and that’s a big concern. We’ve seen contradictory evidence such as when the Premier came out and said the Blues Festival is a low-risk festival but NSW Health said it was high or extreme risk. There is no consistency here, no system in place.”

Ms Robinson said, “One of the key messages that came out of the Premier’s expert panel recommendations for improving festivals’ safety was to provide certainty for the music festival industry, and at this they have truly failed.

“My industry has never felt so uncertain. Promoters don’t know how they’ll be classified under the new license and were yet to see a full set of regulations with guidelines despite the fact that it’s supposed to be coming in next week.”

Despite the attempts of the industry and its supporters to reach out to the NSW government to stall the regulation, the government has been unresponsive.

Mr Novak said, “They’re well within their rights to try and make it a safe place. I’m all on board with that, but it requires dialogue. It’s a two-way street and so far throughout this whole situation there has not been dialogue.

One-third of festivals could leave

“You have to reach out to the people involved in these things and who are responsible for the safety of these people because, at the end of the day, it’s not the government that’s responsible, it’s the festival’s venues, but no one’s talking to them.”

Labor’s organisation, “Labor Loves Live Music,” has attempted to resolve the issue, without much success.

Mr Graham said, “When we’ve sat down and talked to industry – and that’s exactly what we have done and the government has not – we’ve been told up to a third of festivals could leave.

“Now that’s a disaster. We’ve already lost hundreds of venues and thousands of jobs. If we lose the festivals as well out of NSW, with them literally fleeing the state, it’s a crisis for the music scene in NSW.”