by Sarah McLenaghan
The recommendations from the parliamentary inquiry into the music and arts economy in NSW promises a revival of the struggling sector.
Since the release of the inquiry’s final report, NSW Labor has committed to implementing a number of its key findings.
Keep Sydney Open coordinator, Tyson Koh, was among industry representatives who presented their findings to the inquiry. He said: “It was shocking to hear just how hostile the government bodies and the police are towards live music and entertainment.
“We’re talking bans on specific genres of music and dancing, to the Kafkaesque process venues must endure to deal with sound complaints.”
The Hon. Paul Green MLC, who serves as the Chair of the Committee, also emphasised the strain that Sydney’s entertainment establishments have suffered in recent years: “A lot of our old establishments are shutting down because they’ve got new built-up environments.
“You get residents that may be complaining about noise, yet those old establishments have been there forever and a day and suddenly they‘ve been forced to install noise attenuation processes which is quite expensive, to the point where they virtually have to shut down.”
However, noise complaints were not the only issue these venues face: “Local councils and permits and even development applications have gone a long way to pretty well choking a thriving night time economy because of some of the conditions on consent that they’ve put on a lot of these entertainment venues.”
The committee acknowledged these issues, calculating that a total of 669 licensed venues in NSW restrict or ban live music and entertainment.
In response, the committee recommended that the NSW Government remove “outdated conditions” that “unnecessarily restrict music in venues”.
It also recommended amending liquor legislation that placed “unnecessary restrictions” on venues, such as prohibiting music genres or specific musical instruments.
Newly appointed shadow minister for the arts and night-time economy, John Graham, revealed at a press conference in Marrickville that Labor will scrap these restrictions with a single piece of legislation.
Speaking to the Music Network, Mr Graham said: “We’ve lost hundreds of venues, thousands of jobs, with musicians and hospital workers out of work.
“This is a plan to turn that around.”
According to Mr Green, the main thing that came out of the inquiry was that NSW needs a Minister for Music: “We have a minister for arts and culture but we think that there’s enough reason to put in a minister for music to be focused particularly on music and music activities and the entertainment industry.”
The inquiry also developed a “plethora” of recommendations regarding funding.
“There’s a lot of funding flicking around but we can’t be sure that it’s getting to the right programs,” Mr Green explained.
“So we basically asked in quite a lot of the recommendations that NSW, through CreateNSW, fund music in NSW to develop and implement, in conjunction with the music industry stakeholders and destination NSW, campaigns that encourage people to attend music and live gigs.”
These recommendations included a call on the NSW Government for a substantial increase to funding for arts and contemporary music of at least $35 million over the next four years.
CEO of Sydney Fringe, Kerri Glasscock said that NSW Labor have in principle endorsed all these recommendations when they made their live music policy announcement last week.
In this announcement, Labor committed $10 million in funding to Sounds Australia following the inquiry’s recommendation that the music export body receive “appropriate funding” to “support the export of music from New South Wales”.
Ms Glasscock said she would like to see all sides of government endorsing the recommendations and raised concerns over how they might be implemented: “My only fear is that some of those recommendations will be cherry picked and hand picked and the rest will fall by the wayside.
“We know certainly from the sector’s point of view that it’s such a delicate ecosystem and it’s a massive jigsaw puzzle where there’s issues in every area so unless we can get the recipe right and fix the entire suite of problems then its going to be less satisfactory than that report intends.”
If the government’s response to the inquiry is successful, Mr Green said the benefit to jobs in NSW would be great: “It’s a huge employment situation if we can get it thriving to what it once was. You can see that there are a lot of jobs on offer. We know that the hospitality food industry is booming in Sydney and is continuing to grow.
“How much better if we could just marry that up with emerging artists and musicians being able to play at those venues. We could develop the two industries side by side.”
Mr Koh pointed out that the inquiry is the first time parliament has asked about the condition of live music and the arts, and he argued that politicians now have an obligation to revive the sector in NSW: “Now that these politicians are informed about how dire is the state of our creative sectors, there is no excuse to remain complacent.”