A live music taskforce has been established to find multilevel government solutions to Sydney’s ailing music industry.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the new taskforce was about building on the work established by the widespread approval of small bars.
“This is a vital part of Sydney’s cultural life. We want to do everything we can to look at the conflicts, issues and problems that live music is facing and see what we can do together collectively to come up with solutions that then can lead to a city policy,” she said.
“Then we can identify what other levels of government need to do as well. We know that live music, while its incredibly supported by the community … there are real issues and there have been problems in recent times, whether its been the proliferation of poker machines in venues or the large sports screens that just don’t go with live music.”
Ms Moore blamed the dense residential build-up around venues where people used to play, causing conflicts about amenity.
Speaking at the taskforce launch last Friday, veteran rocker Diesel impressed upon the media crowd the importance of having somewhere public to play.
“I can’t stress enough how important it was for someone who emerged out their bedroom to have a venue to play in…. one gig is worth a thousand rehearsals,” he said.
“It’s been very sad hearing venues express their difficulties in staying alive. No venue has ever said that having music is a bad thing …there is a primal need for us to congregate and listen to music.”
Chairman of the Potts Point Partnership, Adrian Bartels said Sydney must do much more to reinvigorate its regular cultural scene in between festivals.
“One of the primary impediments to investment in live music venues is the lack of certainty and protection offered to them by Council’s own policies and processes,” he said.
“Council encourages and empowers the single and serial complainer, putting business investment at the whim of those who want perfect peace and quiet in the inner city. Not since silent cinema has entertainment been dead quiet, and yet
Council expects entertainment venues to be emit no noise.”
Surry Hills publican Joshua Meijer said the Council enforces rules about noise that are much stricter than those made by the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR).
“To me they [OLGR] are quite rational; three complainants need to cosign and there’s a judicial body,” he said.
The complainants need to provide evidence including documentation logs and noise readings.
“To me that makes sense because when you go to the tribunal with that you have a clear set of regulations and precedent,” Mr Meijer said.
Council is required to uphold State Government legislation as well as their own rules.
A single complaint about offensive noise can lead to a fine. The fine can be challenged in court but won’t be removed from the venues’ record.
Mr Meijer said there are no clear guidelines on what constitutes “offensive noise” and called into question the qualifications of those who assess it.
“After the complaint is made the Council send out a ranger who will fine you, and this ranger with no skill and no training will then determine whether this noise is offensive or not,” he said.
“I’ve asked for guidelines. They said there isn’t any; it’s just an open ended ‘I think its offensive’ at which point they give you a written warning, and if the neighbor complains within that six-week period they fine you $900.”
Mr Meijer said in the name of fairness and transparency there needs to be a noise meter, an audio engineer or a person trained to determine whether the sound is offensive noise.
“I’ve had a complaint made about an unamplified piano playing at 11 o’clock in the day; someone found it offensive,” he said.
Mr Meijer said the struggling music industry could be reinvigorated by offering tax incentives to those who invest in music, as similar to those for investing in film.
“Obviously you need to invest in Australian films or we wouldn’t have a film industry, but equally the average wage for a musician is below the poverty line and at some stage civilised culture has to wear some of that,” he said.
Mr Meijer called for Sydneysiders to vote with their feet. “If you want a live music industry, then go to a pub that has bands playing,” he said.