Live music gets a kick in the bass

October 25, 2023
Clyde Mooney

There is cause for celebration as legislation is introduced to NSW parliament that would greatly improve the security of venues hosting live music, and bolster an industry kept quiet for too long.

A bill aimed at fostering the revival of live entertainment was presented last week by Arts, Night Time Economy and Music Minister John Graham, and may spell the end of venue closures from a single noise complaint.

This comes as welcome news for the club industry as major supporters of arts and culture, and several set to host events as part of the upcoming Great Southern Nights program.

Clubs host more than 10,000 free entertainment events every year, benefiting the NSW economy to the tune of $167 million, according to Urbis’ Economic and Social Impact of Clubs in NSW report 2023.

The live music sector and Sydney’s night-time economy have been decimated since the lockout laws began in 2014. Although the lockouts were finally scrapped in 2021, the culture of late-night activity had shifted in many precincts and most venues doing live music have come to fear any complaints, with a sole ‘NIMBY’ complainant sometimes triggering major consequences.

There are currently seven separate government agencies involved in managing noise complaints. The new regulations would see this streamlined to be the role of only Liquor & Gaming, which would need to receive noise complaints from at least five different individuals before it considered taking action.

Other measures incorporated in the reforms include:

  • ‘Order of Occupancy’ as a key determinant in assessing complaints, to protect venues from issues raised by people moving into established nightlife districts, and
  • Live music venues allowed extended trading

Premier Chris Minns suggests a city that thrives on tourism should not shut down “as if we were a country town” and told media the proposal was simply common sense in the goal of making Sydney better for both residents and tourists.

“[It’s] another step in removing the nanny state restrictions, the red tape that have really stifled the vibrancy, the life and the fun out of Sydney for the past 10 years.

“We need to act and work and live like we are a major, vibrant city.”

ClubsNSW was involved in the consultation process and thanks the NSW Government for reforms that stand to reduce some of the red tape and barriers clubs often face, with ClubsNSW CEO Rebecca Riant offering the changes announced will make “a huge difference for clubs” looking to diversify their offerings.

“From Dunedoo Sports Club’s annual Tunes on the Turf music festival to the bowling green that Leichhardt Bowling Club has transformed into an outdoor dining and entertainment space, our industry is always looking for new ways to support local artists and businesses, and keep their communities vibrant and engaged,” said Riant.

These initiatives come as acclaimed supporters of up-and-coming musicians, Triple J, releases its latest ‘What’s Up In Australian Music?’ report, providing insights into the lives of Australian artists.

The work was an “eye-opening experience” according to Triple J Unearthed executive producer Tommy Faith, painting a sorry picture of the music industry in Australia.

“To see how many artists were working second jobs or considering leaving music altogether was sobering information.

“Ultimately, we hope the wider music industry and music media (ourselves included) will look at these findings and use them to make empathetic decisions about artists and shape content and policy, knowing just how hard it is to be a music-maker in 2023.”

Key findings include:

  • 48 per cent of all artists have considered bailing on the music industry in the past year. Thankfully, 62 per cent still feel optimistic about the future of their music career
  • Live gigs are the primary (57.9 per cent) source of income for most artists. The only common exception is the Hip-hop genre
  • Most artists (83 per cent) work extra jobs, outside the industry, with 78 per cent saying they make more from their other job. Only 31 per cent believe they will eventually earn enough from their music
  • Many respondents expressed their discontent that social media skills had become more important to labels in promoting music than musicianship
  • Most artists under 24 years are choosing the solo path, which it’s suggested may be a result of the continued pressure to keep down costs in recording time and touring


Adelaide lockout laws, live music, NIMBY, Triple J

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