What's happening in live music policy?

by Alex Masso. Originally published 8 March 2013, Updated 24 March 2013.

Judging by the first three months of 2012, this could be a big year for live music policy. Discussions about live music seems to happen constantly in one place or another, but we're now seeing a lot of action in various parts of the country. Here's a summary of some of the action.


APRA and the Federal Government (via the Australia Council) have supported a new position, the National Live Music Coordinator. Dr Ianto Ware comes to this role from a background of advocacy, grassroots involvement in the live music scene, academia, and policy reform. SLAM Day was held again on February 23 with hundreds of gigs across the country celebrating live music and arguably Australia's most influential campaign for live music. 

The National Cultural Policy, Creative Australia, included strong action for live music policy. One initiative - the live music coordinator - is mentioned here already. The other, an Arts Accord, aims to increase collaboration between different jurisdictions and levels of government. The potential for action to support live music when Federal, State and Local Governments work together is immense. The section of Creative Australia relating to the Arts Accord specifically references the City of Sydney Live Music Taskforce (see below).

More info: TMN interviews Ianto Ware | the announcement | interview with Helen Marcou from SLAM | slamrally.org | Creative Australia policy

New South Wales

The state government's Creative Industries Taskforce has released a draft Industry Action Plan, for comment. It deals with a range of sectors and activities, its scope covers music and live performance but very little of the plan deals with live music directly. However, there are recommendations that could benefit live music in NSW if implemented. For example:

  • That senior NSW Government Ministers recognise and promote the importance of creative industries to the growth and competitiveness of NSW’s broad - based economy, and their positive social and cultural impact on NSW society.
  • NSW Government, in collaboration with peak bodies, and education and research organisations, to implement a benchmarking - style service that provides the predominantly small creative business sector in NSW with timely data on their performance in relation to their peers
  • NSW Government to develop a strategy to encourage the development of the industries’ cluster in the Moore Park to Ultimo area
  • NSW Government to support a comprehensive program that provides in - depth assessment of business needs and tailored advisory services required to develop businesses’ capabilities to strategically utilise design within their operations
  • NSW Government to review the application of relevant local government regulations of importance to the creative industries to ensure that they do not unduly restrict the development of the local industry.
  • Various references to small business programs, such as BizConnect

These initiatives, if structured properly to include music businesses, live music, venues and live performance, could provide innovative solutions and opportunities for live music in NSW. Write a submission!

More info: NSW Creative Industries Draft Action Plan

City of Sydney

The City of Sydney has initiated the Live Music Taskforce, which brings together experts and peak organisations to discuss live music challenges and opportunities for the city. Lord Mayor Clover Moore introduced a Mayoral Minute which forms the basis for the taskforce, which will spend six months preparing a Live Music Action Plan to present to the city council.

Also, the City has released a discussion paper for its cultural policy, Creative Sydney.

More info: Mayoral Minute | Kirsty Brown (Music NSW) interviews Clover Moore | shorter interview with Andrew P Street | News article | Creative Sydney Discussion Paper


The Annandale Hotel is a high profile case study of the challenges facing live music venues. After long battles with the Land and Environment Court over noise complaints and Leichhardt Municipal Council over late night trading, the venue went into receivership in February. The Mayor of Leichhardt, Darcy Byrne, has taken a keen interest the issue. To cut a long story short, Byrne and former mayor Jamie Parker independently offered to support the venue, Byrne specifically offered to approve late night trading, one of the owners responded angrily to the council taking an interest so late, and now Byrne is proposing to turn Paramatta Rd into a late night precinct.

In more recent developments, Mayor Byrne has taken a "Good Neighbours" policy to Council and has put forward a proposal for a live music precinct in the local area, along Parramatta Rd. Council also released a number of documents relating to the Annandale Hotel.

More info: News about the receivership | former owner responds | Mayor proposes a solution (part I) | Mayor proposes a solution (part II) | SMH covers the "live music precinct" story, with footage | Petition created by Darcy Byrne | Documents re. Annandale Hotel


Following the lead of its neighbouring councils, Leichhardt and the City of Sydney, Marrickville Council is taking action to support live music. It will hold a forum to discuss live music in the local area, offer a representative to the City of Sydney Live Music Taskforce, and has reiterated its support for live music in the local area.

Read more: See the minutes for a Notice of Motion, 19 March 2013

Jessie Hunt addressing Wollongong City CouncilWollongong

Reviving and developing the local live music scene has been a fairly hot topic in Wollongong for a couple of years now. In 2011 the State of the Music Scene Forum attracted over 100 people to talk about community concerns about venues and opportunities, particularly following the closure of its central venue, the Oxford Tavern, a couple of years earlier.

In 2012 we were involved in a second forum, which has led to a proposal for a Live Music Accord. There have been some issues with smaller venues in particular, which was a key issue discussed in 2012. Recently there has been an issue with The Patch, an important live music venue which has been ordered to stop its 'amplified entertainment' due to a noise complaint.

Recently we were in Wollongong with John Wardle, Ianto Ware (both from the City of Sydney Live Music Taskforce) and local advocates, to talk to Wollongong City Council about these challenges and its proposed cultural policy.

On Monday 11 March a Council meeting considered a motion to develop a new Cultural Plan for the city. About 100 live music supporters came to the meeting and local music advocate Jessie Hunt addressed council. Council then unanimously voted to create a Live Music Taskforce for Wollongong.

More info: Complaints shut down live music at The Patch | Live music should be a part of city's culture (Illawarra Mercury)

| Read Dr Robert Carr's article about the history of live music advocacy in Wollongong

Pictured: Jessie Hunt addressing Wollongong City Council. Photo by Tim Dennis, used with permission.


The state government recently asked for public comment on a "Red Tape Reduction" policy covering licensed premised. As it happens, one area being considered is noise regulations and the discussion paper presents some possibilities for managing noise complaints.

More info: Discussion Paper - Red Tape Reduction (see p47 re. noise complaints) | Petition by music activists to support reform

South Australia / Adelaide

South Australia's parliament recently passed the Small Venue License Bill, which ended up being unaffected by possible amendments to substantially reduce the size of venues. Music SA, SLAM, the National Live Music Coordinator and others have welcomed the news as a win for live music.

More info: Faster Louder: "Adelaide toasts great outcome for live music" | op-ed by Dr Ianto Ware

Victoria / Melbourne

Earlier this year, Music Victoria launched the Melbourne Music City initiative. You should see their guide to live music in various formats, this is an excellent campaign. Meanwhile, the Victorian Live Music Taskforce continues to do its work, part of its agenda is in parallel with the new City of Sydney Live Music Taskforce. We look forward to hearing more about its agenda.

Music Victoria recently released the results of its "Live Music Census", a major effort to gather data about venues, audiences and gigs in the Melbourne metropolitan area. There is more detail than we could possible summarise here, this is worth a look.

More info: Melbourne Music City (announcement) | Online publication | last year's announcement of the Live Music Taskforce | Victorian Live Music Census 2012

and even MORE info!

Read John Wardle's article Local Government and Live Music: Friend or Foe for a discussion of some issues facing live music.

Our Music and Local Government reading list includes this and important work on the subject