Submission: Live Music Matters
17 January 2014
This submission is a response to the City of Sydney's Live Music Matters plan, available here.
The Music Council of Australia welcomes the opportunity to comment on the City of Sydney's Live Music Matters: Live music and performance action plan.
The Music Council of Australia is the peak music organisation representing the Australian music community. Each of the members of the MCA is assigned to, and represents, a particular aspect or sector of the Australian music community, such as music creation, production, distribution and education. The MCA is Australia’s representative to the International Music Council, which is based at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
The Music Council was represented on the Live Music Taskforce by Alex Masso, our submission is in the context of already having contributed to this process for 12 months.
The report is a comprehensive and well researched document setting out the potential for local government actions to support live music, as well as state and federal government, music sector and venue-based actions. It deals with specific issues for Sydney and presents a wide range of strategies to support musical life in the city. We believe that the report will be useful for years to come and elements of it can be applied to other capital cities, states, national initiatives and many other local government areas.
This submission refers to a select number of items from the plan:
Development Controls and Noise
The plan outlines a suite of measures to deal with development and noise issues, a sometimes public and controversial issue and one that requires a careful but robust policy response. Fair process is central to this solution and in particular we support recommendation 1.8.1 (Establish a formal mediation policy) and welcome the announcement in December 2013 that the City already has plans to proceed with this initiative.[i]
Building Code of Australia
Dealing with low frequency noise (recommendations 2.4.1, 2.4.2) is an issue in certain parts of Australian cities, including the City of Sydney, in need of special attention. Helping venues deal with the complexities of the Building Code of Australia (recommendations 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.3.3) is an initiative we would encourage in Sydney and across the country.
We welcome recommendation 4.2.2 (Require City of Sydney funded festivals to submit local content and artist employment data as part of the grant acquittal process) and note that the benefits of festivals for local artists are particularly significant where they get wide exposure and where international collaborations or major projects are part of a festival program. Analysis of this data could identify the significant opportunities for local artists as well as the number of local artists on the overall program, and therefore identify ways to use major festivals to support local artists.
In relation to recommendations 4.6.1, 4.6.2 and 4.6.3 we reiterate the three principles outlines in the Music Council’s submission to the City of Sydney Draft Neighbourhood Parking consultation in July 2013:[ii]
1) Where a performance venue is located in an area with limited parking, such as inner city areas, and musicians require close access to the venue to load in equipment, there should be a mechanism for providing that access at suitable times.
2) Where a precinct includes regular cultural activity in the evening or on weekends, parking time limits should reflect venue performance times.
3) Where a formal process is required to amend parking time limits or zones, for example to create a loading zone or obtain a permit, the process should be accessible to small operators including live music venues and have appropriate guidelines to suit their circumstances.
The issue of community facilities being optimised for musical use (recommendations 4.5.3, 4.8.1) is an important one that we would like to elaborate on further. The City has many good facilities that would better serve the music sector and the local community, but we can see areas where these facilities are not ready for optimal use, or not ready for a wide enough range of musical activity.
We are aware of a number of ensembles looking for a 'permanent home' for rehearsals and some performances and propose that the City prioritises accommodating these groups.
Public Liability Insurance
The City’s Conditions of Hire for community facilities states that hirers’ insurance policies “must have a principal and cross liability clause and name the Council of the City of Sydney as principal and be issued by an insurer acceptable to the City.”[iii]
We understand that this is a concern for some small community groups and arts organisations. We are told by a community music group in the City that Public Liability Insurance that meets this requirement cost approximately $1200 while other options without this requirement cost much less[iv]. This is a burden on these organisations.
Proposal: Investigate removing the line “Such a policy must have a principal and cross liability clause and name the Council of the City of Sydney as principal and be issued by an insurer acceptable to the City” from the Conditions of Hire entirely, or creating an exemption for not for profit hirers.
We have spoken to small organisations facing financial difficulties, particularly as a result of Arts NSW funding cuts. These organisations are still presenting events but are forced to present fewer concerts and/or use less accessible venues.
We also know small arts organisations can hire the City's halls at no cost but a condition is that they do not charge admission. Typically there are costs involved in the event (artist fees, etc) and it is not viable to not charge admission.
Proposal: Review the hire fees of community facilities with particular consideration of not for profit organisations and independent artists.
Audit of Facilities
We welcome the City's announcement in December 2013 that the suburban town halls will be audited for necessary upgrades and equipment[v]. Without having inspected all of these venues, we make the following observations:
Pianos are not easy to find in affordable, small to medium sized venues that are suitable for music performance. Certainly at least some of the suburban town halls would benefit from having a grand piano.
Proposal: That the City's audit consult with current and potential presenters, including jazz, chamber music and new music presenting organisations, musical theatre groups, and community groups, to establish which venues most need a piano.
Some halls are otherwise well set up to hold events but the room is acoustically very 'live' and unsuitable for many musical applications. A one off cost of engaging an acoustic specialist and installing acoustic panelling would be a good investment.
Proposal: seek advice from acoustic specialists on where acoustic panelling and/or other solutions (curtains, floors etc) will make rooms more suitable for music.
We note the relevance of Strategic Area 4 in the National Arts and Disability Strategy (NADS) to the Live Music Matters plan: “The needs and aspirations of people with a disability are addressed in arts and cultural policy and program development and the impact of policies and programs on people with a disability is measured.”[vi]
We congratulate the City for acknowledging access for the whole community as an issue in the Live Music Matters plan. In particular we note recommendation 4.12.1 to work with Accessible Arts to improve the accessibility of commercial venues.
Funding for Capital Costs
We welcome recommendation 4.3.2: “Based on best practice models from other sectors, consider options to develop a financial assistance program that provides incentives to new and existing venues to invest in infrastructure and capital costs associated with live music and performance.”
Capital costs associated with live music and performance may include many things. We are aware of programs to fund noise attenuation but recommend that this program in the City of Sydney include such measures as building, equipment, accessibility and acoustic improvements.