What does parking have to do with music?

by Alex Masso, 5 July 2013

Recently I told someone I was looking at a local council's draft parking policy, they asked me "what does parking have to do with music?" It's a fair question.

The short answer is that many musicians know how hard it can be loading into a gig where there is nowhere to park near the venue, either having to sneakily park where you're not supposed to for 10 minutes while you rush the instrument inside, or parking further away and carrying your instrument. As a drummer, this is something close to my heart (and my back!).  Many music lovers will know the frustration of going to hear some music and having one or two hour parking on the street - why don't they have parking time limits that suit the time of performances?

The long answer is that recently music advocates and local councils have been looking at a whole range of ways to support musical life in Australia, particularly in relation to live music venues. There is a great deal of discussion around noise complaint processes, the Building Code of Australia, licensing and so on, as well as strategies to support audience and sector development. There are initiatives in a range of councils to support live music, including a recent forum held by Local Government NSW, Live Music Taskforces in Sydney and Wollongong, preceding these by a few years there has been a Live Music Taskforce for the City of Yarra, the City of Melbourne recently called for members to join a music advisory group, and both Marrickville and Leichhardt councils in inner Sydney are working on initiatives of their own and in partnership with others.

In this context there are many ways for local councils to support music across the various departments and activities of a council. Parking is just one of them, where a small tweak in the policy can make life easier for musicians and audiences. In 2010 Music Victoria and the City of Yarra developed a permit system for musicians to access parking outside venues while they load in and out of venues, a great example of this idea in action.

There are plenty of other areas in which councils can use their resources, controls and infrastructure to support music. Of course there are cultural grants, which vary from council to council, and halls for hire, but even these things can be improved by consulting with the musicians and music organisaions that use them. Are the halls that people want to use affordable? Are these halls well set up for concerts, for example are they registered with an APRA license, do they have a suitable place to sell tickets, do they have a piano? If the council owns a piano, is it situated in the venue where people want to use a piano?

Access is another example. Councils are now well aware of making facilities and council activities accessible to people with disability. Many of their venues are accessible and some have staff or reference groups with specialised knowledge about access. Can councils use their knowledge and resources to support other music venues and music groups in improving access for everyone in the community?

The list goes on: planning policy, busking, Council-run community festivals, music festivals supported by Council, tourism agencies promoting local music activities, Mayors and Councillors publicly supporting local musicians, development approvals for music venues, mediation where noise complaints affect music, and so on. We want to see councils look at the full range of resources and controls they have available to them and consider ways to support musical life in their community.

Read more:

Music and Local Government - overview

Music and Local Government - reading list

Local Government and Live Music: Friend or Foe? by John Wardle

MCA Submission to the City of Sydney Draft Neighbourhood Parking Policy

Music Strategy for Melbourne