We are surrounded by music. We hear it in the bars we visit, in the stores where we shop, and in the videos that we watch. It’s hard to avoid and it’s even harder to imagine what life would be like without it. But now that frightening thought is a possible reality for live music lovers in New South Wales.

In recent months, music festivals have caught excessive media attention over drug-related deaths and the controversial pill-testing debate.

The NSW Government says that music festivals are important to the state’s entertainment scene and they want them to thrive, but due to recent deaths, they need to take action to keep festival-goers safe.

Here’s what we know:

  • Due to the recent drug-related deaths of five young people in NSW, the government is implementing a new licensing scheme to ensure the safety of festival-goers.
  • Currently, new regulations are being written and a new music festival liquor license will begin on March 1st, 2019.
  • The new licensing scheme will impact all music festivals in NSW except for Tamworth Country Music Festival and Sydney Festival – and it is unknown why these festivals are excluded.
  • An inter-agency committee of police, health, liquor and gaming departments will assess festival license application.
  • Under these new regulations, liquor and gaming will gain authority to oversee all safety issues at festivals.
  • Police and health departments will have the authority to set the conditions that festivals must comply with, such as user-pay policing and on-site ambulance requirements. If refused, the festival’s license will be revoked.

It’s easy to assume event organisers, artists and music lovers aren’t too keen on the Government’s proposed regulations.

And with the recent cancellation of Mountain Sounds Festival, it’s all that NSW music lovers can talk about.

Mountain Sounds announced the cancellation on Facebook, saying the conditions and financial obligations imposed on them, seven days before the event, were impossible to meet, and the reason the event couldn’t go ahead.

“We were told we would have to pay an additional upfront amount of approximately $200,000 for 45 user-pay police on a 24-hour cycle.”

“The Liberal party’s war on festivals in NSW is real and it’s robbing you of your freedom and culture. Who would’ve known that lock-out laws were just the beginning of the death of live entertainment in NSW. This has now spread to larger-scale and multi-day regional events and it’s only getting worse,” they wrote on Facebook.

You can view their full statement here.

This news has angered music lovers across the country, sparking a petition and campaign called ‘Don’t Kill Live Music’. In a week, the petition has already gained over 114,000 signatures, which you can view here, and sign yourself.

In addition to this, a Don’t Kill Live Music rally will be held at Hyde Park North today at 6 PM.

The rally will feature numerous guest speakers including Murray Cook from The Wiggles, and Julien Hamilton from The Presets.

If that’s not enough to get you excited, there will be musical performances from The Rubens, Ocean Alley, Olympia and more. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

With over 10,000 people RSVPing on the Facebook event, it’s projected to be a success. This will hopefully give the Government pause, let them rewind and rethink their decisions. Otherwise, they will continue to face serious criticism leading up to the state election in March.

Overall, I agree with the NSW Government that the issue of public safety at these events should be addressed. However, I do not believe they realise the impact their actions are having on the industry. Instead of taking a considered approach and working together with the industry to enforce these changes, their rush to push these regulations out indicate that this is a politically-motivated knee-jerk reaction; they are reacting to fear, and retaliating by administering control.

A lazy, unthinking move that seeks to punish the majority of responsible music lovers and artists, much like an exasperated parent punishing a screaming child without investigating the root of the problem.

While no one can accuse the government for not being proactive on the issue, it is an issue that deserves far more attention than sloppy regulations that seek to put a band-aid on an otherwise complex problem.

The problem with drugs, alcohol and entertainment has been around for ages. It is a multi-faceted issue that requires the input of our youth, education, music, health and public safety experts to explore solutions. The problem is in the naivety of the belief that we can resolve this issue by putting more surveillance at these venues. It’s a non-solution that is slapping live music events with the price tag and responsibility of taking this issue on, whilst threatening the viability of such events.

This causes a chain reaction where music lovers, artists and companies are hardest hit, bringing the entire industry to a grinding halt.

As someone who has grown up traveling to different cities for live music, I know the ripple-effects of these regulations will be far-reaching. Tourism, transportation, regional food, accomodation and retail businesses that are situated where these festivals are normally held, and the wider arts industry will be affected greatly. The idea that we are connected by music goes beyond a sentiment – it drives people far and wide to come together. However it is apparent that the new NSW regulations have not considered their impact on these industries, which is troubling and shortsighted.

Dialogue is important, and including the music industry in finding a solution should be a given. We can only hope the Don’t Kill Live Music rally will help convince the Government to give them a seat at the table. The future of live music entertainment depends on it.

 

The Don’t Kill Live Music rally will be held at Hyde Park North, NSW on the 21st of February at 6 PM. Click here for more details.