LIVE MUSIC: Byron resident Bernard Fanning reunites with Powderfinger at Splendour in the Grass 2017.
LIVE MUSIC: Byron resident Bernard Fanning reunites with Powderfinger at Splendour in the Grass 2017. claudia ciapocha/stillsintime.co

Angry musicians: 'Don't let Gladys kill the music'

MUSICIANS in NSW are angry, and the focus of that anger is the Berejiklian government.

An open letter from hundreds of musicians, artists, venues, music festivals and industry operators to the general public has demanded that the State Government "stop killing live music in NSW."

Northern Rivers signatories of the letter are, amongst others, Bernard Fanning, Falls Festival, Common Ground, Bluesfest Byron Bay, Splendour in the Grass, Rabbits Eats Lettuce, Skeggs, and Harry James Angus.

The letter is also signed by some industry heavyweights like Live Nation Australia, Oztix, Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment and Eventbrite Australia.

The missive also demands that the Berejiklian government forms a music regulation round table to review all regulation impacting live music, to immediately undertake a Regulatory Impact Statement for any regulation impacting music festivals, to develops an industry standard with full transparency for user-pays policing and medical services, and to work with the music industry to develop robust, effective and achievable safety protocols for festivals.

The reaction is originated by a series of changes in the NSW Liquor Licensing System which will take effect officially from March 1, but are being enforced already by the government, effectively - the music industry operators say - while they regulations are being written.

The changes impact all music festivals in NSW excluding Tamworth Country Music Festival and Sydney Festival, "which have received exemptions for unknown reasons without this being justified as being within the public interest, or by way of a safety case about the risks associated with those events, and potentially ignoring requirements of competitive neutrality in the provision of goods and services by the public sector."

According to a public statement sent by the signatories of the letter, the new licensing process will take 90 days, meaning that Liquor & Gaming New South Wales could deny approval for a music festival to go ahead after the deposits have been paid to artists and the line up announced, tickets sold and contracts exchanged.

"Previously, Liquor and Gaming only approved a festival's liquor license. Under the new regulation they will have regulatory oversight of all other safety issues at a festival," the statement explains.

Through this process, NSW Police is able to set a user-pays policing requirement as a condition of the festival receiving its license. Unless the festival agrees to the police bill, they will be denied their festival license.

"There is currently no method available to festival organisers to query these fees or be provided any transparency or justification for these fees This also applies to user-pays medical such as on-site ambulances," the music operators said.

Liquor and Gaming NSW are also proposing a new licensing fee to help cover the administrative cost being imposed by the new licensing system.

"This will be scaled according to risk, but currently proposed to be somewhere between 60 cents and $2 per ticket sold - these amounts are yet to be finalised but Liquor & Gaming New South Wales presented these values as indicative of likely fees," the industry operators said.

These new laws are amendments to the current liquor licence.

"There has been no new legislation made. It will be regulated by the Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), a body that has no in-depth understanding of the music industry," the signatories said.

"By making an amendment to old legislation, the government is not doing its due diligence on the proposed changes by way of a regulatory impact statement (RIS).

"Because the proposed changes affect an industry with a Gross Value Added (GVA) economic contribution of 1.8 billion dollars to the NSW Government, the changes should be considered and a significant reform and completely new legislation should be drafted and considered.

"(The proposed licensing fees) increases the relative cost of a performance in NSW by adding extra logistics costs to NSW events and festivals, and places NSW at a competitive disadvantage in producing live music and culture. This will kill live music."