In the light of concerns about Sydney’s live music scene, lagging as it does behind other capitals, it’s refreshing to read City of Sydney’s progress with its Live Music and Performance Action Plan.
The progress report has been released with an announcement of new dedicated live music funding, and streamlined planning for venues to encourage more live performances in city venues.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said “We’re using every lever at our disposal to encourage more live music and performance, reduce unnecessary red tape and advocate for the regulatory reform needed for a strong and successful live music and performance sector.”
The Music Plan commenced in 2015, and is about to reach its half way point. It is an enterprising piece of public policy that has achieved close to half its milestones. The Council’s Progress Report details outcomes and future directions. The Plan, designed in consultation with industry to support Sydney’s declining live music and performance scene, is progressively implementing initiatives across regulatory reform, investment, policy development and advocacy.
Live music plan report card
Specific achievements to date include over $13 million invested in fees and grants to musicians and live music and performance activities (including to our own Contemporary Music Roundtable), free work and rehearsal space for musicians, skills and development sessions, policy, research, and advocacy.
What is less seen – and less glamorous and more tedious – is the vital, yet complex work to improve environments for live music. These include removing regulatory obstacles, structured incentives, brokering positive reforms with the State Government, and responding to challenges such as lockout laws.
Many of the challenges faced are beyond the City’s control, so next steps will be to ramp up collaborative industry and government approaches, advocacy to the NSW State Government, and close involvement in night time economy development.
Night time economy
And this last point may be where success for music hinges. As this report is released, the City is also undertaking night time economy work, with current industry consultation. This complements similar work by the NSW Government and around the country. Globally this has been found to be an important step forward, to the point where cities such as London and Amsterdam have even appointed Night Mayors.
Leveraging this opportunity for music is at an early stage in Australia, however it is good that night time economies are increasingly on government agendas. City of Sydney 2011 research has shown that “night time visitors pump more than $15 billion dollars a year into the local economy and account for almost one third of jobs across the city.” The City’s aspiration is to double this to $30 billion per annum by 2030.
However, if music is to be integral to this mix, there’s much to do. A 2016 national local government Night Time Economy Report noted that some three million of Australia’s 11.5 million federal jobs are connected to the night time economy, with the music sector being among the top five employers. However, it also found that music incomes are in decline as a component, highlighting the problem faced. This is despite substantial evidence that music is a solid visitor attractor, and economic and cultural contributor. The report makes clear that better governance and collaboration by all stakeholders is required to optimise the opportunity.
With impetus at both City and State level, this work is critical to revitalising Sydney’s live music scene. As we have previously argued advocating for live music in small bars and against Sydney’s lockout laws, music is vital to a dynamic urban economy and critical if Sydney is to retain its reputation as a top global city.
You can read City of Sydney’s full progress report here.