As the Sydney Opera house grapples with a $15,000 fine for exceeding noise limits, South Australia is working hard to make life easier for live music venues. Since 2015, a series of legal amendments have stripped back red tape. Facilitated by South Australian Government agencies, including the Music Development Office, in collaboration with the Adelaide City Council, the Live Music Office and the Australian Hotels Association of South Australia, the changes have simplified the regulatory system, while addressing noise and safety issues. Here, we take a look at some of what’s been achieved so far – and why it’s changing the game.
- Exemption from development approvals
Licensed and unlicensed music venues are now free to host “low risk” live music without development approvals. This allows venues to skip lengthy, complicated approval processes, the outcomes of which were determined by local councils.
- The agent of change principle
This ensures that, when a party creates a development-related change, that party must manage its impact. For example, were a developer to build a house next to an existent live music venue, that developer would be responsible for sound proofing.
- Variations to the National Construction Code
“Many venues used to be deemed as assembly spaces, which meant there were stringent access and toilet requirements,” says Lisa Bishop, general manager at Music SA. In May 2016, a variation in the National Construction Code changed this definition for venues hosting “low risk” entertainment. In addition, a new “small venue” definition was introduced. As a result, venues are able to meet building compliance issues more easily and affordably.
- Removal of liquor license entertainment conditions
“In the past, licensees were required to obtain the consent of the Liquor Licensing Commissioner to provide entertainment between 11am and midnight,” Bishop says. “Often, conditions were stringent, in terms of genres and instruments. For example, the Belgium Beer Garden could only host didgeridoo and harp players and could not advertise gigs.” On 17 November, the State Parliament voted unanimously to pass the Liquor Licensing (Entertainment on Licensed Premises) Amendment Bill 2015, allowing music venues to bypass the Commissioner.
A BYO venue licence is also in the pipeline, having received Government endorsement through the recent Anderson Review of the Liquor Licensing Act. This innovative licence would follow an existing category in Western Australia, which allows small venues to focus on artistic content, without the complexity and compliance issues of running fully licensed premises, as patrons would be permitted to provide their own alcohol.
- Single point of contact
Rather than having to work through red tape alone, venue owners have access to a single point of contact. “This takes them through all the hoops,” Bishop says.
- Live music census
Since May 2015, Music SA, supported by the Live Music Office, has conducted an annual live music census in greater Adelaide. This involves counting live music gigs, according to venue type, venue size, location and whether or not original songs or covers were played. Bishop says, “It gives us some sort of metric to see if policy changes are having an impact.”
- Collaborative marketing
In 2016, Music SA hosted the inaugural Umbrella: Winter City Sounds Festival in Adelaide, now an annual event. Held across Adelaide’s venues, it generates revenue during the off-season and celebrates local music, with 90% of acts being South Australian. “Umbrella is stunning,” says John Wardle, director of the Live Music Office. “It’s a fantastic example of collaborative marketing between state music organisations, the city and venues in a celebration of the Adelaide’s live music ecology.”
- Revision of loading zones
“The Adelaide City Council has reviewed loading zones outside live music venues in the council area,” Bishop says. “Every music venue was identified and a loading zone was found, where musicians could pack and unload gear.”
- Grants for venues
In 2014, Renewal SA introduced the City Maker grants program. It provides venues with one-off grants of up to $10,000 to help with meeting building compliance issues, such as accessibility, fire safety, heritage considerations and noise attenuation requirements, including acoustic reports.
- Best practice guide and venue fact sheets
The first edition of the Best Practice Guide for Live Music Venues in South Australia was published in February 2016. The guide aims “to assist managers of live music venues to run a safe and successful business” writes Anne Wiberg, chair of Music SA, in the foreword. Now, Music SA is using the guide as a basis for the development of fact sheets.
Collectively, the discussed changes to legislation represent a stream lining of regulations that hinder the presentation of live music. Wardle points out that “St Pauls Creative Centre has been fundamental because it is a music industry hub. There’s the Music Development Office, song writing rooms, meeting rooms, hot desks … It’s a catalyst for healthy, productive working relationships because, when Government meets with industry, they meet in St Pauls, not in a bureaucratic office block.”