If you haven’t heard, Sydney is currently in the midst of an all-out war. At the centre of this acrimonious battle is the city’s infamous late-night lockout laws, which are being held responsible for decimating Sydney’s nightlife.
One of the fiercest opponents of the lockouts is the local music industry, with musicians and promoters alike hurling vitriol upon the laws which have seen an ever-increasing number of music venues go out of business.
However, some readers may still be confused about just how the lockout laws affect the music industry. After all, it’s not like venues can play music well into the night anyways, right? Right, but they did used to sell alcohol, which is what made them profitable.
To examine how the lockouts have already affected Australia’s music scene and how they will continue to affect it into the future, we caught up with outspoken lockouts critic Dan McNamee of Art Vs Science – check out the band’s anti-lockouts anthem here.
“I think there’s just a general feeling of people not wanting to go out anymore. It’s not just the lockout laws themselves, but that’s sort of the final nail in the coffin.
After 10pm you can’t buy a certain amount of drinks and after 12 you can only buy two or whatever and you have to have everything in a plastic cup and you can’t have shots – it’s just rule upon rule upon rule.
You’re not allowed to eat in a smoking area now, which is just ridiculous because it’s not affecting smokers. And then the lockouts… I feel like a lot of people have just gone, ‘Fuck it, I’m not gonna bother.’
I certainly have and members of my family have. It makes it so hard to go out and do anything. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.”
“I’ve spoken to venue owners and they’re doing it tough. Oxford Art Factory on Oxford Street, that’s where we did our first or second show. I think our first show was at Phoenix and that’s closed and another venue where we used to gig early on is closed.
Oxford Art Factory is hanging in there but I’ve spoken to Mark Gerber numerous times and he’s done such an amazing job of keeping it going there, but it’s definitely hurt him. You don’t have that foot traffic anymore, with people walking past and saying let’s go check it out.
You’ve seen the stats, 84 percent down in foot traffic, that’s basically everything. No one’s walking there anymore. And Murat Kilic, who did Spice, that basically killed his thing because the dance scene isn’t about going and seeing someone play for 45 minutes and going home.
“It’s a completely different culture, you go and dance for hours and lose yourself in the music. It really is a musical thing and it’s a culture that a lot of people don’t understand and it needs freedom in order to thrive.”
No More Sydney Bands
“I think bands are still gonna come through, but they’re just gonna move. They’re gonna go to Melbourne [laughs] When you’re playing music and if you’re using that as your sole income, you go where you can make some money and where there’s a scene.
And people are just moving to Melbourne, not even just musicians. A lot of people I know, people who are making clothes, doing fashion, or doing sunglasses lines, a few DJs, they’re all going to Melbourne.
Another friend of mine who’s a producer who made a publishing company has gone to Berlin. Heaps of bands have gone to LA. I think the musicians will find a way but Sydney will be poorer for it because they won’t be playing in Sydney.
Sydney does feel like it’s closing itself off to artists. It just has this feeling that everything you want to do is banned. I’m trying to look for the upside in it, I think what they’ve done basically is they’ve cured the disease by killing the patient.”
“This is a big thing that this debate needs to address: it actually wasn’t that great on the street before the lockouts. It was really crowded and it was a bit of a circus, but what they could have done is firstly… the drinking culture is really weird.
Like, I don’t know where you had your first drink but mine was in a tree house with a stolen bottle of rum. And for the first few years of my drinking career it was always in a dark park, away from adults and drinking as much as I could as quickly as I could.
And that’s a pretty common story for most Australian teenagers. So we’re learning these drinking habits from a very young age and it takes us until at least our mid-20s for people to get out of it. So I think that’s one of the biggest problems.”“Sydney does feel like it’s closing itself off to artists. It just has this feeling that everything you want to do is banned.”
Wide Open Spaces
“The second thing is making more space. I did this submission, actually… I got back from Berlin in 2012 after being there for a little while, just full of enthusiasm for how Sydney could be just like Berlin and be really exciting and really vibrant.
All they’d have to do is relax things a little. I did a lot of research into violence and alcohol and that sort of stuff and one of the things was about precincts, entertainment precincts.
When you have a precinct you have people walking around the streets going from place to place and that’s where violence can happen, that’s what we had in the Cross. But what they did find in this particular study is that if you add more venues to a precinct that doesn’t increase the violence.
And if you just have one venue somewhere without any others around it and you don’t have a precinct and you don’t have that sort of street violence as well. So another answer to what they could’ve done was build or allow isolated night clubs around the greater Sydney area.”
“I’ve been to a few of the warehouse parties in the inner west, near Marrickville and St Peters and all that. And they were really, really, really fun [laughs] I don’t know if they’re still being allowed.
I did hear they were starting to get shut down, because the cops knew about them, but they kind of turned a blind eye because there was no trouble happening. But I think they started to become a bit more popular and they were also starting to sell beer for like $5 a beer to cover costs, which is obviously illegal without a license.
So I guess you just have to dig a bit further to find those. But that was cool and it’s fun and people were smoking inside and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, it’s free.’ You get this sense of freedom which I haven’t felt in Sydney for a long time.”