Following yesterday’s news that legendary pub rock venue, the Sandringham Hotel, would be going into receivership, today The Age reports that the Labor Government has been prompted into action, urging local councils to drop their “fun police” act and start supporting live music venues.

A motion will be put forward to the NSW Labor conference this coming weekend for the party to support a new “Labor Loves Live Music” campaign, aimed at connecting with young voters and calling on councils to enact planning controls that promote live music and the protection of existing venues.

Labelling councils had acted like the “fun police”, playing to the side of residential complaints, especially grumbles from those that had newly moved into neighbourhoods which already had long-established live music venues in the area.

The “Labor Loves Live Music” motion will be pushed by the Labor councillor for Leichardt, Darcy Byrne, who was upset over the four-year long legal battle between his council and the Annandale Hotel over late night trading and noise complaints.

The Annandale were eventually found in favour by the Land and Environment Court, but owner Matt Rule said the legal battle over noise complaints from locals cost the pub more than $250,000 in fees.

That’s in conjunction with the financial struggles the venue’s owners already faced, using their novel buy-a-brick scheme in a last ditch attempt to save the iconic Sydney venue. Its indicative of the grim climate facing live music venues all over the nation, and the Leichardt councillor believes that local councils aren’t helping.

“‘Local governments must choose to be on the side of live music venues as opposed to quieter pubs filled with poker machines,” said Byrne.

Meanwhile, Tony Townsend, the owner of The Sando who himself is facing debts of over $3 million, said that noise complaints had not helped the venue’s financial situation.

The owner, who had worked hard to rebuild the venue’s reputation in the last several years, noted its closure as a personal as well as professional blow. “It’s sad – it’s sad for live music, it’s sad for me personally it’s sad for my family,” said Townsend. ”This was supposed to be not only a legacy for us but, I guess, our income in retirement. And that whole dream’s gone.”

Labor’s campaign to throw their support behind live music comes at a time when the state of Australia’s live music scene is particularly brutal. Councils have regularly taken the side of the complaining few rather than the venues who are often long-established and co-operative.  It’s not a problem isolated to Sydney either, with “fun police” cropping up all over the nation in attempts to shut down live music.

In Perth, Big Day Out organisers were told their iconic music festival was “not welcome’ by a number of local councillors for the event’s proposed site in Claremont. Their Mayor, Jock Barker saying at the time “I don’t want to see it back [here]… I was happy to see the back of it. It does nothing useful for the town.”

While in Melbourne, St. Kilda’s Pure Pop Records – who for years have hosted free shows in their courtyard for local musicians – have had to be overly cautious about exceeding noise levels. Similarly the Prince of Wales’ Prince Bandroom, whose future is up in the air since its sale to restaurant owners, attempted to host music in their front bar; and instead got shut down following noise complaints from residents. Those same residents that presumably moved into the St. Kilda suburb because of the charm of the local culture.

The “Labor Loves Live Music” has also been developed as an obvious opposition to the Liberal Government’s failure to deliver on promises they’d be supporting live music. Particularly in Melbourne where the imminent closure of the city’s renowned Tote, and subsequent Save Live Australian Music campaign, prompted the newly instated Liberal government Premier, Ted Baillieu, to pass legislation that acknowledges the importance of “licensed hospitality and live music”.

Yet Baillieu and his constituents failed to deliver on their pledge to hold regular round table discussions that would includ representatives of Music Vicotria, liquor-licensing bosses, Victoria Police and planning authorities.

There’s no denying that Australia’s live music scene is in – to quote Midnight Oil singer and now federal minister Peter Garrett – a ‘state of emergency’; with iconic music venues being put up for public sale (such as Brisbane’s TivoliSydney’s The Basement, and Melbourne’s The Palace), as well as a swathe of music venues closing in the last 12 months; unique solutions need to be found. 

More concrete details of “Labor Loves Live Music” campaign will surface this weekend when the motion is put forward at  the NSW Labor conference, but we personally hope that Labor makes good on their intentions to listen to live music venues struggles over council woes, and that’s it’s not just a grab for young voters.

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