As previously reported, Live Music Roundtable meetings to discuss issues facing live music in Victoria began late last month, with the state’s music body Music Victoria, convening with Government officials, Victoria Police, The Victorian Commission For Gambling And Liquor Regulations and various music industry representatives.

The major issues that Music Victoria wanted to bring forward, were the “nanny state” policies over its “ridiculous” all-ages regulations which restrict venues to over-18s and under-18s licensing; as well as the strained relationship between local councils and live music venues.

Case in point, the recent ‘heavy-handed’ tactics undertaken by St. Kilda council towards local record store, Pure Pop Records, over its small, local gigs.

According to The Music, the results of a Melbourne Live Music Roundtable yesterday showed that support in the Port Phillip area – which includes St. Kilda – has helped open discussion about live music in the area, ordered by the Mayor of Victoria’s City Of Port Phillip.

Councillor Rachel Powning announced yesterday that they’d be following in the footsteps of Melbourne’s City of Yarra, to help deal with the growing friction between members of the community, their representative councils and live music locations, “we need to balance the needs of both the residents and live music venues.” A complete one-eighty on her previous position in supporting local councils’ badgering of live music venues (like Pure Pop).

Despite the council’s reported annual live music budget of $800,000, Powning admitted that “many of the concerns raised by both venues and residents relate to state government planning legislation, which local government is legally obliged to enforce. There is certainly scope for the legislation to be improved. We hope to capture the concerns of our community through the Live Music Roundtable, and then advocate strongly to the Premier.”

Key points of the discussion – such as the suitability of venues to host live music and the ever-present noise complaints (from curmudgeonly residents) – will include thoughts from the St Kilda Live Music Community Group, the St Kilda Tourism Board, musicians, traders associations and local residents.

It’s good news for venues like Pure Pop, the local record store feeling the squeeze from Powning herself, who only last month aided Port Philip Council in serving the venue’s owner and operator, Dave Stevens (son of legendary AC/DC frontman, Bon Scott) with a compliance order over a small wooden platform erected at the rear of the record store come café.

The Port Phillip mayor stating at the time that the “timber-framed structure” had been built without permits, Powning saying the “notice issued by the building department bears no relevance to the playing of live music. Building and fire safety are important council legal and moral responsibilities.” Completely changing her tune from making it a wider council issue, to hosting discussions that will purely focus on live music.

The local music shop, which regularly hosts intimate gigs in its courtyard – having hosted free shows for both up-and-coming acts and legendary local musicians for years, provides a suitable microcosm for the problems facing live music in Victoria. “We’ve always tried to work with council but it’s become so difficult. We’ve been stonewalled and given so much grief,” said Stevens, over the consistent noise complaints and council friction.

The opening up of the discussion to include a broader scope that invites both music industry and council officials is a step in the right direction, with the first of the Melbourne Live Music Roundtable-curated discussions to commence from Tuesday 7 August.

It’s a heartening step for supporters of Australia’s live music scene, and the latest turn of events following Sydney’s disastrous state of affairs’ including the recent closure of the legendary Sando, and politicians using a King’s Cross death as the scapegoat to install a greater user-base of pokie-lined beer barns. Hopefully the new ‘Labor Loves Live Music’ campaign will do something to stem the ‘fun police’ tactics of aggravated local councils and the weak government support that the Liberal party is providing in NSW.

Meanwhile out West, the battle between live music and councils continues to rage, with the Perth Big Day Out being threatened by its potential Claremont festival site, with its Mayor, Jock Barker saying they’ll bar any attempts by Big Day Out organisers to apply for council permission.

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.

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