As we prepare to celebrate all things live music this Saturday for National SLAM Day with a push by organisers to crowd source instead of rely on government funding, Sydney’s live music scene has been thrown a bone by local council in a push to save iconic music venue the Annandale Hotel.

As reported last week, the Annandale was forced into receivership following crippling financial debt, and new receivers Ferrier Hodgson has expressed their support to keep the venue up and running as a live music venue. As former owners Matt and Dan rule stipulated, “We are working with them to ensure that live music does stay at this iconic Sydney venue.”

While musicians and politicians are rallying behind the hotel, local council mayor for Leichhardt Darcy Byrne quickly jumped at the opportunity to help the struggling venue and publicly drew attention to the live music plight claiming that “I for one will be doing everything I can to make sure that the Annandale remains a live music venue, including working urgently with the receivers.”

The Mayor has since held his promise by proposing a new “good neighbour” policy to be submitted to council next week which aims to stop the “fun police” from shutting down similar Sydney live music venues with fines and litigation, says The Telegraph

Byrne claims that “The Annandale Hotel going into receivership must be a turning point for live music is Sydney,” and that “it is time to draw a line in the sand a put an end to local government’s attacks on the music industry.” This comes as councils continuously bully venues with fines and litigation, as music lovers saw in the closure of prominent NSW venue The Sando after strong controversy and backlash last year. 

“It will put an end to Leichhart Council taking action against live music venues,” Byrne says. “At the moment, a neighbour complains, the council sends out rangers and it ends up in court.” Byrne’s policy seeks to give greater protection to venues against newly arrived neighbours and recommends regular meetings between licencees and residents prior to compliance action.

“It is time to draw a line in the sand a put an end to local government’s attacks on the music industry.” – Darcy Byrne, Leichhardt Mayor

SLAM organisers have criticised Mayor Byrne’s efforts as “too little too late” in light of growing efforts to save the struggling Annandale Hotel, though Byrne is pushing for a promising result from the council who are in definite need of a wake up call. “Councils have to overturn their current policy, which is to prosecute, and the only way that will happen is for young people and musicians to stand up and demand an end to this madness.”

By encouraging young people to pressure his council into taking action, Byrne believes that it is “the most comprehensive way we can stop councils killing live music and revive the industry in Sydney before it’s too late.”

A similar venture was announced by Midnight Oil frontman-turned-politician Peter Garrett mid-last year, who put forward a motion known as the ‘Labour Loves Live Music’. The campaign was aimed at connecting with younger voters and called on local councils to enact planning controls that promoted live music and the protection of existing venues and live music culture.

A petition to demand councils to stop prosecuting live music venues under the Labor Loves Live Music venture has been set up to “revive the live music industry before it is too late”. Campaigners claim that following the countless complaints and costly legal cases, councils need to adopt the notion of promotion, not prosecution of live music venues calling on all councils in NSW to immediately adopt a ‘good neighbour’ policy.

Sydney City Council has since launched a live music taskforce which will endeavour to bring more live music and performances in inner-city Sydney to revive the dying live music scene and “bring the fun back to Sydney,” claims fellow councillor Linda Scott.

She assets that “there’s a long history of great live music in Sydney and many artists cutting their teeth on the scene, but unfortunately today much of this has disappeared as venues close and opportunities for performances decrease.”“As a council we need to balance everyone’s needs, and to do that we need to understand the issues.” – Clover Moore, Sydney Lord Mayor

The Live Music and Live Performance Taskforce is set to explore issues surrounding the bureaucratic red tape set up amongst Sydney’s live music venues. Sydney Media states the taskforce will, among other things, explore “how to help venue operators negotiate the approvals process and manage noise, ways to open up new and unconventional spaces to performance, and how to support entrepreneurs and performers with staging events.”

A direct result of Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s call for measures to support struggling live music across Sydney, the taskforce has been set up to balance out the “regulatory and legislative changes that have led to fewer venues for live music,” Moore claims. “As a council,” she retorts, “we need to balance everyone’s needs, and to do that we need to understand the issues.”

Some of the taskforce members include John Wardle, live music activist, Dan Zilber, music director for community station FBI Radio 94.5 and Dr Ianto Ware, the newly appointed National Live Music Coordinator for Sounds Australia, who claimed he was “thrilled to see the Lord Mayor’s recognition of smaller, artist-run venues and the Council’s commitment to addressing the problems posed by regulation.”

The results of the taskforce’s recommendations for the City will be part of a drafted Live Music and Live Performance Action Plan for Sydney that will be considered later in the year.

The members of the Sydney Live Music and Live Performance Taskforce are:

John Wardle, a musician, teacher and entertainment policy activist who helped establish Sydney’s small bar scene and end the NSW Government’s restrictive Place of Public Entertainment (PoPE) regulations will chair the taskforce;
Jonathan Zwartz, one of Australia’s leading jazz musicians and organiser of the renowned Starfish Club, who has played bass with Australian artists such as Renee Geyer and James Morrison and international stars such as Wynton Marsalis;
Dr Ianto Ware, the Federal Government’s newly appointed National Live Music Coordinator for Sounds Australia;
Kerri Glasscock, co-founder of the original underground music and performance space 505 in Surry Hills;
Associate Professor Shane Homan, author, Monash University teacher, and one of Australia’s leading authorities on live music regulation;
Dean Ormston, Deputy Chair of the Music Council of Australia and Head of Corporate Services at the Australasian Performing Rights Association;
Dan Zilber, General Manager of Music for FBi Radio 94.5, who has been music director of the community station since its foundation in 2003 and is responsible for all music content across all its platforms including live music venue FBi Social;
Dr Kate Shaw, University of Melbourne academic and alternative cultures expert who helped lead the ‘Save the Espy’ campaign to protect the famous Melbourne rock venue;
Alex Masso, manager of the Music Council of Australia’s Music in Communities Network;
Paul Nicolaou, Chief Executive of the Australian Hotel Association (NSW); and
Frank Henry, a lead officer in the development of Brisbane City Council’s Fortitude Valley Harmony Plan, which is considered a landmark example of support for live music by a capital city government.

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