Last night, Sydney’s iconic Annandale Hotel held the Two To Tango conference, a partnership between the venue and MusicNSW that brought a number of musicians, venue owners and industry figures together for a roundtable discussion over the pressures facing Australia’s live music scene.

Presided over by host Jay Katz, the panelists included The Annandale’s owner Matt Rule, Triple J presenter Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall, fellow radio host/musician/actor Brendan MacLean, Aussie rapper Urthboy and Dave Rennick of Dappled Cities; along with MusicNSW’s Siobhan Poynton and Tony Gosden of Jam Music and Sydney venue, The Beresford.

Doubtful Soundsthe music blog of Sydney-based freelance writer and musician Chris Familton, was at the Two To Tango roundtable that discussed the myriad of issues facing Sydney’s live music scene, focusing on the relationship between musicians and venues and treating it akin to a business partnership between two disparate parties.

As Doubtful Sounds reports: “Siobhan Poynton made some very pertinent comments about the need for both musician and venue to create a worksheet detailing all facets of the performance from arrival times, the payment deal in terms of dollars vs expected crowd and who will pay them and when to avoid any confusion and miscommunication.”

Poynton, representing MusicNSW who helped curate the discussion, added that the music body was aimed at aiding emerging bands with better understanding the nuances of the live music scene as well as the types of funding and financial assistance available to them.

Meanwhile, the panel’s musicians emphasised the need for performers to do their research before approaching live music venues and to consider realities like how big a crowd they could guarantee, promoting their event, and ensuring numbers to satisfy the venue’s financial dependencies like the bar.

Both The Annandale’s Matt Rule and the Beresford’s Tony Gosden stressed the importance of promotion as a shared responsibility between artist and venue.

Rule also opened up to the audience about the financial difficulties that live music venues are facing from external factors than simply getting people through the door. Issues such as the NSW Government’s proposal to introduce new liquor licensing restrictions and a 1am lockout to music venues, a reaction against the the issue of alcohol-related violence, which has swiftly become a political platform for pokie-lined pub venues and politicians alike.

Not to forget the ‘fun police’ tactics from local councils and residents over noise complaints to live music venues and the financial struggles of operating in lean times.

The economic difficulties that the Annandale faced are well-known, managing to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat last year with their innovative buy-a-brick scheme, but Rule pointed out that other venues hadn’t been so lucky – case in point, The Sando, with venue owner Tony Townsend joining advocacy group Unhappy Banking in a fight against BankWest’s shady practices surrounding its $3.6 million loan to the legendary pub rock site.

Hip hop MC and producer Urthboy, real name Tim Levinson, backed up Rule’s position, “reminding the audience of the cultural significance of a venue like the Annandale to a large number of people that have experienced life-changing music and forged friendships and relationships within its brick walls,” writes Doubtful Sounds.

Urthboy also noted that supporting the live music scene shouldn’t be seen as ‘a charitable act’ but part of an overall social and cultural necessity.

It’s a view shared by former Midnight Oil frontman, current Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett – who last week launched the Labor Loves Live Music Campaign, a new campaign policy designed to recognise the importance of live music with planning controls to protect venues from noise complaints with a ‘good neighbour’ policy and implementing reformed state laws that better enforce building standards – especially sound proofing – in areas with prominent live music venues.

Garrett, an obviously outspoken supporter of Australia’s live music scene having declared a ‘state of emergency’ for Sydney’s CBD venues earlier in the year,  noted that: “Over-regulation is killing our live music venues and to see great institutions suffer is very upsetting.”

Both Garrett’s planned initiatives, along with the Annandale and MusicNSW’s Two To Tango roundtable (hopefully) demonstrates a new sea change in the attitudes towards NSW’s live music scene, from both within the music community and outside – something that’s being reflected nationwide.

In South Australia, Adelaide’s live music scene could use some similar initiative following the recent introduction of hefty new liquor licensing fees, with new tariffs for late night venues; vastly affecting the business and culture of many Adelaide-based clubs and live music venues.

Today, Premier Jay Weatherill fulfilled his previously announced plans to introduce a music expert to work in collaboration with the his office to develop strategies of overcoming newly introduced planning and licensing issues, the very same policing strategies he helped implement.

Weatherill today announced that the City Of Chruches’ Thinker In Residence would be Martin Elbourne, Glastonbury’s band booker and co-founder of the WOMAD festival, who is now charged with reviving the city’s flagging music scene.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine