Noise complaints against live music venues from residents in Melbourne’s inner-city suburbs is already considered a major issue for the live music sector.

But the problem could become a point of pride for the Victorian capital as their music scene shifs to their New South Wales brethren to the north, at least according to an urban planning researcher.

Dr Kate Shaw, a specialist on urban planning at Melbourne University, says that the city’s live music scene is facing an upswing in noise complaints due to the gentrification of inner-city suburbs where live music venues have generally thrived.

“It’s a big issue, the population of Melbourne is growing rapidly and so is the number of complaints against music venues,” Dr Shaw tells ABC News, adding that the ongoing issues could force the live music scene to Sydney if the issue isn’t addressed.

“I think the scene could move to Sydney, if the opportunities started opening up in Sydney and closing down in Melbourne it doesn’t take much to shift,” she notes.

Shaw should know, she helped inform Sydney City Council’s “groundbreaking” action plan to revive its own ailing music scene, which has gained the support of many local musicians, and the urban planning researcher says Melbourne could learn a few lessons from the NSW capital.

The 74 page Live Music Matters report (available to read in full here) offers 57 key recommendations to help foster Sydney’s music culture, including mediation between venues and noise complaints of inner-city residents and the updating of building codes, soundproofing of residential developments and more.

Soundproofing to manage noisier bandrooms and volume controls has already become a point of action for preserving Melbourne’s music scene, which contains around 600 venues and contributes $1.04 billion to local economy, making it bigger than AFL, according to a 2013 Music Victoria survey. “It’s a big issue, the population of Melbourne is growing rapidly and so is the number of complaints against music venues.”

Yarra City Council have provisionally approved for its 2014/15 budgeting towards helping establish a fund to help pay for costly soundproofing of live music venues to stem legal tussles between residents, councils, and venues operators before they happen.

The soundproofing proposal comes from Labor councillor Simon Huggins as a result of the battle over Collingwood’s Bendigo Hotel that broke out late last year, where the complaints of a single resident threatened to push Guy Palermo, the owner of the Yarra Council-situated venue, into an expensive VCAT tribunal over noise breach allegations before being rescued via 11th hour crisis meetings.

Palermo says he’s poured $10,000 into soundproofing for The Bendigo Hotel while regularly testing sound levels to satisfy noise and licensing conditions, but that there’s more to be done to protect Melbourne’s live music sector.

“First time we had a complaint was 10 months ago which was from the same tenant, who had moved into the area and was renting the place,” Mr Palermo reflected to ABC News about last November’s incident.

“There are residents who are closer than this guy, he’s gone now but we still have council on our backs and we’re on the back foot,” he adds. “I don’t think that one resident should be able to justify all that expense and the angst for any venue owner.”

His is a common complaint from licensees from even well-established venues operating throughout inner-city Melbourne which are collectively pushing for better protection from councils and State Government.
“I think the scene could move to Sydney, if the opportunities started opening up in Sydney and closing down in Melbourne it doesn’t take much to shift…”

John Perring, co-owner of Bar Open, Yah Yahs, and the legendary Collingwood venue The Tote, is one such advocate. He and his venues have just benefited – as one of the key organisers behind the Leaps And Bounds Festival – from the increased patronage of Yarra City Council, earning a budgeting boost to $80,000 to present next year’s edition of the event, which spotlights the area’s live music scene.

But while Perring praised Yarra Council’s attitudes – including their soundproofing initiative – as important steps in the right direction, he says the live music sector is still advocating for the holy grail of policy changes, having the Victorian State Government introduce the Agent of Change principle, where new residents to an area are responsible for noise controls and not the other way round, as it currently.

There are baby steps being made to a larger overhaul of the State’s legislation towards live music, with Music Victoria recently working with the Victorian Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation to loosen the red tape restrictions and archaic concert regulations surrounding all ages shows that make it easier for Melbourne venues to host gig for the younger music fan.

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