Complaining residents, noise restrictions, and bullying councils are nothing new in Australia’s live music scene. The recently unveiled National Cultural Policy, Creative Australia addresses the need to ‘cut the red tape’, in the words of the recently appointed National Live Music Coordinator, Dr Ianto Ware who recognised the legislative issues facing live music venues such as planning permits and noise complaints.
It’s been a recurring problem in major music centres like Sydney, where Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s Live Music Task Force have made noise bullying one of their main directives, while in Melbourne local record stores have held initiatives to help raise money for expensive soundproofing costs. While over in Perth, the Town of Claremont backed complaining residents in forcing the Soundwave and Big Day Out festivals into a 10pm curfew.
Up north, on the Queensland’s Gold Coast, the situation is also reaching a head with Gold Coast Bulletin news reporting that a number of venue operators are scrapping live music for fear of facing fines or closure over noise restriction policies.
Members of the live music scene report that liquor licensing officers are performing random tests on Gold Coast venues, but judging their noise monitoring from the volumes inside establishments, not outside.
However, QLD Premier Campbell Newman has announced that the State Government’s Liquor Licensing Laws are undergoing a review, including noise restrictions and how they’re policed. To inform the proposed overhaul, the Government has released a discussion paper titled ‘The Red Tape Reduction’, inviting submissions fromt the local industry and community.“If this trend continues at its current rate, all that will be left for the next generation’s live entertainment in licensed venues is TV and Poker Machines” – ALERT petition
Two local Gold Coast musicians have not only heeded the call, they’ve set up their own online forum called ALERT, ‘Australian Live Entertainment Reform Think-tank’, submitting a comprehensive proposal to the QLD Government’s Attorney General that includes recommendations to deal with noise complaint issues and revive the ailing live music scene.
Shane Wilkie and Leon Ernst are the two musos behind ALERT, and describe in online petition set up through Change.org how the submitted proposal is “a momentous chance to save our entertainment industry and tourism profile.”
The pair are calling for a fairer system that allows industry development without the restrictions of bureaucratic red tape, random noise monitoring inspections, and the yoke of fear that venues operate under with the threat of excessive fines.
Speaking to the Gold Coast Bulletin, Shane Wilkie, who plays in Vertigo Live Entertainment and has more than 20 years experience, has detailed the limitations of current volume monitoring by Liquor Licensing officials.
“Decibel limits are set on a case by case basis, and to determine these limits, acoustic engineers measure average noise levels outside the premises,” says Wilkie. “However, when officers perform compliance tests, they will measure the highest peak level 3m from the sound source, inside the venue, which is usually right in front of a band. This results in totally inaccurate readings.”
Mr Wilkie says that one of ALERT’s campaign goals is that noise policing should be handled by a body other than the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, while ALERT’s online petition, currently sitting at over 6,500 signatures, notes that due to the ineffectual regulations:
…many venues have closed down or suffered major financial losses. We have also seen an increase in anti-social aggressive behaviour in and around these venues, which can be attributed largely to a lack of entertainment.
If this trend continues at its current rate, all that will be left for the next generation’s live entertainment in licensed venues is TV and Poker Machines.
Is this the future we want for an industry which has for so long been a rich part of our cultural identity essential for tourism, and the development of Australian artists? Do we want to foster a generation of problem gamblers or offer something more wholesome and inspiring?”
Wilkie and Ernst’s ALERT Proposal has been submitted and currently under review, but the action group are urging supporters share and sign their petition to help establish community support while they, and the wider music community, await the decision of the QLD Premier in reviewing the community’s response to their discussion paper.