Unlike its national brethren, when it comes to live music, the state of Victoria handles it’s all-ages gigs very differently. Which is to say, it doesn’t.

The Music released an article yesterday critiquing the regulations and red tape surrounding all-ages events in Victoria which industry figures are calling ‘ridiculous’ and ‘outdated’, calling it a ‘nanny state.’

While everywhere else in Australia is able to run over-18s, under-18s and all-ages shows; Victoria liquor licensing laws propose that venues can either host over-18s events, or under-18s events, but not a combination of the two in a simple all-ages concert. It seems baffling considering the simple ways in which other states are able to overcome this problem (wristbands for drinkers, dividing sections into drinking and non-drinking), but Victoria’s vague licensing laws, introduced sometime in 2004, are still bound by older, illogical regulations.

Rae Harvey, of music management group Crucial music – who handle the likes of The Living End, 360 and Children Collide, has slammed the inefficiency of current Victorian regulations. Particularly given she began her Melbourne-based management at a time prior to the laws when all-ages shows weren’t a financial and legal impossibility.

“It’s a ridiculous situation,” Harvey told Inpress. “It’s such a shame Victoria has become such a nanny state and it’s leading more of today’s teenagers to stay indoors listening to music on their computers instead. I can’t think of one fight or incident that occurred during those all-ages events, by the way.”

Harvey also spoke of the cost discrepancies involved with running all-ages shows, using a recent 360 tour to highlight the problem. On a ticket price that was the same for both under age and legal age punters, “for the over-18s we were allowed to sell 1,400 tickets and paid $2 a head to the venue. For the under-18s show we were only permitted to sell 750 tickets in the same venue and had to pay $11 a head to the venue to cover their expenses. You do the maths on that one!”

Ben Thompson, music co-ordinator for Melbourne’s Corner Hotel and Northcote Social Club, also criticised the laws, saying “I find it a little bit hard to understand considering you can go to pretty much any sporting game that sells alcohol and you can buy a ticket to that being under 18.”

The Corner occasionally hosts under-18s gigs for emerging artists, supplying its 600-capacity bandroom for underage shows, but he says it doesn’t make financial sense for venues to host under-18s events. “To be honest we don’t do a lot for the simple reason the venue pretty much loses money having an under-18s show,” says Thompson.

“Obviously there’s no alcohol sales; the way our venues are run the only profit we make is from alcohol sales, the money from the door goes to the bands. Without charging a huge venue hire fee there is no money to be made by selling a few soft drinks at the bar.”

As a result of the Victorian Commission For Gambling And Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) and their regulations about strictly over or under 18s shows, most all-ages gigs have been forced into non-traditional venues, such as council halls, youth clubs and warehouses. But these have represented their own limitations, either through sizing, financial costs, council approval and even noise complaints from local residents.

At it’s heart the regulations are hurting the young live music scene and its eager fans in Victoria, Melbourne – supposedly the music capital of Australia – is simply restricting a major part of its cultural scene. But Music Victoria are looking at ways they can tackle the regulations issue.

“The government passed legislation in December basically inserting an object into the Liquor Licensing Act recognising the contribution of live music,” said Patrick Donovan, CEO for Music Victoria, “which is fantastic, because basically now they can’t just say, ‘That’s a law and order issue’, we get to say, ‘No, the Liquor Act has to acknowledge the importance of live music’.”

Donovan and Music Victoria have stated that they’ll be addressing the matter with Michael O’Brien, Victorian Minister For Consumer Affairs, at the first Live Music Roundtable meeting. An official gathering between Government officials, Victoria Police, The Victorian Commission For Gambling And Liquor Regulations and representatives for the music industry.

“We’ve done quite a lot of research of underage gigs,” says Donovan, “we’re taking in the research, our position paper, and basically saying, ‘These are the problems, this is the effect they’re having on the industry, and these are some recommended solutions’, and they are going to have to take more consideration of the cultural impact simply because of that object being in the Liquor Act.”

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