Sound issues mar Listen Out… Again

Over the weekend, electronic and hip-hop festival Listen Out hit up Melbourne with its stellar lineup of international and local artists. Still, star power can only do so much if the audience can’t actually hear what’s going on up on stage.

Since the festival took place in Melbourne on Saturday, event organisers have received a number of complaints regarding the sound (or lack there of) at the event. While some punters opted simply to leave half way through the day, many stuck it out in hopes that they would at the very least be able to hear the headline set played by Childish Gambino. Not exactly the case. Despite all efforts on the musician’s part, it was difficult to hear him over chatter going on in the pit.

This certainly isn’t the first time that Listen Out has received complaints about the festival not being loud enough. Attendees from previous years complained about the sound in both Sydney and Melbourne. The relocation to St Kilda’s Catani Gardens bred hope for those attending that the sound quality would be improved upon for this year’s event.

While it’s understandable that councils place restrictions on organisers regarding noise levels, its disappointing to attend a festival and not be able to hear the music you paid to. Having attended the Melbourne event, I can attest that it was incredibly difficult to hear a number of the artists,even on the main “Atari” stage. Gambino aside, ODESZA was particularly affected by the sound restrictions, as were the sets from Joey Bada$$, Rae Sremmurd and Client Liaison. 

Sound problems aside, there are also questions being raised about the value of having purchased a VIP (the tickets was $170 as opposed to $130 for GA and promised better access to facilities likes toilets – of which there were very few at the event) and a Facebook page demanding ticket refunds has been set up by a particularly disgruntled attendee.

Listen Out festival Melbourne 2015 was an absolute joke of a music festival.

They moved the festival to a new venue with severe noise restrictions… had very limited facilities such as toilets for both general admission tickets and VIP tickets….The music was so quiet that there was no vibe, and no clarity in the artists sounds ..Such a poor excuse for an event.

Listen Out have responded to a particular complaint on Facebook with the following statements, assuring that next year’s festival will be better than ever:

It’s not simple but here goes: There weren’t power issues and the sound systems we use could launch a space shuttle. But being the first time in a new venue (and it’s a beautiful venue that no-one’s been allowed to use for a ticketed festival before), there are a number of factors which influence sound volume and can only be predicted to a degree before the event begins. All outdoor events are required to comply with EPA sound rules about how loud it can be at nearby residences, and this is affected by complaints, wind direction, traffic and other noise, atmospheric conditions, topography of the surrounding area and so on. The constraints for ticketed events are more stringent than for most community events (like St Kilda festival). At Listen Out yesterday we kept the sound at the maximum it could be within all those constraints, which ended up between 98 & 110 dB at the mixing desks and louder in the dance floor areas close to the stages. While this is not quiet by everyday standards, we know you want the sound as loud as possible and naturally so do we. Now that we have a lot more knowledge about where and how sound at that venue is affected by all the constraints, we will be able to work with the council & our sound consultants to optimise limits, stage and speaker positions, sound baffling and lots of other adjustments. We’re confident that the sound at Listen Out Melbourne 2016 will be a lot louder.

All outdoor venues anywhere near residential areas have sound restrictions, even ones you might think didn’t, eg Splendour, Glastonbury. Generally more remote venues can have louder sound. The old Listen Out venue had the same rules as the new one and additional issues such as not enough space to separate the 2 main stages. How sound restrictions play out on the day of an event vary quite a lot with things like wind direction, resident complaints etc. Also Listen Out was the first event of its type in this venue. Unfortunately predictions before the day of where sound will go don’t always turn out to be as accurate as you’d like.