Live Music Will Lose To Lockout Laws

On July 1st, Australia’s strictest lockout laws to date will be introduced in Queensland. It begins with 2am or 3am last drinks and it ends with the the closure of our iconic, much-loved venues and the dull of our once bright and thriving nightlife.

The head of QMusic, Joel Edmondson says Queensland’s incoming lockout laws could force the internationally renowned music industry conference BIGSOUND to move interstate. Since 2002, the conference has been held annually in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. A vibrant cultural hive where innovative, inspiring and passionate musicians, venue owners and industry experts come together to create a perfect storm of new musical discovery. However, if Brisbane is to experience the same number of venue closures as Sydney, the depressing fact is the city simply won’t have the capacity to host a conference of this size.

Edmondson says moving the event would “seriously damage Queensland’s reputation as a place where arts and culture are nourished,” and would also “take over $3 million dollars out of the local economy.” But that’s just the beginning. The Palaszczuk Government pushed these laws through without consulting live music stakeholders or entering into a discussion about the effects they would have on the livelihoods of people in the music community. As it’s a $1.9 billion dollar per year industry, I’d say that’s a pretty big oversight. Edmondson has called on the state Government to work with QMusic and other industry members to develop a “contemporary music strategy for the state” that collaborates with those affected. A great idea in theory but when it comes to lockout laws (as seen by our Southern counterparts in Sydney), the Government would prefer to disregard common sense.

Data collected by APRA-AMCOS, the organisation that monitors royalties paid to musicians in Australia, found that between February 2013 and January 2015, live performance revenue dropped in the Sydney CBD by around 40%. There has also been a 19% drop in attendance figures across all live venues that fall within the lockout area and the venues themselves have been spending 15% less on live music.

Australia’s Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle says “these figures demonstrate the actual impacts for musicians [and] venues,” and the lockout laws are “an indiscriminate process that impacts well-run businesses.” The Live Music office has called for important measures to be put in place around the country to “reduce the impacts to the live music sector that are now being experienced in Sydney, whilst still ensuring public safety.”

Sydney’s lockout laws are up for review in the coming months, but in a Facebook post that launched a tirade of criticism, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird has said “it is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving this city.” A bunch of notable musicians did not agree with his so-called improvements, and slammed his condescending statement. This also prompted a huge attendance at the Keep Sydney Open rally, which saw literally thousands of protestors marching in the Sydney CBD for their right to be treated as adults.

Queensland’s laws will soon be implemented with no review planned for two years, but two years is all it took for Sydney to become a ‘ghost town’.

Edmondson says, “No one in Government has been able to assure me that what’s happened in Kings Cross won’t happen in Fortitude Valley,” and he is “expecting a call from the Premier and the Attorney General that proves they’re actually serious and committed to engaging meaningfully with the challenges and opportunities for contemporary music in Queensland.”

The majority of live venues make their money in sales after the bands have finished playing. They use that money to fund the gigs that bring our favourite bands to our city for us to see. The smaller venues also provide countless opportunities for up and coming artists to book gigs and get their music out in front of a crowd. Imagine how many talented people will slip through the cracks, decide not to bother or choose to move interstate instead. Brisbane has produced some hugely successful acts who built careers on the opportunities available in this city. Violent Soho proudly plaster the 4122 postcode for Mansfield on their merch, Dune Rats shot their Pogo video in the poisonous, azure waters of the quarry and I swear Velociraptor sneak their way on to every line up ever.  If the venues that nurtured these artists’ careers couldn’t trade after 3am or if people chose to leave before the 1am lockout, they would have been forced to close a long time ago and we would’ve missed out on some damn incredible music.

Image: The Music