ACT Music Industry Issues Forum Outcomes

MusicACT held a Music Sector Issues Forum last Wednesday 5 November at The Chop Shop, with guest John Wardle of the national Live Music Office. We chose the venue as it is emblematic of the complexity of the issues facing musicians and presenters seeking to build cultural activity in Canberra. Despite a high level of support from the Government during the assessment and permitting process for The Chop Shop, it is abundantly clear that the current legislative and regulatory framework actively works against creating new cultural events and venues in Canberra.

The key issues raised by the Issues Forum, building on those previously identified, are:

•    The impact of the changes to the School of Music are still being absorbed. A dozen of Canberra's best musicians lost their jobs and the decreased flow of top level students to study with them has changed the landscape forever. The Government needs policy for the music sector which supports innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.
•    The Live Music Office has been working around the country with state and local governments to establish best practice in policy and regulation surrounding live music, with some impressive wins (link). The ACT has a solid policy framework on which to achieve excellent outcomes, if the will is there.
•    The City to the Lake initiative is an unprecedented opportunity to get this right, including cultural spaces, voluntary developer agreements, defining entertainment precincts, sound attenuation, agent-of-change/order of occupancy principles.
•    The City of Sydney has now made 15 venues available for free use by students and teachers for teaching and rehearsal etc.
•    The Venue Directory funded by a grant through artsACT is well used but needs updating.
•    The venues made available by the ACT Government, including the arts hubs, are not able to be used to their potential for live music because of regulatory issues and cost of use.
•    The Canberra Musicians Club and MusicACT are keen to progress the idea of a Regional Touring Network to expand the music economy in Canberra and the surrounding region.
•    Liquor permits are an essential tool for the live music sector and the current rules urgently need to be reconsidered. For example, to hold the Issues Forum at the Chop Shop required a special application (which can take up to 3 months) and hiring a security guard for a meeting of 20 people.
•    The next ACT Arts Policy Framework should include specific policy to support the live music sector, which is a small business sector: it needs a supportive regulatory regime and room to innovate and grow, much more than it needs grants.

Meeting with Minister Rattenbury

Last week MusicACT attended a meeting with Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Shane Rattenbury along with other event-producing community organisations to discuss the Government's initiative to reduce red tape. Flagged at the meeting was our concern that the community has not been kept informed of progress on recommendations of the 2009 Live Community Events Review including several that addressed the EPA Act. Gary Rake asked the meeting for proposals for changes to policy that could be considered. The following was put forward to the meeting, and we believe they are appropriate to put to you also:

1. That the Government should consider music and cultural event producers and venues to be clients, and provide greater assistance to them by streamlining permit application and approval processes and providing assistance to meet their regulatory requirements across the range of agencies and legislation.

2. That all relevant legislation, including the EPA Act, the Liquor Act, and zoning legislation should include as a key objective support for the development of the live music and cultural industries.

3. That the Government acknowledge that support for live music and community venues and events is a whole of government issue, and that the Government should develop and maintain a suitable ongoing consultation mechanism.