Cool Little Capital - ACT Live Music Action Plan

In 2015 MusicACT and the Live Music Office were asked by the ACT’s Attorney-General to report on policy changes to grow the music and performance industries. The result, Cool Little Capital, is a 25 point action plan touching on issues across the whole of government. 

Canberra has an established and growing live music sector and increasing cultural industries. The current groundswell in national and international media on Canberra’s liveability and ‘cool’ factor highlights an increasingly vibrant local culture.

Although there are opportunities for musicians to perform, artists, event producers and venues face significant challenges from red tape and poor alignment of regulation.

Issues identified through music sector consultation investigated in this report include:

• Liquor licensing and liquor permits 

• Zoning and Planning Controls

• Environmental Protection regulations and associated noise levels

• Building code classification and change of use process

• Complicated events approval process

• Lack of medium size live music venues (between 200-400)

• Silo effect in ACT bureaucracy

• Lack of support for live music in arts policy

• Decrease in national/international touring acts

• Long-term impact of the changes to the School of Music

• Support for MusicACT

MusicACT Vice-President Gavin Findlay said “It’s well past time our planners, developers, regulators and policy makers recognized the vital role that live music and cultural events play in creating a vibrant, attractive city, and that red tape is stifling our creativity."

A thousand shoppers are still just a thousand individuals. A thousand people at a concert is a single audience.Government figures show that the number of people that attend live music concerts and events in the ACT actually exceeds that of the cultural institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia. Not only that, but for every dollar spent on live music, three more are spent on food, drink and travel.

With the help of the Live Music Office, MusicACT has put forward a realistic set of policy and actions that would give the ACT the regulatory framework it needs to really be the 'Coolest Little Capital'.

Cool Little Capital consists of a situation analysis, a number of relevant case studies, and discussion in detail of possible solutions to the key issues facing the sector, with reference to recent developments and best practice in other jurisdictions.

The 25 actions arising from this report include: 
• Develop an overarching ACT Government Live Music Policy.

• Establish a co-regulatory live music standing committee to address the longer-term regulatory issues impacting on the cultural development of the ACT,

• artsACT to resource an ongoing ACT Music Forum to support the development of the music sector in the ACT

• Align planning provisions and EPA for residential and mixed-use developments to achieve the policy objectives of activated cultural use within identified evening economy areas.

• Introduce a new planning process for low risk arts and cultural venues with an associated Building Code variation.

• Review the operation of and application process for Environmental Authorisations for live music events

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle said “ In many ways, the issues being faced by artists and venues  in the ACT reflect those in other urban centres nationally. But with better regulation, and a better alignment of government agencies and processes the creative sector in the ACT will grow. Addressing land use conflict, and appropriately defining low risk premises that wish to provide entertainment will support both existing and new venues. Establishing an ongoing ACT Music Forum to support the development of the music sector and an associated co regulation roundtable will build capacity, relationships, and align regulatory and cultural sector functions and priorities”.

“Until now, only Victoria and South Australia have strategic plans for contemporary music, and those states subsequently able to demonstrate real results in music and cultural development. It's great to see the ACT music sector engaged and active in this policy space. These issues aren’t going away. We very much hope that the opportunity this report provides for a long term vision can be progressed”.

The report and supporting research can be downloaded below or from The Live Music Office website.


David Caffery
President MusicACT
0437 790 124

John Wardle
Policy Director Live Music Office