The battles lines are drawn. And Labor is spoiling for a fight. Michael Daley, John Graham and Labor have pledged their support to the music sector and they’re keen to rumble with the Liberals.

Daley, the opposition leader, and Graham, the Shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy, today unveiled their party’s contemporary music policy ahead of next month’s state election.

“NSW has lost hundreds of venues and thousands of jobs since the NSW Liberals and Nationals were elected in 2011, Daley said at a press briefing Friday morning at Sydney’s Coogee Bay Hotel. “Now due to the actions of the NSW Liberals and Nationals, we are losing music festivals as well.” Labor, Daley promised, “will put an end to the war on music.”

The strategy was fleshed out in a statement, under the combative headline: “Labor will stop the liberals war on live music.” The key points include:

• An increase in total funding for contemporary music from under $4 million over the last four years of Liberal and National Government to $35 million.
• Establishing a “Music Community” designation to recognise communities that have a strong music sector and value music. Labor will develop formal guidelines and a threshold to achieve the Music Community designation, and then work with local councils to support and promote these communities.
• Direct support for artists to record and tour, including internationally through a new $1.3 million “Music Passport” program; and regionally and nationally through a new $5.1 million “band aid” program
• Invest $4 million in supporting music festivals across NSW, including $700,000 to the Sydney fringe festival. Labor will also streamline the licensing process for music festivals and allow organisers with an established record to obtain multi-year approvals for festivals.
• Rebuilding the suburban and regional touring circuit in NSW, with $1.3 million to support an “On the Road Again” program to take music industry promoters and booking agents on tour to regional venues and provide a substantial funding boost to the ‘Live and Local’ program.
• Creating a home for the music sector in Sydney. It will include performance and rehearsal spaces, recording and writing studios, youth programming and community radio, with a contribution of up to $10 million.

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John Graham

APRA has welcomed Labor’s support, and for tackling the “regulatory nightmare our industry has faced for over a decade.”

The rights society’s CEO Dean Ormston comments, “NSW is the largest contributor to the Australian live music industry alone and is worth $3.6 billion and and 23,207 jobs to the economy. Together with the recorded music industry and the broader impact the sector has on tourism, the night time economy, exports, regional development and education, we are the most significant cultural industry in the state.

‘This policy not only a clearly articulates a response to last year’s inquiry into the NSW music sector, it recognises our broader impact with a whole of government approach to help reach our full potential.”

APRA continues to consult with the Liberal government, including on matters relating to live music regulation, notes Ormston. “We will continue to lobby for a substantive policy that supports the needs of the industry,” he adds, “and in particular the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, before the March 23 election.”

Dean Ormston apra amcos CEO
Dean Ormston

Live Performance Australia also welcomed Labor’s commitment to supporting live music. Its plan “clearly responds” to the 2018 inquiry into the NSW music industry and recognises the economic and community contribution generated by the sector, notes the peak body’s CEO, Evelyn Richardson. “With respect to music festival licensing,” she adds. “we would like to see a firm commitment to consulting with the industry on any licensing arrangements, particularly given the current debacle playing out in NSW where music festivals are being hammered with ad hoc policy making and the government is unwilling to sit down with industry and seek a workable solution.”

The timing of Labor’s policy announcement couldn’t have been sweeter. With the Sydney lockout laws still a wrench for musicians and venue operators, the NSW live scene is facing another crisis, a so-called “war on music festivals” created by stringent new licensing conditions. Two festivals have already collapsed as a result of the new rules, which many music insiders say are the reflection of poor execution, lack of communication, and a sorely out-of-touch Berejiklian government.

Earlier, Labor showed its music credentials by backing the implementation of the Parliamentary Music Inquiry’s 60 recommendations, and carrying through measures to improve conditions for music venues.

“Labor wants to keep venues open, and keep musicians in work. We want festivals moving to NSW, not fleeing the jurisdiction,” says Graham. “The measures that we announce today will help the NSW music scene reach its potential.”