Michael Chugg is a guy you want on your side. The legendary concert promoter is never shy to roll up his sleeves and, right now, Chugg and many others have a fight on their hands.

This evening, Chugg will strike a familiar pose at the mic, not picking out the kid in the black t-shirt but addressing the Don’t Kill Live Music Rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

The music industry, as it has done so many times before, has united for a common cause, this time to challenge the Berejiklian Government’s “onerous and ill-considered” licensing regulation which opponents say won’t save the lives they’re intended to, but just might kill off the NSW festivals scene.

The Chugg Entertainment chief will be joined on stage by a lineup of musicians, from Julian Hamilton (The Presets) to Murray Cook (The Wiggles) and Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus); industry professionals, including Tim Levinson (Elefant Traks), Helen Marcou (Slam), Adelle Robinson (Fuzzy / Australian Festival Association), and Jane Slingo (EMC), along with City Of Sydney City Councillor Jess Scully and Gordon Bradbury, Wollongong Lord Mayor.

Chugg has skin in the game

The Sydney leg of his co-promoted Laneway Festival, which completed its annual lap of the country earlier this month, faces crippling costs should Berejiklian and her colleagues get what they want.

Chugg’s having none of it. “It’s a fucking nightmare. They really haven’t given this any thought,” he told TIO late Wednesday afternoon.

“I don’t think they realised there were all these community festivals. They’re attacking Bellingen Jazz Festival, the Illawarra Folk Festival. I don’t think they knew what they were doing. Basically they threw everything into the pot.”

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The tragedies that struck the Defcon.1 festival last year “did a lot of damage” to the perception of festivals, Chugg admits. But the Liberals aren’t addressing the wider problem.

“It’s not the festivals, it’s fucking drug culture. If you blow off the festivals, people will just go down to the park or the river bank with their boombox and have their own festival and keep dropping the pills.”

There’s a long and laborious process that Chugg puts in to organise an event, without the added red tape from officials.

“We look at what the act is, what the demographic is, what we think we need to do. 99% of the time you sit with police and local council and you work out the health and safety, you work out the logistics. To be told by government legislation that you have to do this, it’s just shit.”

crowd at festival-YEWTH : Dave Court

Chugg recounted the rose-tintned memories of a musician, who opined that Sydney was the best city in the world in the late ‘90s through to the mid-noughts.

“It ain’t anymore,” he says. “Our laws have killed that and now this, it’s ridiculous.”

On Wednesday, the Australian Festival Association announced it had formed a coalition with Live Performance Australia, Music NSW, APRA AMCOS and the Live Music Office to represent industry concerns about the new licensing regime, which are due to come into effect from March 1.

Time is precious

“The government shuts down soon and they’re trying to get it through beforehand. And what everyone’s trying to prevent is that happening,” Chugg explains. “Everybody’s hoping they can stop the legislation going through so they don’t have to spend all their fucking time reversing it. It’s just fucking stupid.”

The Don’t Kill Live Music rally will take place in Hyde Park from 6pm – 8pm. A Change.org petition has soared past 113,000 signatures.

Ever the optimist, Chugg reckons there’s hope for a government rethink. “The health department has pulled down all the new rules from their website,” he notes, “so they are backing off.”

:: Fear At The Top Podcast – Michael Chugg