Festivals in NSW are at risk of folding, and those able to weather the current legislative storm would look to take their business elsewhere if government doesn’t make meaningful commitments to consult with industry.

Those are the bleak warnings from the live music sector after a long-overdue meeting with Hon. Victor Dominello Minister for Customer Service failed to find a breakthrough the industry had hoped for.

Just last week, a roll-call of industry organisations issued a stern open letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, calling on her government to convene an immediate round of talks and for a rethink of the Music Festivals Bill 2019, a piece of legislation slammed as “unworkable” in its current form.

The softly-softly approach isn’t working. “Without serious consultation with our industry this proposed legislation will not work and we do not support it,” wrote the five peak bodies.

Their message was heard, with Minister Dominello meeting with reps for the live sector earlier this week.

However, government committed to further consultation only after passage of the contentious bill, with no industry input. And despite repeated calls for consultation with an industry roundtable since February of this year, government still won’t budge.

Live advocates are “stunned,” reads a message from Live Performance Australia published Tuesday (Oct. 22).

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaking about the cancellation of Mountain Sounds
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian talks to reporters

The knock-on will see promoters consider their futures in NSW, explains the Australian Festival Association.

A handful of AFA members representing some of the country’s most popular events now say a move interstate was becoming an attractive option.

“Our industry generates over $1 billion nationally and employs thousands of people, especially in regional NSW,” notes Danny Rogers, Co-Director, Laneway Festival. “There are other states outside NSW that are willing to better support our business. We may be left with no choice but to consider our options.”

Rod Little, Co-Director, Cattleyard Promotions (Groovin the Moo), added, “Industry consultation and input is vital in developing balanced legislation. Without entering into meaningful engagement with the industry, government is condemning the future of Festivals not only operating successfully, but thriving in NSW. It will be music-lovers in NSW that will ultimately miss out”.

Adelle Robinson, Managing Director, Fuzzy Operations (Field Day) said the industry had “reasonably asked” to be consulted prior to any regulatory changes, and Elefant Traks managing director and award-winning artist Tim Levinson (aka Urthboy) called on government to “stop playing politics with our businesses and livelihoods.”

Adds Levinson, “The live music industry has managed to flourish for decades without this endless nanny state interference. Let us get on with making the state a culturally vibrant destination.”

The roundtable must happen quickly and certainly before the summer break, explains Live Performance Australia CEO Evelyn Richardson. Otherwise, thousands of jobs are at risk, and the state’s cultural fabric could unravel.

NSW currently has the largest festivals market share among all states. Last year, more than 400, 000 punters attended a music festival, roughly 43 percent of the national figure, according to LPA, with the numbers up 20, 000 on the year before.

music festival crowd
Could this be a thing of the past in NSW?

“It would be a major blow for fans, artists and all those people in communities across NSW who benefit culturally and economically from music festivals, if we were to see music festivals forced to leave,” says Richardson.

“The industry’s aim has always been to work with government to develop a more workable regulatory framework for improving safety at festivals. The draft legislation in its current form is unworkable. However, we believe a music industry roundtable where both government and industry work together can support our shared objectives.”

Failing that, she said, “we call on the parliament to reject the legislation.”