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National Live Music Office a huge win for Australian music industry

John was a Board member of Currency House 2008-9. Clinton Walker has also been an activist in the current campaign and his Platform Paper 32 History is Made at Night: Live Music in Australia has been a significant reference for the campaigners.

Also involved has been Jon Rose's Platform Paper 35. The Music of Place: Here is a charming tribute to Jon from the South Sydney Herald:


It's been a long time coming, but Australia finally has a plan for saving live music venues.

The announcement over the weekend that the federal government would be providing $560,000 for a National Live Music Office has been welcomed by the music industry. The office, funded by the Commonwealth and to be run out of APRA's offices in Sydney, will come up with a live music plan.

The government is understandably keen to push what most in the industry see as an unambiguously good story. Arts Minister Tony Burke turned up to legendary Sydney venue The Bald Faced Stag to soak up some sticky carpet ambience and deliver the good news on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd dropped in to a dinner with Victorian arts and music identities organised by Melbourne writer Marieke Hardy and campaigners from Victoria's SLAM organisation.

Burke claims the new Live Music Office will focus on regulatory reform. The Office will 'lift barriers to ensure more acts can perform at venues around the country,' the Minister wrote in a media release.

'The Office will identify key policy, regulatory and process reforms to better support a robust local live music scene,' he continued.

A spokesman for Burke told artsHub the new funding was part of a two-pronged strategy to address key industry concerns, alongside the recent announcement of extra funding for the community radio sector.

The announcement also sees the re-appointment of the current National Live Music Coordinator, Ianto Ware, for a further three-year term. A series of state-based music ambassadors have also been announced, including

Dr Ware is well regarded in the industry for his work spearheading liquor licensing reform in South Australia, and is signalling that red tape associated with the Building Code of Australia will be a key focus of his tenure.

Ware says the industry has been pushing for a national policy focus on live music and regulatory reform for years, and the new funding acknowledges that. 'I think on the whole people within the music advocacy sector have been pushing for it for a long time – years,' he told artsHub in a phone interview this week. 'I feel very good about it.'

The money will enable the Office to travel to regional centres and investigate the needs and potential of regional music touring. 'Re-establishing a regional touring plan is essential,' he said.

International competitiveness is another key focus. 'When you start to compare our systems with some of the stuff overseas, if you want a creative economy, a knowledge economy, if we don't have these reforms put through in the next few years, it's not just the music industry that will suffer,' Ware argues.

Ware says he didn't even know the Prime Minister as going to turn up to the SLAM dinner. 'The dinner was put together by Marieke Hardy and Helen Marcou as part of their funding drive,' he explained. 'I don't know how the PM ended up turning up, I think he just heard about it and rolled in.'

Noted industry analyst and City of Sydney live music consultant John Wardle will also be joining Ware in the National Live Music Office. Wardle's long-standing influence in the sector includes detailed negotiations at the state level in New South Wales and South Australia over small bar liquor license reform.

'It is a bit of rare good news,' Wardle told artsHub. 'We've been frsutrated with the arts policy environment for so long, the needs for contemporary music are different to other sectors, but rather than complaining too much about it we just got on with the job. And now that have it recognised in the policy scheme, we've got some great work to do.'

Wardle praised the appointment of the live music ambassadors, arguing it was an example of artists putting their mouth where their money is. 'What a great thing it is to see musicians standing up to support sector development,' he enthused.

Music Victoria's Patrick Donovan points out that Ware and Wardle have both been working on addressing red tape in the music industry for some time.

'Those two guys are the equivalent of ten staff, they've been doing it pro bono for so long,' Donovan said.

'I think it was a priority for all of us,' the Music Victoria CEO continnued. 'We've done a lot of our work already, John Wardle helped us a lot with the original SLAM Rally, while Ianto's been helping us with the Building Code reforms and the red tape commissioner.'

Donovan says that Building Code reforms are the next step. The industry is seeking to reform the top level code that governs Australian planning regulations to free up the regulations governing musicians and performers in venues. 'The big next one for us is to submit our building code variation,' he confirmed.

The current status quo sees many small venues priced out of operation due to regulatory imposts. As Wardle points out, 'Building Code of Australia variation is crucial to small bar reforms. The issue is that compliance means unaffordability.'

This article was originally published on artsHub Australia

31 July, 2013